Small but Ready

Although the Air Force will continue to shrink, rebuilding and maintaining readiness must remain a top priority, said Deborah Lee James Thursday during her first public appearance since becoming Air Force Secretary. Testifying before the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, James said the Air Force has made a corporate decision to sacrifice force structure and some near-term readiness for long-term capability in the next decade. However, she said she is committed to rebuilding readiness levels, which she acknowledged have been hit especially hard in the last year. The bipartisan budget agreement, signed by President Obama in late December, will go a long way in aiding those efforts by restoring some sense of fiscal stability. “A little certainty is a godsend right now,” James said. Although she sees the service getting smaller over the next 10 years, she said USAF also will become “more capable.” To ensure this happens, she will focus on some core issues, such as working to ensure airmen can continue to serve and that they receive appropriate incentives and are not bogged down in overlapping personnel systems across the Active Duty, Air National Guard, and Reserve. Some key Air Force missions must also be better integrated into the Reserve component, especially growth missions such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and cyber warfare, she noted. Associate units across USAF have been a remarkable success, with 120 now in operation in the service, but as the force structure shrinks it will be increasingly important to implement lessons learned from these constructs as more stand up.