WASHINGTON — Senior leadership addressed the key issues, priorities, initiatives and challenges facing the Air Force during the State of the Air Force press briefing Jan. 15 at the Pentagon.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III focused on the Air Force’s highest priorities and said they have been working hard to balance resources and preserve combat capability in a tough fiscal environment.
“Everyone wants more Air Force,” James said. “We’re meeting those demands with the smallest force in our history. Couple a smaller force against the backdrop of austere budgets, and you have a total force that is under significant strain: active duty, Guard, Reserve, civilian, and their families.”
Welsh had the same concern.
“It’s about some very tough decisions we have to make to recapitalize on the Air Force for the threat 10 years from now,” he said. “We don’t have enough money last year or this coming year to fund all the things that we currently have in our force structure.”
While fiscal year 2015 still presents some enormous budget challenges for the Air Force, James and Welsh strongly agree enough is enough when it comes to force shaping and stated Airmen will see no involuntary boards in 2015.
“We cannot go any lower,” Welsh said. “We are getting too small to succeed as opposed to too big to fail.”
James said challenges with the budget in no way minimalize the responsibilities of the Air Force.
“As Air Force demands around the world continue to increase, we cannot afford to get smaller and sacrifice capability,” she said.
One of greatest demands James and Welsh addressed was intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements.
“Not only do combatant commanders want more ISR, they want the globally integrated, persistent ISR that Air Force capabilities provide,” the secretary said.
James and Welsh acknowledged the significant stress the high operations tempo has placed on its experienced operators. To combat that, they have developed a plan to meet combatant commander warfighting requirements while relieving some of the unrelenting strain felt by operators.
The intentions of the ISR goals outlined by James and Welsh will provide near-term relief to stressed crews by implementing a number of options to immediately increase manning.
The future of the Air Force continues its focus on balancing today’s readiness with tomorrow’s modernization.
“The American people expect our Air Force to fly, fight and win against any adversary,” James said. “It is important that we continue to afford our nation the Air Force capability it needs well into the future by appropriately investing in our people and in our platforms.”