by Staff Sgt. Sara Keller
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
3/18/2014 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- For
her first stop during her first overseas trip as the Secretary of the
Air Force, Deborah Lee James toured Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and
spoke with U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Airmen March
The purpose of the trip for the 23rd Secretary of the U.S. Air Force was
to give her a chance to learn more about USAFE-AFAFRICA's role in the
region, meet Airmen in their work stations and better understand
Ramstein's many mission capabilities though face-to-face interactions.
Her visit consisted of a command mission brief, one-on-one discussions
during lunch with Airmen, facility tours, a meeting with Ramstein Sexual
Assault Response Coordinators, C-17 and C-130 aeromedical evacuation
static displays, and finished up with an Airmen's call open to all
During the Airmen's call, James spoke about her top three priorities,
challenges the Air Force is facing and the way ahead for the force.
She explained her three priorities were taking care of people, balancing
today's readiness with tomorrow's modernization, and making every
"To me, taking care of people means we need to continue to recruit the
right people. We need to retain the right people, and shape the force by
having the right people in the right ranks and specialties," said
James. "We also need to be able to grow and train leaders while
encouraging diversity of thought."
James also explained by invigorating the discussion of the Air Force
core values, Airmen can ensure they are taking care of each other by
having dignity and respect for all.
Explaining her second and third priority, she said since the period of
sequestration, things encompassing our readiness, like flying hours and
TDYs for professional development, have slipped.
"Readiness needs to be brought back up to a more reasonable level, but
we still need to ensure we are adding value to every tax dollar," she
Some of the challenges James discussed included the continuous budget
constraints and the delicate, yet complex solutions Airmen will be faced
with throughout the next few years.
In order to sustain readiness and build technological superiority, James
explained the Air force is reducing manpower and force structure,
retiring outdated aircraft, such as the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the U-2
Dragon Lady, and the M-Q1 Predator, as well as slowing the growth of
"We need to invest the money we save from these reductions and use it
for near-term readiness," she explained. "We will be using these savings
to invest in flying hours, training and modernization platforms like
the [long range strike] bomber and space programs.
"We will also be force shaping to create a smaller Air Force," James
continued. "We hope to have as many people as possible separate
voluntary, but we will be involuntary separating Airmen if needed. We
project there will be two boards throughout the next 15 months or so.
And if someone goes through the first board, they will not have to go
through a second time."
The last subject James elaborated on was the reduction of compensation.
"The proposal going forward in fiscal year '15 will slow the growth in
military compensation," she said. "Instead of a two percent pay raise,
there will be a one percent. So the pay still goes up, just not as
The secretary also asked Airmen ensure they are constantly reviewing and
updating their records, communicating with their supervisors and
seeking information from their leaders as things continue to change.
Airmen should also be prepared for their future, wherever it may take
Secretary James has 30 years of senior homeland and national security
experience in the federal government and the private sector. Prior to
her current position, she served as president of Science Applications
International Corporation's Technical and Engineering Sector, where she
was responsible for 8,700 employees and more than $2 billion in revenue.