Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning visited Luke Air Force Base on Nov. 5 to speak to Luke Airmen and preside over the retirement ceremony of a civil servant in the 56th Comptroller Squadron, Dorothy Rowe, who retired after serving 70 years – the longest tenure of any civilian in the Air Force.
Fanning also met with wing leadership, toured the base and held an all-call attended by about 400 Airmen, during which he covered a broad range of topics, including sequestration and sexual assault.
About 150 people attended the retirement luncheon, including Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers and other community leaders.
Rowe, 88, started working for the government in 1943 as a clerk typist at the Columbus Army Depot in Ohio. She transferred to Luke in 1953, where she has been for the last six decades, eventually working her way up to financial analysis chief.
“Dorothy’s 70 years of service is a remarkable accomplishment,” Fanning said. “This is a big day for her and a very special day for our Air Force.”
To put her longevity into perspective, Fanning said Rowe had served under 13 presidents, seen the base transition between four major commands and worked for 40 wing commanders. She also blazed a trail for women in the financial management career field.
“The energy, passion and spirit that Dorothy brought to her job over the past 70 years will live on in the hundreds of Airmen she has impacted,” Fanning said.
At the all-call, the secretary explained how sequestration and budget uncertainty is affecting the Air Force.
“I believe this level of funding is going to be the new normal for us,” he said. “We need to accept this and make some hard decisions now so we can move the organization forward as quickly as possible.”
To achieve the amount of savings that will be necessary under fiscal 2014 funding levels and beyond, the Air Force will have to get smaller, Fanning said.
“We’re going to use voluntary separation incentives as much as possible, and we’re going to try to roll it out as far in advance as possible,” he said. “We want to give you as much time as possible to think through options and prepare for whatever choices you’re going to make.”
Even with voluntary separation incentives, there may have to be targeted reductions in force, he said.
“We’re still going to be a big Air Force,” Fanning added. “There’s plenty of space in the Air Force for Airmen in and out of uniform who are contributing and doing a good job. That’s what I can promise you.”
On sexual assault, Fanning acknowledged there may be fatigue on the subject, but it is still a high priority for the Air Force.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” he said. “I need you to give it more time, more thought, more energy. I need you to be the best wingman you can be. We’re being held to a higher standard than the rest of society, but we should be.”
Fanning, who was confirmed as the 24th Under Secretary of the Air Force in April, has been serving as the acting SecAF since June. Deborah Lee James, who President Barack Obama nominated to succeed Michael Donley in June, is awaiting Senate confirmation.
“The new secretary is going to be great. She and General Welsh will be great advocates for the Air Force,” Fanning said. “The past six months have been an amazing experience for me traveling around and seeing all the things Airmen do. Thank you for persevering and thank you for all you do for the Air Force.”