In the past, there have been rather broad interpretations as to what constitutes mission essential, with people generally using the terms “mission essential,” “mission critical,” “key” and “emergency essential” interchangeably and for the most part utilizing when talking about who reports to an installation on snow days. Obviously, what we are facing now is far more complex.
In their direction on reporting to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Headquarters Air Force have consistently used the term emergency employee, meaning employees whose duties are critical to agency operations and may also be referred to as “mission essential” or “mission critical.” As these functions enable a unit to provide vital services, exercise civil authority, maintain the safety of the general public, and sustain the industrial/economic base during disruption of normal operations, civilians performing these tasks may be required to report to the work site, even during a National Emergency.
These employees have technical skills that are required by organizations for continued operations of our installations and the AFMC, Air Force and DoD mission. There are no standard definitions or categories in regard to essential or emergency employee determinations; instead, they are based on the organization's unique mission requirements and/or circumstances and may even vary according to the particular nature of an exigency. However, some examples of emergency employees who may be required to physically report for duty to ensure the continued operation of critical activities include, firefighters, health care providers, our depot employees, various civilian engineering journeyman, flight operations, critical test support and intelligence specialists.
Our installation commanders are empowered to determine what they consider mission essential and emergency employees because they have the best sight picture of what is happening on the ground and in your communities. Balancing the accomplishment of our essential AFMC mission requirements, while also ensuring the protection of our civilian Airmen, is something we don’t take lightly. The command is working closely with program offices and leadership teams at the installations to understand the specific mission essential priorities and are carefully weighing the risks to personnel with our need to ensure Air Force mission readiness. Each decision is carefully considered with health and safety requirements to ensure the safety of our Airmen.