The U.S. Air Force Transformed Approach to Military Family Housing: An Organizational Routine Case Study in Change and Learning

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Virginia Tech


In 1996, the U.S. Congress initiated a change to the Department of Defense (DOD) military family housing program. Applying organizational learning and change theories, this study of the Department of the Air Force (AF) reveals how the AF used $617 million of federal funds and $8.3 billion of matching private investment to significantly upgrade or construct and manage 53,323 AF family housing units. Using an outcome-oriented process tracing methodology, I examine the process changes, organizational structure modifications, and strategy adjustments the AF instituted to implement this latest attempt at providing military family housing. To understand how those adjustments occurred, this research uses organizational routine theory to help explain how organizations generate change by performing their day-to-day activities. This single-case historical study of AF family housing privatization, used process tracing to identify five primary organizational routines that determine know when there is a minimally sufficient explanation of how the AF learned and changed while privatizing the existing military family housing stock. These organizational routines help to clarify the organizational strategy, implementation process, and structure changes that emerged during privatization to address the quality, quantity, affordability, and timeliness of AF military family housing. The AF approach to transforming military family housing might be applicable to other publicly funded housing programs.



military family housing, privatization, organizational routine theory, causal mechanisms, Department of Defense, Air Force