The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, spoke on topics of national interest on Aug. 29 at an Airmen’s Call at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam.
Donley toured the Pacific to reconnect with the region and to thank airmen serving in the Pacific area of responsibility.
In introducing Donley, Brig. Gen. John Doucette, the 36th Wing commander, said airmen here have had the opportunity over the past year to talk about how Pacific airpower helps bolster security and stability to the Asia-Pacific region.
“Now you have an opportunity to hear from the person who has the mandate to ensure that we are organized, trained and equipped around the globe to accomplish our mission (and) take care of our airmen and their families,” Doucette continued.
The secretary spoke in depth about the challenges the Air Force faces now, and will face in the future — including maintaining readiness despite expected reductions in the Defense Department budget.
“We’re in a time of great financial volatility and fiscal crisis at home,” Donley said. “The need to get our fiscal ‘house’ in order has become a national priority. In the last couple of years, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen identified the national debt as the single biggest threat to our national security.”
Because the defense budget accounts for such a large portion of federal spending, it has to be part of any solution to the nation’s fiscal problems, Donley said.
“It has been clear that national defense will be part of that equation going forward,” he said. “We have already identified about $33 billion in Air Force spending in the next five years that could be reallocated from lower- to higher-priority missions. It has given us a head start to begin looking at how we can operate our Air Force more efficiently.”
Despite these fiscal challenges, Donley said he and other Department of Defense leaders remain committed to maintaining a capable and ready force while also ensuring American service members and their families are well taken care of.
“So much of the effort in the Department of Defense and headquarters has been to anticipate and plan for this level of adjustment, and to figure out a way forward that will protect the gains made over the last decade and capabilities our force will need to meet future threats five and 10 years out,” the secretary said. “But we must do all this without breaking faith with the men and women serving today who make these missions a reality 24 seven, 365 days a year.”
Recognizing the base’s key role in providing stability for the Asia-Pacific region through the continuous bomber presence, theater security packages and other capabilities, Donley thanked the audience for its service to the nation.
“As the farthest western piece of sovereign territory in the U.S., Guam is critically important to the United States,” Donley said. “This is a great wing, and it plays a very important role in this region, and for our nation and our Air Force.
“People ask what the best part about being the secretary of the Air Force is, and it’s getting out and meeting airmen like you who are doing the work of the Air Force every day,” he continued. “It’s really a gift to the nation that you chose the Air Force.”