SecAF speaks on acquisition, partnerships at Hanscom

  • Published
  • By Justin Oakes and Chuck Paone
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James discussed her top priorities with Airmen and state officials while emphasizing the importance of the acquisition base and its partnerships during a visit to Hanscom Air Force Base Aug. 20-21.

"Hanscom is a unique ecosystem of engineering, technology and partnerships," James said. "The work performed here impacts all the core missions of the Air Force."

The base's mission is to acquire and deliver battle management and command, control, communications, intelligence and network capabilities to the warfighter.

James met with key regional business executives, as well as the Massachusetts Military Task Force, and heard about the high interest and strong support of local leaders directly.

At the task force meeting, Gov. Charlie Baker, along with six members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, extolled the benefits of a regional intellectual "ecosystem" composed of industry, academia, technical consortia, and the federally funded research and development centers MITRE and MIT-Lincoln Laboratory. The leaders updated James on key collaborative ventures aimed at enhancing base operational efficiency and mission effectiveness.

In addition to meeting with officials, James received briefings and demonstrations on several prominent base programs and facilities to include: Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Recapitalization, Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, Base Information Transport Infrastructure and the Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center.

It wasn't long after the Secretary received program updates that she met with all the members of the base to discuss her overarching priorities.

The first centered on the workforce itself: taking care of people.

"One of my top priorities is to recruit, retain and develop Airmen for the future," James said during the basewide address.

According to the secretary, the Air Force has stopped downsizing and can expect to see a "modest upsizing" in total number of personnel in the near future.

In an age of doing more with less, this was good news for many offices that suffered from staffing reductions.

"We're in the midst of some key budget negotiations right now in Washington," the secretary said.

James also said she intends to keep money in the budget for re-enlistment/retention bonuses, educational benefits and that service members can look forward to a modest pay increase of 1.3 to 2.3 percent next year.
Rounding out her first priority of taking care of people was a special emphasis on preventing sexual assault within the force. During every base visit, James makes it a point to meet with the local sexual assault response coordinators and pledges to remain vigilant on tackling this serious issue.

The secretary's second priority relates to readiness and modernization and keeping the Air Force postured to meet the needs of combatant commanders.

"Modernization is difficult in a stressed budget environment," James said.

Hanscom is home to the Air Force's fourth largest acquisition priority -- Joint STARS Recapitalization -- a multi-billion dollar modernization working toward updating a key command and control aircraft used to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

James also stated that the Air Force has critical investments in cyber technology as well, another key facet for Hanscom.

The third and final priority focused on "making every dollar count" and being a good steward of taxpayer money, specifically when it comes to managing the entire lifecycle of a weapon system.

"We've got to keep our programs on budget and on schedule," James said.

Hanscom is at the forefront of owning the technical baseline, which is part of putting the government back in the driver's seat of the acquisition process, according to the secretary.

In an effort to drive down cost and foster creativity, the Air Force promotes competition at every stage of the acquisition process.

James also stated that headquarters across the service took a 20 percent spending reduction to help curb costs this last year.

All of these efforts contributed to the priority of maximizing every dollar.

She concluded her address to base members by saying, "I ask of you to continue doing what you do so well. Keep focused on those very important missions that happen here, the partnerships you've established. Be good wingman to each other and always, always focus on your family."