Engage

T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
F
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
T
Logo
F
Logo
T
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
F
Logo
Facebook
1,980,742
Like Us
Twitter
398,641
Follow Us
YouTube Google+ Blog RSS Instagram

SecAF: Future force in ready, capable hands

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said Feb. 14 that visits to the Air Force Academy and to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, have given her faith in the Air Force's future.

James, the Air Force's 23rd civilian leader, spent two days here visiting academic and athletic facilities, the Preparatory School and attending briefings on the Center for Character and Leadership Development and the essence of the Academy.

"Our future is bright first and foremost because of our people," James said. "I have met many of the cadets, I've met the permanent staff, I've been to the Prep School. They're motivated, they talk about leadership and character all the time, and they're academically strong."

She said she had a similar impression after visiting the 37th Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, a couple of weeks ago, to observe Basic Military Training.

"They're terrific young people with lots of motivation," she said. "They're interested in leadership and character and advancement, and they're smart."

The Air Force will need those future leaders' perspective and insights. Even as it reduces the size of its active-duty corps, it must still carry out its five core missions: air and space superiority; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; rapid global mobility; global strike; and command and control.

"Over the next few years, we will become a smaller Air Force," James said. "However, our charge is to be a highly ready Air Force and a highly capable Air Force so that we can continue to control the skies and focus on those five core missions that are so critical to our national defense."

The Air Force is looking to eliminate up to 25,000 positions over the next few years, but that's only part of the total force-shaping process, James said.

"We have certain categories of jobs where we have too many people and other categories of jobs where we have too few for our future needs," she said. "There will be, in some cases, retraining of people from one specialty into another. There will also be voluntary incentives for certain specialties and certain ranks of Airmen to consider leaving the Air Force."

The Air Force may implement involuntary force reductions if it can't meet its end strength through voluntary programs, James said.

However, because the Air Force's core missions won't change, it will have to eliminate processes that don't substantially contribute to that core. Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson has encouraged the Academy's staff to look to the essence of the Academy as they reexamine their missions. That's an approach James said can also work for the Air Force as a whole.

"I've been very impressed with General Johnson and her overall leadership," James said. "When I received the briefing on the essence, to me that meant that ... she's doubling down on the things that matter most. Other items that are not within the essence, by definition, matter somewhat less. And I think that is correct. That's what we in the Air Force have to do as well.

"I see the ongoing need to think smarter, to fundamentally question how and why we do certain things," James continued. "When we can reengineer a process or stop doing certain administrative tasks, we ought to be open to those new ideas. Just because we've done things a certain way for decades does not mean we need to continue doing them."

Because the Air Force continues to shrink, James said she will continue to pursue another round of base realignments and closures with Congress. The previous BRAC resulted in the Academy's hospital downsizing to a clinic in 2008.

"The Department of Defense and the president, for the last several years, have asked Congress to approve a new round of base closures," she said. "It's a politically sensitive matter, and it's a hard thing for Congress to do, but it's up to us to continue to press the case with them, and we will do so."

For senior leaders to redesign their mission processes, they'll need to listen to subordinates at every level, James said. She's done this by convening focus groups at the bases she's visited. At the Academy, she's solicited advice directly from cadets.

"This is a way for me as a senior leader to hear directly from those who are on the ground," she said. "I pick up good information this way, and getting feedback from all different levels is important to me as a leader. It gives me better ideas about positive improvements that can be made."

Senior leaders also need to empower their Airmen, James said. That means trust but verify -- a Russian proverb made popular in the U.S. by former President Ronald Reagan.

"That is to say, we don't trust blindly, and if people fail us either in terms of integrity or in terms of other failures, then maybe you can't trust those individuals as much going forward," said James, who was a professional staff member for the House Armed Services Committee during most of Reagan's presidency. "But the vast majority of people are working very hard, and they are deserving of our trust and of our empowerment. They frequently can see more than we can see -- good approaches on the ground. To be able to take that input from them and be willing to trust and empower, we need to do more of that."

James has previously cited a lack of empowerment, micromanagement, as one of the factors that led to a climate of undue stress and fear at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

"I have tried to involve the Air Force Academy, which is our premier institution for producing young officers for the Air Force, in our thinking as we go forward," James said. "We have 60 days to think this through and produce an action plan ... that we owe to the secretary of defense."

Overall, James said she was impressed by what she had seen in her two-day visit.

"I would love the cadets to know that I've been ... very impressed with them specifically," she said. "They are the top reason why I have great confidence in the Air Force, because they're our future, and our future looks to me to be in very good hands."

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.
comments powered by Disqus