Barrett praises senior Air Force leaders; assesses her tenure as secretary

  • Published
  • By Charles Pope
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett publicly praised Airmen, Guardians, and senior Air and Space Forces leaders during a ceremony at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Jan. 14.

While praising the Air and Space Forces, Barrett highlighted the achievements of the five assistant secretaries of the Air Force who served under her tenure, as well as under the tenure of Heather Wilson, the 24th Secretary of the Air Force. 

“When you see that each individual – John Henderson, Will Roper, Tom Ayres, John Roth and Shon Manasco – is working to live by the code of integrity and excellence in all you do, with true service before self, that is just how we want America to be identified,” Barrett said. 

Henderson is assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and energy; Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics; Ayres, Air Force general counsel; Roth, assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller; and Manasco, the acting under secretary of the Air Force.

Each of them, Barrett said, deserves praise for “making outsized impacts on the Department of the Air Force and our nation.” She presented each of them the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest award the Department can bestow on civilians. 

Like Barrett, each of those senior officials will serve until noon on Jan. 20 when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office. 

The ceremony, which was hosted by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond, gave Barrett a chance to recognize the work and values of a team that, by extension, reflected the work and values of the entire service. Brown and Raymond also presented the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service to Barrett.

“There are those who may think that the Air Force core values – ‘Integrity First, Excellence in All We Do, and Service Before Self’ – are mere words,” she said. “After interacting with thousands of Airmen and Guardians, I know they are so much more. The Air Force Core Values truly are your Polaris, your North Star and guiding light.”

Brown and Raymond set the tone before Barrett spoke.

“Let me just say, we are a better Air Force because of Secretary Barrett’s passion, commitment, leadership and heart,” Brown said.

“You paved the way for our Air Force to fly, fight, and win today and into the future,” he said. Then, turning to Manasco, Roth, Roper, Ayres and Henderson, he said, “On behalf of the entire United States Air Force, thanks to you and your families for saying yes when called to serve.”

Raymond noted Barrett’s influential role in helping create the Space Force from scratch. “Ma’am, from an idea to a reality, with you at the controls, the Space Force has taken many steps forward, each in rapid succession,” he said.

“Thank you for trusting and empowering all of our leaders to do whatever it takes to get this right for our nation,” Raymond said.

He also joked about having to adapt to Barrett’s at times Baroque vocabulary.

“Today, I’m armed with an arsenal of words to describe a secretary who has done so much for our nation and its newest service – she moves with alacrity, in the Pentagon, and on every adventure. Nothing and no one slows her down,” he said.

“Secretary Barrett is altruistic. And she is inimitable; I couldn’t think of anyone more uniquely suited to lead the Air Force and invent the Space Force.”

Barrett’s tenure includes some of the most historic and significant moments in Air Force history. She managed the U.S. Space Force’s successful birth and blossoming, making it the first new and independent branch of the military since 1947. 

Barrett was secretary as well when Brown was named Air Force chief of staff, the first African American in history to become the highest-ranking military officer of any branch of the U.S. military. 

She played a prominent role in efforts to address racial equity in the services and on quality of life matters such as ensuring adequate housing and professional opportunities for military spouses. 

Finally, she was the first secretary to lead the service during a pandemic.

She and her team helped drive forward efforts to make the Air Force digitally connected to the joint force, known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control. As part of that effort, the Advance Battlement Management System, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to simultaneously connect warfighters in the air, land, sea, space and cyber domains, was part of several successful large-scale tests.

They helped further the development of the B-21 Raider, the next generation long-range strike bomber, as well as seeing to the continued modernization of the aging nuclear deterrent. (The Air Force is responsible for two of the three legs of the nuclear force, those launched from air and from land.)

At Barrett’s direction, the team spearheaded the first formal Arctic Strategy for the Department of the Air Force, a significant milestone that outlines the Department’s roles and priorities in a strategically important region where the Air Force, and now the Space Force, have maintained a major presence for decades.

Under her stewardship, the Department’s X-37B spaceplane won the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy for advancing technology that pushes “the boundaries of flight and space exploration.”

Barrett said that ensuring the Air and Space Forces fulfilled requirements outlined in the National Defense Strategy served as her overarching guide in leading the Department and for establishing priorities.

Barrett pressed forward with streamlining and improving the Air Force’s often bulky and inefficient acquisition process. That was one of Wilson’s prime focuses. 

“In this as in almost everything, what I did was not invent something new but to really build from the great things that had been established before my arrival,” she said. “So on the acquisition side, that meant allowing the continued good work Dr. Will Roper as he did things like Pitch Days and working with AFWERX to invite, inspire and reward innovation.”

Barrett also embraced – and expanded – change across the Air Force and Space Force that former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, championed such as accelerating the department’s new thinking on race, diversity and quality of life. She also emphasized moving with speed to aggressively address the Air and Space Forces requirements in the NDS. 

“To have the United States Air Force to be one of the top innovative places – the only government institution – to be on the list of innovative places to work, that’s how we modernize,” she said, referring to AFWERX being named as one of Fast Company’s Top 100 Workplaces for Innovators.

Not lost on her was that all these efforts took place in 2020.

“All of this is happening with the overlay of COVID(-19), with unprecedented forest fires (across the West and Southwest), civil unrest, hurricanes running through the alphabet and starting again,” she said.

Through it all, Barrett said she exploited and relied on a singular truth.

“There is one eye-watering constant across the Air and Space Forces: the universality that these are good people,” she said in her remarks Jan. 14. “I have worked at numerous businesses, I have been a member of dozens of groups, and I have been part of myriad organizations, but I have never been part of any entity where there is such consistency of good intent and effort to be the best, together. 

“I leave confident that the United States of America is safe and secure because of you – the brave men and women who stand the watch, guard the perimeter, ensure free and open access to space, and defend democracy from the sky,” she said.