Air Force Secretary Deborah James has set three priorities for her tenure—people, readiness and modernization, and making every dollar count, she told attendees at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday. James said USAF must take “care of people;” especially by recruiting and retaining “the right people…as we re-shape the force.” That’s a tough challenge given the fact that uniformed personnel won’t see the pay increases they enjoyed in the last decade and many airmen will face voluntary or involuntary separations as USAF gets smaller, she said. The Air Force also must strike the right balance “between today’s readiness…and tomorrow’s.” Readiness levels have slipped in recent years and “we have to get them back up,” James said. But equal focus will go to modernization so USAF can cope with emerging threats. Finally, James will work toward the Air Force being able to deliver “a clean audit,” something it’s not able to do now. She’ll also press on delivering programs “on budget, on-schedule. ” In pursuit of these goals, “everything is on the table,” James said, and that includes possible “retirement of fleets of aircraft,” cuts in headquarters staff, and “force shaping.” The good news is that any savings reaped will be re-invested in other priorities, she noted.
These are the complete remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Dec. 3, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif.