By Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Military and civilian members from the 21st Space Wing, North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command, Air Force Space Command, the 52nd Airlift Squadron and the 302nd Airlift Wing welcomed Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James here March 5-6.
James held an all-call, where she shared her priorities and strategic future for the Air Force and spoke on how it would affect the space community and Team Pete. The visit comes on the heels of the Air Force presenting the 2015 President’s Budget request, which is summarized by focusing on future challenges and opportunities while continuing to recover readiness lost during sequestration in fiscal year 2013.
“I want to tell you what a pleasure it is for me to get out of Washington and come out here and see all of you,” said James. “I have had a terrific time between here and Schriever (Air Force Base). I’m all of 10 weeks old as the 23rd secretary of the Air Force and I am already working hard, but will continue to work harder to live up to the enormous trust and confidence placed in me.”
First, James spoke about the critical missions the space community provides for the world, command and control communications, assured access, missile warning and space surveillance, situational awareness, position navigation and timing, military satellites and weather.
“I cannot think of another mission that is more critical for the world moving forward than space,” said James.
She then provided an introduction describing who she is. Every Airman has a story, even her, said James.
James’ introduction centered on a story of an early disappointment in her career and a quick turn-around to a successful federal service profession. Throughout James’ high school, college and graduate career, she worked tirelessly toward one goal; to work for the State Department. After working toward one goal for so long; she was not accepted. However, shortly after one door closed another opened, and she received an offer from the Department of the Army, which began her more than 30-year career in defense.
“I tell you a story about my beginnings because it’s illustrative of what we all go through eventually; we all get thrown curve balls,” said James. “It’s what you do about it. If you catch it, or even drop it, you have to keep moving forward.”
James also highlighted some of her positions in civil service that she said taught her significant lessons: the House Armed Services Committee on personnel and compensation; the Pentagon on Reserve Affairs; and her private sector experience on services and solutions for government customers.
“My whole professional life has been about defense; I have learned one very important lesson, more important than any other lesson I have learned, people underpin everything,” said James. “You need to have the right people in the right jobs who are properly trained, who have the know-how to get the job done. The second most important thing I learned is that work is not everything.”
James tied her experiences to her three priorities; taking care of people, balancing today’s readiness with tomorrow’s modernization, and making every dollar count.
“We need to recruit, retain and train our people,” said James. “Taking care of our people means to provide dignity and respect for all; it means fair and competitive compensation.”
She continued by speaking about sequestration and the future strategy and budget for the Air Force.
James said space used to be an area where the United States had supreme control, but has since become more congested and contested, adding that space will be extremely important moving forward.
“It is an extremely dynamic time,” said James. “It remains a dangerous world with many threats. The U.S. Air Force is crucial to countering virtually any threat you can name. It remains to be seen if our ops tempo will come down.”
Regardless of ops tempo, decisions will have to be made in several areas to work with budget constraints, said James.
“Leadership is trying to put this all together — we have some mismatches that don’t quite fit,” said James. “I can tell you this; budgets don’t always match with requirements, so we have to make decisions. We are driven by strategy, but formed by budgets with a lot of tradeoffs and judgment calls in between.”
Some of these decisions will affect Team Pete members, said James. These effects will be felt on the size of the force; leveraging Reserve forces, changes in compensation, and changes to subsidies for commissaries.
“Hopefully some of these savings will bring relief to immediate readiness issues,” said James. “There are important space programs for the future that will be funded as part of this budget.”
James took questions towards the end of the all-call. The topics included sexual assault prevention and how the Air Force plans to measure success, maintaining Air Force infrastructure, best practices from the civilian sector for the military to adopt, how to prevent behavior that brings discredit on the Air Force and the future of compensation for military members.
After answering the questions, James closed by sharing her excitement for the work the space community is doing.
“Wow, for all that you do, I am inspired by all of you,” she said.
James asked everyone to stay focused because they are needed for the defense of the country, to remember when one door closes another will open, and the Air Force will continue to be the very best in the world.