Readiness is the primary investment the Air Force will make through fiscal 2014 and 2015, according to the Air Force’s most senior leader.
In a keynote address to more than 250 people at the Air Force Association breakfast Jan. 29 in Arlington, Va., Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the Air Force is reinvesting in readiness since it’s no longer operating under sequestration.
Secretary James explained readiness, which includes modernization, ensures Airmen will be able to deliver what the nation asks of the Air Force for today and tomorrow’s needs.
“It’s clear to me that maintaining, shaping and growing a capable Air Force, not only for today’s needs but also for tomorrows challenges, is of paramount importance,” James said. “We must always keep in mind the strategy element of what our nation may ask us to do.”
Through recent years, Air Force officials repeatedly stressed that with each blow budget constraints and sequestration have delivered to the force, readiness would be impacted in the near and long term.
“We must restore the Air Force’s readiness levels to higher levels,” James stated. “Readiness levels partially slipped last year when we were facing sequestration. We have to get those levels back up.”
Senior Air Force leaders have repeatedly stated the service’s need to project global power at any time. This core mission requires Airmen to be trained and their equipment to be ready at all times.
“We owe it to our Airmen (to make sure) they have the right training and right supplies to successfully do what we ask them to do,” James said.
Preparing for the future needs to be a constant mindset, the secretary said, and developing a leaner, more agile Air Force is part of that plan.
“I feel quite certain we will become a smaller Air Force, but it will remain highly capable and on the cutting edge of technology, so we can always step up to the plate and meet the country’s needs,” she said.
James was quick to point out as the force transitions to a smaller Air Force, that it is done right.
“This needs to be done correctly,” she said, noting critical career fields may need to be bolstered, while over-manned career fields are reduced. “We need to get to the right balance.”
Looking to the future, James said tomorrow’s readiness includes modernization.
“We have to look at where the threats are, and what key technology we need,” she said, noting that the F-35 Lightning II, KC-46 tanker and the long-range strike bomber could help with future threats.
“The objective is that we continue to control the skies just as we have in the decades past,” James said. “That we continue to be able to project power like no one else and extend global reach for many years to come.”