Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning visited Airmen and to get first-hand knowledge on the various missions here and address key issues within the Air Force, Nov. 5.
Fanning was confirmed as the 24th Under Secretary of the Air Force April 18, and assumed the role of acting secretary June 21. As the Air Force’s highest ranking civilian, he 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 690,000 active duty, Guard, Reserve and Civilian Airmen and their families.
“The other services are pretty visible,” Fanning said. “The Air Force operates in a lot of places people don’t see, which can be a hard story to tell. This whole thing and what you do is fascinating to me.”
During his stop here, he toured the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group, also known as the boneyard. The boneyard is home to more than 4,400 retired aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from the Air Force, Navy-Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, and several federal agencies including NASA.
“I had a real good tour of the boneyard, that was pretty impressive,” Fanning said. “It was a lot more than I realized.”
Among visiting several facilities, touring the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the HH-60G Pave Hawk at the rescue squadrons and the 612th Air and Space Operations Center, perhaps the most important part of the visit was spending face-to-face time with the Airmen of D-M at an all-call. Fanning spoke to more than 500 Airmen about key issues affecting the military today.
“There is a lot of speculation out there and I want to clear up as much of it as I can,” said Fanning. “The stuff that I learn from all of you at these sessions, I take back and share with Secretary [Chuck] Hagel and compare notes with the other [service] secretaries.”
After a brief update about what is happening at the top, Fanning opened the floor for questions. Many of the Airmen’s questions focused around the future of the Air Force and the projected cuts Fanning forecasted.
“We are probably looking at the single biggest reduction the Air Force has had since we were created 66 years ago,” said Fanning. “The Air Force is in a much better place than the other military services– the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Army– but we’re still going to be 90 percent of what we are today. So we tell people, if you’re a good Airman, doing a good job, there’s still going to be a place in this Air Force for you.”
Fanning, who also oversees the Air Force’s annual budget of more than $110 billion, explained his feeling about it.
“We’re too big of an Air Force for the budget that we’re given,” Fanning said. “We can’t just become an institution of bases and people, we have to be doing something; we have to be the right size for that.”
Fanning told Airmen that he understands working under the uncertainty of the future is frustrating, but Air Force leadership is working hard to fix it and their continued support is appreciated.
“What has impressed me over the course of the summer is the ability of our people to persevere and stay focused on the mission,” said Fanning. “That’s what we need for a little bit longer–for all of you to continue focusing on the mission while we try to stabilize the Air Force and Department of Defense.”
He reassured the Airmen that senior leaders are listening and focusing on the budget and the people.
“The Chief [General Mark A. Welsh III] and I are committed to get us to a new normal as quickly as possible.”
In closing, Fanning touched on how valuable D-M is to the Air Force mission.
“I’m only six months into this, but I can still get a sense of where bases fall and how important they are to the mission, and D-M is very important to the Air Force,” said Fanning. “You’ve got a great community of support.”