SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning came to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Aug. 22 as part of his recent tour of bases to speak with Airmen about their concerns and to answer questions about the future of the Air Force.
Since becoming the acting SecAF in June and having served as the Undersecretary of the Air Force since April, he has been making the rounds to as many bases as possible to get a first-hand look at the missions and people who make up the service. He also is spreading the message about how leadership is working to resolve budget issues and deal with recent sexual assault problems within the Air Force.
During his visit he toured the 618th Air and Operations Center where teams work around the clock scheduling airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation missions around the globe. He also spent time with members of the 375th Air Mobility Wing’s C-21 airlift squadron and communications experts for the base before opening the floor to Airmen throughout the base during an all call later that morning.
“I was very appreciative that the secretary took time to talk to us and answer our questions,” said Master Sgt. Rachel Bias, 375th AMW protocol. “I think they understand how their policy decisions are affecting us, and I believe they’re doing the best they can during a difficult time.”
During an all call with the Airmen, several voiced concerns about tuition assistance and other benefits such as Basic Allowance for Housing and retirement plans. In addition, Airmen voiced concerns about the drawdown in Afghanistan and future deployments as well as the effect of the budget and sequestration for the next few years.
Fanning offered, “I wish I could come out here and give you answers about what next year or 2015 is going to look like, but there are a lot of variables yet to play themselves out. It’s as difficult politically as I’ve ever seen it in Washington.”
He said that any changes in benefits would be carefully considered before moving forward and that it would take some time to implement, so they would not need to worry for the near term. He said there is no budget set for 2014 yet, and without a continuing resolution by Oct. 1, 2013, the government could shut down, but he strongly believes that it won’t happen. He added that the government has been careful about cutting programs and contracts to make sure they don’t make any decisions that are long term and irreversible.
“We want to make decisions to shape the Air Force so it’s one that’s stable, not hollow; One that’s ready, and one that is focused on the mission. That means making some hard decisions now to get us there sooner rather than later. We are dedicated to getting us passed this instability and craziness as quickly as we can.”
Before leaving, he shared his thoughts on the current culture in the Air Force regarding sexual assault.
“There are too many of our fellow Airmen who don’t feel safe where they work and live. They don’t feel comfortable or secure reporting something when it happens. Every one of our fellow Airmen should feel safe and secure in the Air Force, and if there is even one who doesn’t, then we need to do something about that.”