While You’re Making Other Plans

Reacting to wars, sexual assaults, sequestration, and other unexpected crises have made it tough to make steady progress on the Air Force program, said Secretary Michael Donley, who is retiring today, in his last interview with Air Force Magazine. “There were just lots of issues that came up that we needed to work,” Donley said of his five-year tenure—the longest of any Air Force Secretary. He’s pleased that despite the turbulence, he made solid progress with the KC-46 tanker, the F-35, and the Long-Range Strike Bomber. However, “None of the things I got ‘done’ are done,” Donley said. “Getting the tanker on stable footing was important to the Air Force, but we’re not building tankers, yet.” Likewise, the F-35 and bomber are years from being operational. “You take them as far as you can, during your tenure,” Donley observed. His approach to dealing with crises was to “dig out of the hole, to find the way forward…to address processes, to take corrective action, to hold people accountable, to make necessary adjustments in programs,” and “get the right experts together to figure out a way forward.” His goal was to ensure “the Air Force comes out in a better place at the end of that work” and leave his successor “something…they can work with and carry yet further.”