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Air Force’s newest leader takes charge

Timothy Beyland (left) swears in Deborah Lee James as the 23rd Air Force secretary Dec. 20, 2013, at the Pentagon. James is responsible for the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of its more than 690,000 active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian Airmen and their families. Beyland is the administrative assistant to the secretary of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Timothy Beyland (left) swears in Deborah Lee James as the 23rd Air Force secretary Dec. 20, 2013, at the Pentagon. James is responsible for the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of its more than 690,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian Airmen and their families. Beyland is the administrative assistant to the secretary of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James thanks her team following swearing into her new role as the 23rd Air Force secretary Dec. 20, 2013, in the Pentagon. James is responsible for the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of its more than 690,000 active duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James thanks her team following swearing into her new role as the 23rd Air Force secretary Dec. 20, 2013, in the Pentagon. James is responsible for the affairs of the Department of the Air Force, including the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of its more than 690,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force’s 23rd Secretary of the Air Force was formally sworn in, Dec. 20, in the Pentagon.

Deborah James assumed the position of the Air Force’s highest ranking leader, making her the second female in Air Force history to serve in the role.

As James takes on her new duties, she said she knows there will be challenges, inheriting the service at a time filled with uncertainties, from the budget to management of the force.

“I think our Air Force is in great shape given that we’ve been living through some difficult times,” James said during her first interview as secretary. “I’m enormously optimistic about the future of our Air Force. We have nothing but opportunities to face in the upcoming years.”

While James said she is confident the Air Force will prevail moving forward, she noted that the service’s manning will look different in the future.

“I’m equally certain that we will become a smaller Air Force; we will remain a capable Air Force with top notch people,” she said. “We’re going to remain No. 1.”

Over the next five years, the Air Force is slated to cut roughly 25,000 Airmen. Recently, Air Force officials announced programs that will aid the service to achieve such cuts in manning.

With these force management programs beginning, James said senior Air Force leaders are working to give Airmen as much information as they can, as fast as they can.

“We are going to be as transparent as possible and get them information as quickly as we can,” James said. “We don’t want them to be consumed by worries of the future.”

As she begins her tenure as the SecAF, James said she wants Airmen to know she is 100 percent dedicated to serving them.

“I am totally committed to every Airman,” she said. “My top job is to be their advocate here in Washington and around the globe.”

Before being nominated by President Barack Obama on Aug. 1, James was president of the Technology and Engineering Sector at Science Applications International Corporation.

View her official biography here.

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