Donley: For all Air Force's successes, challenges remain
Published: September 17, 2012
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley kicked off the Air Force Association conference in Washington this week by praising airmen for their accomplishments in the past year, and calling on leaders within the service to hold everyone to Air Force standards.
In the last year, airmen flew more than 90,000 combat flights and transported 1.2 million troops, Donley said Monday at National Harbor, Md. Air Force medical flights transported nearly 3,000 injured patients, with a patient survival rate of more than 95 percent.
When U.S. troops left Iraq last year, the Air Force transferred all air space control to Iraq and were overhead, providing security as the last vehicles crossed the border into Kuwait, Donley said. The Air Force also established the first battlefield airmen special operations wing, he said.
“Let there be no mistake: America’s airmen are in the fight,” Donley said.
Still, Donley said, the Air Force faced several challenges — including a high rate of suicides and a sexual abuse scandal at the service’s only recruit training base.
“Lately, all of us in the Air Force family, and citizens across our nation as well, have been shocked and troubled by allegations of professional and sexual misconduct by basic military training instructors at [Lackland Air Force Base],” Donley said. “The misconduct alleged has no place in our Air Force culture and is especially egregious” because it involves the abuse of power by training instructors.
Investigations and prosecutions continue, and command-directed investigations should identify any systemic failures, he said.
“But we can’t overlook the fact that if all our airmen followed the rules and lived by Air Force standards, these crimes and policy violations would never have taken place,” Donley said. “Leaders at every level have an obligation to adhere to and enforce Air Force standards and to establish and maintain a unit climate and culture that reflects what we stand for. This is family business. Nobody will do this for us.”
Donley also used the occasion to address budget concerns and the growing threat of sequestration.
The budget for fiscal 2013 “was really the first opportunity for policymakers to see in black and white what would have to be done to program $487 billion in defense reductions. And simply put, in beginning to program for these reductions, it’s impossible to avoid impacts to airmen, to various civilian and contractor work forces and the communities in which they live,” Donley said.
In addition, “the threat of sequester overhangs all budget decisions across the federal government,” he said. “We have less than four months before sequester goes into effect – a meat-axe approach, which would drive additional reductions of approximately $55 billion to FY13 defense accounts. … This is not a responsible way to achieve deficit reduction. These additional and arbitrary across-the-board cuts would leave the military without a workable strategy.”
The Air Force celebrates its 65th birthday this week.