WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2010 — The Air Force’s top civilian today urged the service’s leaders to make tough decisions now, as economic recovery continues to put defense spending under increasing pressure.
In his State of the Air Force address at the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in National Harbor, Md., Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley stressed good fiscal stewardship despite new requirements on the service.
“Last year, we noted that our Air Force has reached an inflection point at which critical changes in the strategic environment, resources and technology are combining to re-shape our future,” Donley said in his prepared remarks at the convention.
New requirements for missile defense, cyber and space defense and modernizing the Air Force’s aging fleet are challenging the budget, he said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has charged Donley and all the services and agencies within the Defense Department to do more with less.
But fiscal reform is nothing new to the Air Force, Donley added.
“For several years, we have pushed ourselves to reduce and consolidate personnel, financial management and other functional communities to introduce new technology and ways of doing business,” he said, noting the growth in Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, capabilities.
“We all know these changes have sometimes been painful,” he added. “But we all know that the introduction of new technology to substitute for manpower will need to continue.”
Donley also called on Air Force leaders to improve their acquisition practices.
“As we continue to strengthen our acquisition work force, our ongoing tasks are to be better negotiators, to know our internal business imperatives, to understand our contracts, to know our industrial base and to respect that every dollar is an Air Force dollar [and] every dollar is a taxpayer dollar,” the secretary said.
Other changes are on the horizon. Donley noted that the Air Force is looking to streamline its organization and command structure to be more efficient.
“The technology, resource and strategic dynamics in this environment make it imperative that we keep the pressure on ourselves, for we have yet more work to do in the immediate years ahead,” Donley said.
The years ahead include weapons and material readiness, Donley said. A review, he noted, is under way to find trade space within the requirements generation, depot maintenance and supply-chain processes impacting availability and cost.
Donley also noted the need to advance long-range strike capabilities, calling ISR, electronic warfare, communications and other weapons a “critical” national capability.
Although the Air Force bomber program was designed as a nuclear deterrent, leaders recognize the program is under way from a conventional war perspective, he said.
“We are confident that a modern long-range strike platform not only has been, but should remain, a critical tool in the nation’s arsenal,” he said, citing the success of bomber jets in past conventional missions. “Their ability to range the planet with operational flexibility have proven their value time and again.”
However, no successes could be had without a competent force, he said.
“Our underlying strength is in the integrity, excellence and selfless service that our airmen bring to the fight every day,” Donley said. “It’s our airmen who will translate their organizations, doctrine, training and equipment into combat power.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)