NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning visited Airmen here and at Creech AFB Monday as part of his first round of base visits since assuming the position in June.
Fanning was confirmed as the 24th Under Secretary of the Air Force in April of this year and took on the additional role of acting SecAF after the retirement of Michael B. Donley just two months later.
“I wanted to come here first because of all the things that you do,” Fanning said. “All of the training that goes on out here, the variety of Air Force components, and the impact each has on operations – are in this one place. You are the reason why the adversary is afraid of the United States Air Force. And it’s an honor to be here.”
Fanning met with leaders of various base organizations including the United States Air Force Warfare Center, the USAF Weapons School and the 414th Combat Training Squadron during his day-long visit. Fanning was updated on the progress and priorities of each organization and received information about ongoing programs like the F-35 Lightning II.
An All Call was held in a Nellis AFB aircraft hangar giving Fanning an opportunity to speak directly with more than 950 Airmen about current Air Force priorities and field individual questions from service members. The majority of the discussion revolved around pressing subjects like sequestration, the 2015 budget and sexual assault prevention.
“My immediate priority for the Air Force will be trying to figure out the budget situation,” Fanning said.
Now that he’s assumed the full responsibilities of the SecAF position, he’ll be expected to oversee the branch’s more than $110 billion annual budget.
“We’re still trying to pitch to Capitol Hill a non-sequester budget and create a new stability,” he said.
Also among his top priorities will be changes to management and the re-organization of the Air Force’s upper level decision making processes. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued clear guidance to military leaders looking to reduce headquarters footprints throughout the military in efforts to streamline acquisitions methods.
“To achieve that is going to take some pretty substantial reorganization, but I look at it as an opportunity to create a leaner, more agile decision making process for the Air Force,” Fanning said.
Though Fanning is relatively new to Air Force management, he’s no stranger in Washington, D.C. He brings to the position more than 20 years of experience in the national security world, working in various positions at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and defense think-tanks.
“I don’t know that you can ever feel completely prepared to take on the role of the SecAF,” Fanning said of his transition.
Upon his confirmation as under secretary, Fanning was informed of Michael Donley’s impending retirement and spent his first two months preparing to assume the position Donley held for five years.
“I’ve had a long time to think about it; about what the role meant, and how I would go about it,” Fanning said.
After answering questions from Airmen attending the Nellis All Call, the acting secretary made the 50-mile trip to Creech AFB to enjoy lunch with Airmen and learn more about the base’s remotely piloted aircraft capabilities.
At the end of the day, Fanning was left impressed by the level of work being done by Nellis and Creech Airmen in a challenging fiscal environment.
“My introduction to Airmen over the last three months has been amazing,” Fanning said. “Our greatest asset is our people.”