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James focused on diversity, emerging threats, space

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James joined the secretaries of the Army and Navy for a “conversation with the service secretaries” panel hosted by the Center for a New American Security here Oct. 24.

During the panel, James discussed the Air Force’s continued focus on diversity and inclusion, its contributions to the current counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant operations, and the importance of the next presidential administration’s focus on space.

According to James, diversity and inclusion enhances the Air Force’s decision-making and operational capabilities, ultimately making Airmen more innovative and effective.

Diverse teams -- people who come from different backgrounds, thought processes and disciplines tackling a problem together -- bring the greatest innovation, James explained, adding that hiring diverse individuals from different walks of life into the services, whether uniformed or military, is one of the key parameters of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s Force of the Future initiative.

In areas such as cyberspace, the Air Force is recruiting cyber professionals from private sectors to serve part time in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.
“If you can attract some of these top-notch cyber professionals in private industry to also serve part time in Guard and Reserve units, the individual can have it both ways,” James said. “They can keep their civilian job but also have the opportunity participate in a fantastic and very important mission.”

The ability to innovate and adapt to emerging threats quickly is critical in today’s security environment, she added.

This was proven during a recent event in the Middle East, where the Air Force is seeing emerging danger with respect to unmanned aerial systems.

Two weeks ago, two coalition members were killed and two were wounded by a small unmanned aerial system that had explosives. As a result, when “the Air Force, in theater, was informed that there was an unmanned aerial system in the vicinity … we were able to bring it down … with electronic measures,” James said, adding that it’s not necessarily the development of new things but instead taking what capabilities the Air Force already has and packaging it in a new way.

James also addressed the difficulty of advancing agendas in reference to sequestration and continuing resolutions, and she stands firm in her the belief that the new presidential administration should quickly decide if the Defense Department should stay the course on its current space investments.

“Some years ago we thought space was a peaceful domain, today we recognize that it is both contested and congested by lots of satellites, debris and all sorts of things,” James said. “Space is terribly important and we have to make some decisions going forward.”

Even with these challenges, the Air Force stands ready to accept the call to provide airpower.
“If we get called upon … make no mistake we will go and we will do the job,” she said.

The entire panel conversation is available here.