An 18-month-old program stressing quality workmanship is paying off, the commander of the Air Force Logistics Command said Thursday while touring Hill Air Force Base.

In his second visit to the base in eight months, Gen. Alfred G. Hansen met with workers and managers, handed out awards, and re-emphasized his continuing theme that quality workmanship will help the Air Force overcome defense budget cuts in its mission of deterrence."The key is to do it right the first time," Hansen said while touring Building 225, an aircraft-maintenance hangar at Hill. "There's no point in delivering a product, even if you meet a deadline, if it's flawed and it's just going to come right back to you."

The four-star general said the first phase of his quality-assurance program, called QP4 (people, process, performance and product) is working and he's ready to initiate the second phase, based on what he calls a "Quality Bill of Rights."

Before, jobs were being done inefficiently, sometimes for decades, by employees who knew their deficiencies but were either not motivated or were afraid to speak up, Hansen said.

But the Quality Bill of Rights guarantees that workers with legitimate concerns or suggestions will be heard, the general said.

He cited one worker, an 18-year employee, who shut down a production line because she knew the products were not top quality.

"She said she was scared to death, it was the first time in her career she dared to do something like that. But she was right. The parts were vital, but she shut the line down because they weren't right," Hansen said.

Under the Quality Bill of Rights, Logistics Command workers have the right to challenge business as usual, to be heard, to expect a commitment to quality, to place quality before production and to feel pride in their work.

Hansen said the command's quality program has generated interest from private industry, also concerned about staying competitive.

"We've made a lot of progress in the past 18 months," Hansen said. "We've done in a year and a half what consultants from private industry said would take five to seven years.

"But we can't wait that long. We've got to move on it now. We're looking at a reduced federal budget but we've got to keep up our production," Hansen said.

Gesturing to the F-4 and F-16 fighters in various stages of disassembly in the hangar, the general said aircraft out of service aren't doing their jobs. "We've got to do our best to keep these aircraft on the flight line, where they fulfill their role as a deterrent in our national defense," Hansen said.

"You're on the right track," Hansen told the maintenance workers. "Keep it up."

Dale Quinlan, deputy director of the quality program at Hill, said since the program was instituted 18 months ago, more than 60,000 hours have been spent training 11,000 employees on quality assurance procedures.

Managers went to seminars, returned to pass along what they had learned to production chiefs, who in turn trained the employees under them, Quinlan said.

Hansen said he's confident the emphasis has reached individual employees and is being effective.

John Williams, an aircraft sheet metal worker in the F-4 program for 16 years, agreed that quality control is being viewed differently now.

"It's not like they're looking over your shoulder, trying to catch you on something. They're here to help you get the job done. If you don't have the tools, or the technical data to do a job, they'll help you," Williams said.

"There used to be antagonism between the guys on the floor and the quality inspectors, like they were looking to catch you, trip you up. It's hard for some of the older guys that have been here a long time to change their attitude, but I see it changing now," said Williams.

"Quality control is like a police officer. You tell your kids they're there to help and protect them, but the only time they see a policeman is when their daddy gets pulled over for speeding," said Williams.