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Budget, Sexual Assault hot topics during Acting SecAF visit to Peterson

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) --

 Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning hosted an all call with Peterson Air Force Base Airmen Nov. 1, during a visit to the Colorado Springs area.

 Fanning addressed sequestration, furloughs, budget uncertainty, sexual assault prevention and future force management initiatives.

 Fanning, who has been in his current position six months, started the all call by thanking the civilian Airmen and active-duty military for their patience during the challenges of the past year, which included historic budget cuts, civilian furloughs and a government shutdown.

 "It has been an awful year, no questions about it and I appreciate your cooperation," Fanning said.

 He said the decisions made regarding budget cuts were tough but necessary.

 Sequestration was immediate, he said. There was no easing into it. Most budget cuts are spread over a fiscal year -- with sequestration the cuts were made over a shorter period of time, leading to the difficult decisions.

 In addition to discussing past and current budget uncertainty, Fanning said sequestration is here to stay.

 "Congress might give us a couple of fixes to help us ease into sequestration, but our budget is going to get smaller, and it's going to get smaller fast," he said, estimating a 10 percent decrease over the next several years.

 To achieve these reductions, the Air Force will implement a variety of force management programs, using voluntary initiatives first.

 For those who want to continue to serve, he added, the opportunity is there.

 "If you are doing a good job, there is a place for you in this Air Force," said Fanning.

 While a smaller force is necessary to work within the future budget, he said there are no plans for more furloughs in the future.

 "The absolute worst decision to come out of FY13 was the furloughs," he said. "We did everything we could. In the end we reduced 21 days of furloughs to just six. We just didn't have any other options."

 But in all the worst case budget scenarios, not just in the Air Force, but in the other services, no one is talking furloughs, he said.

 There was some good to come from the furloughs though, said Fanning. Leaders have a new appreciation for what civilian employees bring to the fight.

 "Your uniformed leadership understands you and appreciates you more than they ever did before," said Fanning. "You're in the depots, you're on the ranges, you're teaching classes and you're trainers."

 Fanning said that during those six weeks the civilians were furloughed he heard from many commanders about the importance they bring to the mission.

 "The first thing a commander said to me when I got off the plane was 'I have to have my civilians back,' and it's the last thing they said to me when I got back on the plane," he said.

 Fanning also addressed the issue of sexual assault. He understands that members are hearing about it from all directions, but that is because it is an important issue that is only fixed from inside the Air Force. He closed with a plea to the audience to take an active role in sexual assault prevention.

 "What I want you to think about is how you can become a part of the solution," he said emphasizing that not everyone is part of the problem. "What I am saying to you is that we need all of you to be part of the solution. You all need to look out for your fellow Airmen."

 In addition to the all call, Fanning met with members of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program; visited Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station to assess flood damage, ate lunch with Airmen at the dining facility and visited the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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