SECAF lauds total force efforts; discusses vision and priorities during Utah visit

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer Eaton
  • Utah Air National Guard JFHQ/PAO
The Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, was the distinguished guest speaker at an "All Call" held at Hill Air Force Base on July 24, with more than 400 civilian and military members of active-duty, guard and reserve components in attendance.

For more than an hour, James addressed a variety of topics and fielded questions from the crowd, which included officer and enlisted representatives of the Utah Air National Guard. 

James opened by noting she "considers it an absolute honor" to have the opportunity to spend time touring Air Force installations worldwide.

"Visiting with our amazing Airmen is the biggest privilege of my professional life," she said.

Her formal remarks highlighted many of the key messages she regularly delivers to Air Force stakeholders on Capitol Hill. These included the size of the current Air Force, "the smallest we've seen since the service's inception;" challenges posed by aging equipment and aircraft; issues related to troop readiness; and the worldwide explosion of threats to national security.

"Everywhere we turn, the Air Force is asked to do more with less," she said. "The high ops tempo means that we are an Air Force under some stress."

As the individual in charge of the Air Force's annual budget of more than $139 billion, James can attest that much of the tension boils down to the financial tug-of-war between the Air Force and Congress where some differences in opinion occur on how to strike an effective balance between the readiness of today and the needs of tomorrow.

"We can't do one or the other," she said. "We've got to do both."

James challenged the audience; however, to stay focused on taking care of each other and the mission at hand and not spend too much time worrying about budgetary and procurement efforts.

"You have enough on your plates," she said. "Count on me for the best support I can provide to secure what we need to move forward."

James' remarks resonated with attendees like Vallaree McArthur, an Air Force employee who serves a civilian role at Hill AFB and as a Mission Support Group First Sergeant with the UTANG.

"Secretary James did a great job outlining top priorities in a way that was pertinent to military and civilian concerns," she said. "She touched on quality of life improvements; recruiting and retention; striking a balance between maintaining versus modernizing assets; and holding everyone accountable to schedules and budgets -- the ideas and the presentation were spot on."

James' visit also included various facilities tours, meetings, and opportunities to speak with civilians, officers and enlisted members from across the state.

"We were honored to have Secretary James visit Utah," said Major General Jefferson Burton, Utah National Guard Adjutant General, who attended a dinner with military and civic leaders in Secretary James' honor.

"She is a visionary leader who is clearly committed to the total force concept," he said.

In fact, Burton noted that James "took the time to express her gratitude for the contributions made by Utah Air National Guardsmen through missions conducted around the globe."

James said this type of total force integration is a great way for the service to "leverage the full innovative potential of all our Airmen," noting that Utah is leading the way in such efforts.

The caliber of Airmen she meets as she travels the globe, and their collaborative efforts come as no surprise, she said.

"Everywhere I go, I've been so impressed by our, guard, and reserve units," she said. "They are the reason we're the greatest Air Force in the world."