Six Prescriptions for the New Secretary

Departing Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James’s advice for her successor in the Trump Administration ?is topped by a call to keep growing the service. Speaking at an an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va., James said her No. 1 bit of advice is to “increase endstrength in a sustainable way.” James acknowledged in her remarks that her push to reduce the force early in her three-year tenure looked good on paper, and that it was reasonable then to expect a period of “reset” for USAF after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down. She thought funds could be safely pushed to modernization and readiness, but “that was before” the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rise of ISIS, and airmen have been overworked ever since. Her second suggestion is to find a “new definition of readiness” that answers the question “ready for what?” Current methods date back decades and were an in-house tool for commanders, but now the public needs information that existing yardsticks don’t provide. “I’m not sure it paints a complete picture,” she said of current metrics. Third, she urged the new Congress to finally get rid of the Budget Control Act and sequestration, and “to do it right away. Don’t let it go to the 11th hour.” The sooner it’s repealed, the sooner and better USAF can manage its resources, she said. Fourth, James warned that there are “no more” easy efficiencies to be found—“they’ve been taken,” she said—and if the new administration wants to find “large additional savings” it’s going to have to take on big, divisive issues like military healthcare, logistics, and base closures. Fifth, James said USAF has to keep building “partnerships”—with industry and foreign air forces in particular, because “we fly and fight together.” Lastly, James urged “followup,” and relentless focus on new initiatives and problems after they’ve been identified and a plan developed. “It’s all about … execution, execution, execution,” James asserted.