Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine H. Fox assured officers at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., on Thursday that they will play a critical role in the future defense of the nation despite the proposal for a drastically reduced military budget in 2015.
Fox, the highest ranking woman ever to serve in the Department of Defense, spoke to Air War College students at Maxwell’s Air University about what the budget cuts might mean to them and the Air Force.
Although she said it was too early in the process to tell what would become of Maxwell and Gunter under the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, Fox was optimistic.
“With Maxwell and the Air University here, this is a very important installation to our Air Force and our defense department,” Fox said. “I wouldn’t be alarmed. This is clearly an important place in our Air Force.”
Fox’s discussion focused on how the military must move forward in an environment where a smaller force and reduced resources are inevitable.
Although Fox said there will be challenges in adapting to the defense budget, she said it would have been too detrimental to national and global security had the military been placed under sequester level funding.
The proposed budget would provide $115 billion over the next five years, more than sequester level funding would have allowed.
With the challenges come numerous opportunities for the Air Force, Fox said.
“I see tremendous opportunities for our Air Force to contribute to security in Afghanistan, but also for keeping the peace in Korea, in Beijing and Africa, or delivering humanitarian relief to countless nations,” Fox said.
The Air Force brings unique capabilities to the fight in that the Air Force is the most technologically driven of the joint forces and thus modernizes other services to contribute their best to the mission, Fox said.
“As the department rebalances from large-scale stability operations toward a renewed focus on full-spectrum operations, you provide vital capabilities across the entire operational spectrum from airlift, to air superiority, precision strike to space and cyberspace to the nuclear triad,” Fox said.
“These capabilities must — must — be shielded from the harshest impacts of sequester,” she added.
Protecting the next generation in bombers, strike fighter, tankers, armed unmanned systems and a $1 billion investment in the next generation of jet engine technology are of paramount importance in proposed budget, she said.
Among aircraft to be cut are the A-10 Thunderbolt “Warthog” and the U-2 Lockheed “Dragon Lady” fighter planes.
Fox called upon the future Air Force leaders, Guardsmen and Reservists in the auditorium to integrate broad-range missions with their joint partners, allies and the civilian sector.
“Whether sequestration returns or not, we’re counting on your leadership, your innovations to solve problems and unfamiliar challenges to our national security,” Fox said.