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James focuses on value of Airmen at AFA breakfast



WASHINGTON (AFNS) --
 Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James spoke during the Air Force Association’s Air Force Breakfast Series Feb. 12 at the Key Bridge Marriot in Arlington, Virginia.

James emphasized that her number one priority is to take care of Airmen and she ensured the fiscal year 2017 budget focused on this.

“Our Airmen have shouldered the lion’s share of this effort (the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), and I am very cognizant that it is (taking) a toll,” James said. “We’re asking them to do more and more. For this reason, we have got to preserve the force we have today and I believe we need to grow it for the future.”

James thanked Congress for their support to modestly upsize the active-duty force from roughly 311,000 to 317,000 by the end of this fiscal year. She also expanded on how the fiscal 2017 budget will support Airmen, such as: a 1.6 percent pay raise for military and civilian forces, an expanded Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, additional support for child care facilities, and educational benefit boosts.

The secretary also spoke to the numerous operations Airmen are currently supporting around the world. 

“Besides Daesh, a resurgent Russia now supports Assad in the skies over Syria … (and) we observed North Korea conduct another illegal nuclear test, and a rocket launch last Sunday,” James noted. “We continue to see worrisome Chinese military activity in the South China Sea, and we have growing threats in both space and cyberspace. Bottom line is: the Air Force has a key role to play in each of these areas. We are fully engaged in every region of the world, every mission area, and across the full spectrum of military operations.”

One part of taking care of people is ensuring the Air Force modernizes its aircraft fleet and develops its capabilities to ensure Airmen maintain an advantage as adversaries close the technological gap.

“In terms of readiness, we will fund flying hours to their maximum executable level, invest in weapons system sustainment, and ensure combat exercises like Red Flag and Green Flag remain strong,” James said. “We’ll continue to advance the F-35 (Lightning II), the KC-46 (Pegasus), the Long Range Strike Bomber, Combat Rescue Helicopter programs, and we will get going with the (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) recap as part of this budget.”

James’ message was clear. Current operations keep the Air Force busy – Airmen continue to go above and beyond to get the mission done, she said.

“Airmen and their families are the Air Force’s most important resource and our budget submission reflects this truth.”