The next few years are going to be tough, but Air Force and Defense Department leadership are committed to protecting airmen, their families, and the service’s core capabilities, said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley. To achieve the reductions outlined in the first part of the recent debt reduction deal, the Defense Department will have “to get savvy” and learn to accept more risk in certain areas. It will require terminating some programs, streamlining others, and “making some tough choices” about the core tenents of America’s national security strategy, said Donley at the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference at National Harbor outside D.C., Monday. However, added Donley, as the service works to sustain the oldest aircraft fleet in history, certain programs must proceed. There is no alternative to the F-35 strike fighter. “It must succeed,” said Donley. Similarly, the Air Force is committed to developing a long range strike family of systems, including a new bomber, and to moving forward with a new aerial refueling capability. It also must protect ISR and continue to build on the growth in that area over the last 10 years. In addition, the Pentagon must maintain the nuclear triad, sustain and develop freedom of action in cyberspace, and sustain the Air Force’s commitments to US Special Operations Command, said Donley.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.