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USAF Secretary Sees Smaller Force in Future

Jan. 29, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By AARON MEHTA   |   Comments
SECAF Swearing In
The US Air Force will emerge from sequestration with a smaller, more cost-efficient force, according to Sec. Deborah Lee James (US Air Force)
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WASHINGTON — The US Air Force will emerge from sequestration with a smaller, more cost-efficient force, according to the service’s top civilian appointee.

“I feel quite certain we will become a smaller Air Force, but it will be an Air Force that will remain highly capable and on the cutting edge of technology so we can always step up to the plate and meet the country’s needs,” Deborah Lee James said this morning at an event hosted by the Air Force Association.

James, a former SAIC executive, also said she aims to strengthen ties between the service and industry.

“I want you to know that because I just finished walking in your shoes, I understand how important it is to have that open communication line and make sure people in government and people in industry are cross-talking all of the time,” she said. “I also get how difficult it has been not only in government but also in industry with all the recent stops and starts and uncertainties with the budget that we have been through in recent years.

“My point is, I understand that, I walked in your shoes, and I’m going to work hard as secretary of the Air Force to make sure we keep the communication lines open because there’s no question about it — we can’t get our job done without your active support to make sure we are filling our national security requirements as quickly as possible and at the best possible cost.”

Fiscally, James pledged to “make every dollar count.”

“The Air Force needs to deliver capability at the very best price tag to the consumer, which is the taxpayers and joint military members — as good stewards of this responsibility we have to deliver this value to taxpayers with programs that are on budget [and] on schedule,” James said, adding that she hoped her background in industry can bring new ideas to this fight.

Notably, James also called out the ongoing issue of audits in the Pentagon, an issue outside reformers have been pushing on for years.

“We owe it to the American people to be able to audit our books,” James said. “It’s striking to many people out in America that we are not able to deliver an audit. We’re marching down that path trying to get there, and we need to stay on that path.”

While avoiding details, James echoed comments by top USAF generals that the FY15 budget request involved “hard choices.” Those include removal of whole fleets of aircraft and a reduction in the size of headquarters staff.

She also pledged to further integrate the Guard and Reserve components of the service, and indicated she is looking forward to seeing the recommendations of the National Commission of the Air Force, scheduled for delivery Jan. 30.

The majority of her speech was dedicated to addressing the burgeoning drugs and cheating scandal in the nuclear ICBM forces, with the new secretary declaring the issue is one of integrity and not the mission itself.

“The mission is strong,” she said. “It remains safe, secure and reliable.”

Email: amehta@defensenews.com.

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