Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley chats with Airmen at the Airman Leadership School March 27, 2012, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The secretary dropped by Edwards for a three-day visit to observe flight testing and to meet with Airmen and the Edwards workforce. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Densmore)
Donley talks with defenders of the 95th Security Forces Squadron and the 95th Civil Engineering Division’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. He thanked the Airmen for their service here at Edwards and abroad down range. (U.S. Air Force photos/Edward Cannon)
Yusuf Ahmed, 95th Civil Engineering electrical engineer (left), talks to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley about the three solar farms on Edwards Air Force Base March 27, 2012, as Brig. Gen. Robert C. Nolan II, Air Force Flight Test Center commander, looks on. The secretary cut a ceremonial ribbon at the Lancaster Blvd. solar farm to officially dedicate the three farms, which provide one megawatt each to the Edwards power grid. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Densmore)
The secretary dropped by the Joshua Inn Dining Facility March 28, 2012, for breakfast and to meet with Edwards Airmen. Airmen got the opportunity to ask Donley questions about the future of the Air Force and what challenges the force faces in the future. (U.S. Air Force photo/Edward Cannon)
by Kenji Thuloweit
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
4/4/2012 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Edwards received a visit from its top leader March 26, 2012.
Secretary of the Air Force, The Honorable Michael B. Donley, arrived at Edwards Air Force Base for a three-day tour to observe Team Edwards' Airmen in action. While at Edwards the SECAF observed flight testing of key airframes such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor, but most significantly, met with Airmen and the Team Edwards workforce.
The secretary's tour included visits to Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale and back to Edwards for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially dedicate the three solar farms that help supply energy to the base.
Donley also met with 95th Security Forces Squadron defenders and members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team - both of which have seen heavy deployment time with their respective Airmen. The secretary handed out his Air Force coin to members of the EOD team and moved on to greet Airmen at the Airman Leadership School.
Tech. Sgt. Garth Muenter, 95th Civil Engineering Division Explosive Ordnance Disposal craftsman, spoke with Donley, who had asked about deployment dwell times and locations.
"I was very honored to have met him and let our trials and tribulations be heard," said Muenter. "I'm sure he meets Airmen who have been deployed all the time, but it was special for us at Edwards to have him see both sides of deployments. He got to meet spouses and families as well."
After eating breakfast at the Joshua Inn Dining Facility Wednesday, Donley met with Team Edwards at the Base Theater for a SecAF All Hands Call where he thanked Team Edwards for its service.
"Our efforts to modernize the United States Air Force and recapitalize our aging fleets rely on the work that you do here," said Donley. "Developing fifth-generation fighter capabilities with the F-22 and the F-35; continuing to modernize some older but very important fleets like the B-2 and F-16s; even supporting energy independence in the work that is done in biofuels testing and also in solar energy; developing and testing new remotely-piloted aircraft as well; you're always finding ways to push the limits of these new technologies.
"The fact that our nation boasts the world's finest air force is due in great part to your skill, your commitment and dedication every single day," he said.
Donley spoke about the challenges that lie ahead for Air Force. He talked about the complex security environment the service and the nation as a whole is experiencing and how the Air Force operations tempo continues to be fast-paced. As an example, he highlighted Air Force activities last year in which the service simultaneously completed operations in Iraq, supported the ongoing effort in Afghanistan, helped the Japanese after the tsunami there, and supported counterterrorism operations.
"It was a busy year and that pace and op-tempo continues," he said.
Donley went on to address the fiscal problems that the nation faces and how it will affect Edwards Air Force Base.
"Getting our federal budget under control will affect every part of the government including the Air Force and the Department of Defense," he said. "We've redoubled our efforts in the Air Force and in DoD to eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness in all aspects of our operations."
With the Budget Control Act passed last year, the DoD is required to cut almost $500 billion over the next 10 years. Donley said the Air Force has identified $33 billion in efficiencies that can be saved and the service's fiscal 2013 budget, which was submitted to Congress in February, is in line with the cuts required by the Budget Control Act.
He said a key principle for the 2013 Air Force budget is finding a balance between force structure, readiness and modernization.
"In short, we determined that for our Air Force, the best course of action is to trade size for quality," said Donley. "We will become smaller in order to protect a high-quality force and a ready force. One that will be ready to meet any of the contingencies that are immediately in front of us, but also one that will continue to modernize and grow more capable in the future.
"Though we will be smaller we intend to be a superb force at any size," he said.
Donley said next year's budget protects the Air Force's highest priorities like maintaining the bomber fleet, ramping up remotely-piloted aircraft and special operations.
"But, as we get smaller, it's not possible to protect everything," he explained. "Our proposed force structure changes in this budget include the reduction of 286 aircraft over the future years defense plan, which is roughly over the next five or six years. This includes 123 fighters, 133 mobility aircraft and 30 or so intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance platforms."
Donley touched on the Air Force Materiel Command's plan to restructure its 12 centers to five with Edwards becoming the Air Force Test Center later in the year, stating that all reporting requirements for the restructure are under way and will be met. The change will save AFMC $109 million annually.
"Under the five center construct, Edwards and the Air Force Flight Test Center here will play a critical role in Air Force test operations well into the future," he said. "The Flight Test Center will transition into the new Air Force Test Center, which remains here at Edwards."
Donley added that Air Force leadership will continue to communicate with its workforce to minimize uncertainties and maximize options for individual workers as AFMC will cut 1,051 civilian positions along with the Air Force cutting almost 10,000 Airmen.
The secretary emphasized that Airmen and the Air Force workforce remain the key to future air dominance.
"Airmen, not technology, enable our leadership in air, space and cyberspace," he said. "I've described our Air Force team of uniformed and civilian Airmen, active duty, guard and reserve as the living engine that powers our Air Force. All this technology does nothing but sit until you put Airmen and brainpower behind it to make it all work and turn it into military capability for the Air Force and the Nation. You are that living engine that powers our Air Force.
"Our Air Force is the envy of the world and we are determined to ensuring that the United States remains the world's greatest air and space power," Donley added. "Your hard work helps make that goal a reality every day here at Edwards and across our Air Force. The evolving strategic environment and budget constraints are factors that will continue to test us and they will challenge us in the year ahead. But, whatever the future may bring you and all of the members of our total force, I know, are up to the challenge. In fact, we're depending on you. Our Air Force, our country needs you to be great at what you do every single day. You certainly deserve to be proud of the great work being done here at Edwards. Our Air Force leadership team is certainly, certainly proud of you."
The secretary concluded the All Hands Call with a question and answer session before saying goodbye to Edwards and heading back to Washington D.C.