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American Forces Press Service

Donley Pledges to Restore Air Force's Reputation, Credibility

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2008 – The acting secretary of the Air Force told Capitol Hill legislators during a confirmation hearing here today that he’ll work to restore the Air Force’s reputation for excellence.

Michael B. Donley told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he’ll work to re-establish national confidence in the Air Forcein the wake of missteps in the handling of nuclear materials that led to the resignations of the service’s top military and civilian leaders.

The most urgent tasks for the new Air Force leadership are “to steady this great institution, restore its inner confidence and your confidence in the leadership team and rebuild our external credibility,” Donley said.

Donley became acting Air Force secretary after the June 6 resignations of Michael W. Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, spurred by a report on the erroneous shipment of four non-nuclear missile trigger components instead of helicopter batteries to Taiwan in August 2006. A year after the mistaken delivery, an Air Force B-52 bomber crew inadvertently flew across the United States carrying six armed nuclear cruise missiles.

“The mere existence of weapons with such destructive power alters the international landscape – and rightfully brings much scrutiny to bear on how they are handled,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told airmen and civilian employees during a June 9 visit to Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Donley, who also served as acting Air Force secretary for seven months in 1993, told legislators that he created a nuclear task force on June 26 “to synchronize corrective actions under way across major commands and to unify these efforts at the strategic level.”

The nuclear task force is to provide its recommendations at the end of September, Donley said, adding that Gates has asked former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger to critique how the Air Force stores and manages its nuclear materials.

“I have met with Dr. Schlesinger and his panel, and the Air Force schedule is structured so that we can incorporate their recommendations as we move forward,” Donley told legislators.

Donley said he approves of Gates’ decision to reopen the process to replace aging Air Force KC-135 aerial refueling tanker planes. In June, the Government Accountability Office found improper practices related to the $35 billion tanker contract awarded in February to a Northrop-Grumman/EADS/Airbus consortium. Rival bidder Boeing Co. protested the award of the contract.

In June, Gates directed John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, to replace the Air Force as the source selection authority for the tanker contract.

“Secretary Young will have whatever support he needs from the Air Force to continue forward,” Donley pledged. “The Air Force needs a new tanker; the joint warfighters need a new tanker. This is a critical capability that facilitates the projection of U.S. influence around the globe.”

Donley said he has directed senior Air Force acquisition officials to ascertain lessons derived from the GAO’s decision regarding the air tanker issue.

“We need to strengthen confidence in the Air Force and DoD’s capability to manage these large, complex competitions and successfully withstand contractor protests,” Donley said.

Donley said that after attending numerous recent meetings with both senior and junior servicemembers and civilians, he is confident the Air Force is eager to move on.

“Without exception, leadership and airmen at all levels are ready to put the difficulties of the past few months behind them, to learn the appropriate lessons from these experiences and to move forward,” Donley said.

The way ahead for the Air Force, Donley said, includes “a recommitment to upholding the high standards of excellence that have always been the Air Force’s hallmark, and for our core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do to underpin every action by every airman at all times.”

The Air Force is an all-volunteer organization of professionals who are dedicated to excellence, Donley said.

“There is no quicker recovery of our inner confidence and credibility than the power of tens of thousands of airmen recommitting to our own high standards,” Donley emphasized. “Our values and our high standards form the core of all Air Force actions.”

Those high standards serve the Air Force well during the global war on terrorism, Donley said, and point the way to a bright future.

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