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SECAF, CSAF stress 'back to basics'

by Staff Sgt. Monique Randolph
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

8/13/2008 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The acting secretary and new chief of staff of the Air Force emphasized a "back-to-basics" approach to get the Air Force back on track in areas ranging from the nuclear enterprise to acquisition in an Aug. 12 press conference at the Pentagon.

Secretary Michael Donley introduced Gen. Norton Schwartz, who was appointed as the 19th chief of staff earlier in the day, and outlined the two leaders' top priorities for the coming months.

"(General Schwartz) and I have several issues to address together: the nuclear enterprise, of course; care for our wounded warriors; our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance posture; the acquisition process; modernization and recapitalization; and, of course... continued support for the global war on terror," Secretary Donley said.

In keeping with sentiments expressed in a ceremony held earlier in the day, General Schwartz spoke of the importance of maintaining the nation's trust by applying the "back-to-basics" standards of precision and reliability in the execution of every mission.

"My pledge to all today is that the Air Force will keep the promise to our teammates, our families and to all our partners who rely on us everyday," he said. "Precision and reliability is our standard, regardless of job or specialty, and we will return the vigor and rigor to all the processes and missions for which we have been entrusted."

This pertains particularly to the nuclear mission, General Schwartz said.

"We will train, organize and inspect to that standard. The bottom line is we lost focus, and we're bringing that focus back.

"We have a lot of work to do, but we have a lot to be proud of as well," he said. "In those areas where others have found fault, we are going to work with a vengeance, and we will remain the world's finest Air Force."

Secretary Donley addressed acquisition, stating there is still work to do there as well.

"Acquisition is a very important priority for me," he said. "Obviously, not getting through the tanker protest was a major blow to our acquisition process, so I supported the Defense Secretary's decision to move the next steps in that source selection process over from the Air Force to the Office of the Secretary of Defense."

Secretary Donley said future acquisition decisions will be based on lessons learned from the tanker acquisition and from previous Government Accountability Office decisions that found fault with the Air Force's process.

"I won't be satisfied until we get through these major source selections, and potential protests that may follow, with a clean bill of health," he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to halt Air Force personnel cuts also was discussed. Previous force-shaping initiatives called for Air Force active-duty end strength to decrease to 316,000 by fiscal 2009. However, in June, Secretary Gates said the service already had been cut too deeply and called for an active-duty force of 330,000.

"We are looking at the new level that the Secretary of Defense had set. The main thing for us is not the number, but obviously the mix, in terms of what new missions and requirements need to be covered in that 330,000," Secretary Donley said.

"We are going to put 14,000 or so difference where we need them most," General Schwartz said. "Some of that clearly is going to be nuclear, some in ISR, perhaps some in aircraft maintenance. These are decisions yet to be finalized. But the bottom line is it certainly has the secretary's and my personal attention.

Other open issues, such as Air Force Cyber Command, which was scheduled to stand up Oct. 1, and alternative fuel certification, which has been underway on several airframes, remain on the senior leadership scope.

"(The cyber mission) is important, and it will go forward for the Air Force," Secretary Donley said. "The issue is in what context, form and national framework. This is not just (about the) Air Force. It has to fit with Strategic Command and the broader national security community, and we're going to make sure all those pieces fit together as we proceed."

Air Force officials previously were working to certify all aircraft on alternative fuels by the year 2010. While they will continue with alternative fuel certification, Secretary Donley said leadership will take a closer look at the Air Force's role in the process that follows.

"We want to make sure we remain in the role of consumer and not (perceived by others) as a producer. The Air Force is fundamentally a consumer of energy," he said. "If we're going to be involved with this cooperative work going forward, we're going to make sure we're in partnership with the department of energy and other federal agencies that need to be involved."

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