EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley met with Eielson senior leaders and members of the Iceman Team during a visit here May 21 to 22.
The Secretary visited several locations on base, spoke to Airmen and met with local civic leaders.
During an all call at the base theater, Donley said Airmen are the driving factor behind a successful Air Force able to complete its mission.
"Our Airmen are the living engine that powers the Air Force," said Donley. "All of this equipment out on the ramp is a static display without the airmen who bring it to life and turn it into military capability for our Air Force and for the nation."
He also addressed the importance of Eielson's location and the significant role the Iceman Team plays in staging forces in the Asia-Pacific region.
"Alaska is ... quite possibly the most strategically positioned [state for America]," he said. "It is a key toehold for the U.S. presence in the Pacific region. Its location provides a vital link to the Pacific theater with the ability to reach any [Pacific Air Forces] location in only one leg."
One of the issues addressed was the Air Force's fiscal year 2013 budget proposal. Donley said that finding the proper balance between force structure changes, Air Force readiness and modernization have been guiding principles.
"This budget request represents a culmination of many hard decisions taken to first align our budget submission with the new [defense] strategic guidance and also with reductions of about $487 billion [in the defense budget] over the next 10 years," Donley said.
Along with changes to the budget, Donley spoke about force structure changes for the Air Force.
"In short, we determined that, for our Air Force, the best course of action is to trade size for quality - we will become a somewhat smaller Air Force in order to project a high-quality and ready force," Donley said. "This is a force that will continue to modernize and grow more capable in the years ahead. Though we will be a little smaller, we intend to be a superb force at any size, maintaining agility, flexibility and readiness to engage a full range of contingencies and threats."
Because force structure changes cause a ripple effect on manpower needs, Donley said several initiatives have been proposed to strengthen the integration of effort across active duty, Guard and Reserve components.
The Secretary emphasized that despite the challenges facing the Air Force, he is confident in the ability of the service's Total Force Airmen to accomplish the mission.
"We face some difficult choices going forward," he said. "With our priorities in mind, I'm confident that we can still take care of our people as well as advance Air Force capabilities. Whatever the future brings, Air Force leadership knows that you and all of the members of our total force are up to the challenge."