Air Force Secretary Discusses Service
Air Force Secretary
Discusses Service’s Top Priorities
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C.
Marshall Jr., American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. – (AFPS)
– March 26, 2014 – Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James today provided a
congressional panel with an overview of her top priorities for the Air Force.
Joined by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III,
James laid out the framework for her three top priorities for the House
Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee. “Those three priorities are taking care of people, balancing
today’s readiness with tomorrow’s readiness,” she said, “and ensuring that our
Air Force is the most capable at the least cost to the taxpayer.”
Every job she’s ever had always has come down to people, 100
percent of the time, James said. “So taking care of people, to me, means we need
to recruit the right people, retain the right people,” she added.
The secretary said developing people inside the force, and
having a diversity of thought and backgrounds at the leadership table are needed
to make innovative decisions and solutions going forward. “We need to protect the most important family programs,” she
said. “We need dignity and respect for all -- and that includes combating sexual
harassment and assault.” It’s also important to ensure everyone in the Air Force
is living the service’s core values of integrity, service and excellence all the
time, James added.
The secretary noted two areas of that have generated
controversy lately: force reductions and compensation. “We are coming down in all of our components -- active, [Air
National] Guard, Reserve and civilians,” James said. “And we will rely more, not
less, in the future on our Guard and Reserve.”
That makes sense from both the mission standpoint and the
budgetary standpoint, she said. “But as we draw down it’s not good enough just
to get lower numbers,” she added. ”We have to reshape the force.” At the moment,
James told the panel, the Air Force needs balance -- it has too many people in
certain types of career fields and too few in others.
On compensation, James said the fiscal year 2015 budget
request includes “reasonable ways” to slow the growth in military compensation
across the Defense Department. “This was one of those hard decisions that nobody is really
happy with,” James said. “But it’s necessary to ensure that we free up some
money to plow back into both the readiness of today as well as the modernization
of tomorrow.” Fair compensation going forward, she added, also is part of taking
care of the force.
James said her second priority is balancing today and
tomorrow’s readiness. Air Force readiness has suffered over the years, she said,
particularly last year, when flying squadrons were grounded, civilians were
furloughed and maintenance was delayed because of sequestration spending cuts.
“In [fiscal year 2015], we have fully funded our flying hours and other
high-priority readiness issues,” James said. “And if approved, we will see
gradual improvements of readiness over time.”
While it won’t be overnight or in a year, the secretary said,
“we’ll be on a good path of getting toward where we need to be.”
At the same time, the Air Force is looking to tomorrow, James
said, and remains committed to programs such as the F-35 joint strike fighter,
the KC-46 refueling tanker, the long-range strike bomber, and two-thirds of the
nation’s nuclear triad: bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.“We’re committed to all of this,” the secretary said. “We’re funding these going
forward as well as beginning to replace aging platforms.”
The secretary noted her final priority is making every dollar
count for the taxpayer. “To me, this means keeping acquisition programs on
budget, on schedule,” she explained. “It means auditability as a fundamental
principle of our good stewardship.”
It also means trimming overhead in the Air Force, including
the 20 percent headquarters reduction Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed,
she said, noting that she believes the Air Force will do even better than that.
James also emphasized the “very serious” impacts of reverting
to sequestration-level budgets in fiscal 2016 and beyond, as current law
requires. “We do not recommend this,” she said. “We feel it would
compromise our national security too much.” The bottom line is it’s a bad deal
for the Air Force, the Defense Department and the country, James said, as she
urged Congress to support the higher levels of defense spending under President
Barack Obama’s budget.
James shared her vision of the Air Force in 10 years,
projecting that it will be a highly capable, innovative and ready force. “We will be a good value in everything that we do for our
taxpayers,” she said. “We will be able to respond overseas decisively through
unparalleled air power, and we’ll also stand ready to defend here at home when
disaster strikes. “We’ll be more reliant, not less, on our Guard and Reserve,”
James continued, “and we will be powered by the very best airmen on this planet
who live the culture of dignity and respect for all, integrity, service and
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on
Twitter: @MarshallAFPS) :
Deborah Lee James
Special Report: Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal