SecAF talks priorities, challenges with Airmen in town hall meeting

  • Published
  • By Gabriel Myers
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operating Location - P
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James reflected on her first year as the service’s secretary answering questions directly from Airmen all over the world in an online town hall-style forum here Dec 16.

The secretary announced the Air Force will not conduct involuntary force management programs in fiscal year 2015, saying fiscal year 2014 force shaping measures were successful, but “enough is enough.”

James opened the town hall thanking Airmen for their service and led into her top three priorities: taking care of people, balancing the readiness needs of today with the modernization needs of tomorrow and making every dollar count.

“I have two takeaways from my first year; the first is we are the best Air Force on the planet,” James said. “We are the best because of our Airmen. My second takeaway is the Air Force is feeling some strain due to our size and ops tempo, as we have fewer people in our Air Force than ever in our history.”

The secretary fielded questions from Airmen live in the studio, via Skype and submitted on social media. The rebalance to the Pacific, the Air Force nuclear enterprise, enlisted performance reports, budget and force management reductions were on the minds of those Airmen participating in the discussion.

James, in response to a question, stated although we have become a smaller overall force, there are a few areas she sees as growing in the future.

“We are growing in a number of areas, for instance we are growing in ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance),” she said. The secretary also expects growth in cyber-related fields and stressed the importance of the National Guard and Reserve. Investment in the nuclear enterprise and the top three modernization programs will also continue.

In line with her priority of taking care of people James answered a question about combatting sexual assault and the recent Defense Department report.

She said stamping out sexual assault, is a priority for the DOD. She added the Air Force, through heightened awareness and training, has "turned the corner" to reduce incidents as well as increase victims' confidence in the reporting system.

But the effort is far from over, James maintained.

"Are we done yet? No. Is it good enough? Absolutely not. Do we have to keep on it? You better believe it," she said, noting the need for persistent leadership and focus to end sexual assault.

When asked about the new enlisted performance system, James explained the focus on performance and ensuring continuous, effective and fair feedback between a supervisor and an Airman.

The new system is designed to discourage inflated reports. "If everybody gets the same grade, and it's a top grade in every respect, then really what do those grades mean?" James asked.

The secretary ended her town hall saying the Air Force’s success is due to the hard work of its people.

“Thanks to all of our Airmen around the country and around the world for the enormous work that you have been doing,” James said. “I have seen it in action and it is magnificent. Thanks also to your family members, who I know are the backbone of all that you do.”

To view the video on the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System click here.

(Amaani Lyle, DoD News, Defense Media Activity, helped contribute to this article.)