ORLANDO, Fla. (AFNS) --
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley highlighted the service's need to continue future modernization plans during remarks to approximately 400 Airmen, industry officials and Air Force Association members Feb. 24 here.
Donley spoke on the second day of the Air Force Association's 2012 Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition, telling attendees the Air Force must recapitalize needed capabilities despite fiscal challenges.
"We made some hard choices to closely align our FY13 budget submission with the new (Defense Department) strategic guidance," he said. "Even as budgets decline, we must still provide the essential force structure and capabilities on which the Joint Force depends, and be ready to respond to a challenging and dynamic security environment.
"Yet, the new strategic guidance also requires continuing modernization, both to recapitalize aging systems and platforms and to address the proliferation of modern technologies and threats," Donley said.
To meet this requirement, the secretary said service leaders determined that the Air Force's best course of action is to trade size for quality.
"We will become smaller in order to protect a high quality and ready force, that will continue to modernize and grow more over time," he said. "In this decision, we sought the proper balance between today's Air Force and meeting the immediate needs of combatant commanders, while also laying the groundwork for the Air Force our nation will need ten years from now and beyond."
While the fiscal 13 budget proposal slows the pace and scope of modernization, Air Force officials took measures to protect programs that are critical to future warfighter needs as outlined in the new strategic guidance, Donley said.
He said these programs include the Long Range Strike bomber; the KC-46A refueling tanker; key space programs such as Space-Based Infrared System and Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites, as well as follow-on GPS work; advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and initiatives related to the Air-Sea Battle concept.
Building fifth-generation fighter capabilities is also critical, Donley. said
"We remain fully committed to the F-35 (Lightning II joint strike fighter)," he said. "This is the future of the fighter force, not only for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, but for about eleven other air forces as well. The F-35 remains the largest single Air Force program, accounting for nearly 15 percent of our total investment."
The secretary said that one of the keys to successful modernization within the Air Force is an effective acquisition process.
"Recapturing acquisition excellence has been a top priority for the Air Force, and in the last few years we have made important progress in....revitalizing the acquisition workforce, improving our requirements generation process, instilling budget and financial discipline, improving source selections, and establishing clear lines of authority and accountability within our acquisition organizations," he said.
There is renewed emphasis in the Air Force on linking requirements and acquisition to ensure better understanding of capability, cost, and cycle time in decision making, and a continuing effort to simplify how the services does business, he said.
Donley told the audience that maintaining momentum in critical modernization programs while budgets are declining will be difficult. However, there is a compelling need to invest in next-generation, high-impact systems so that the Air Force can continue to provide the capabilities on which the nation relies, he said.
"Our systems are growing older and new technologies are being fielded in regions of critical interest, by state and non-state actors alike, diminishing our marginal advantages," Donley said. "Modernization, as challenging as it is in this resource constrained period, will not wait and remains essential to maintaining U.S. advantages in contested air, space and cyber domains."
Donley concluded by saying that Air Force senior leaders, to include Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, are determined to ensuring today's Air Force and its Airmen remains the world's best.
"General Schwartz and I feel deeply that our leadership team has inherited the finest Air Force in the world," he said. "It's one that was built over decades, passed down from one generation to the next.
"It's our obligation to keep it that way going forward, so that our joint and our coalition partners know that they can count on the Air Force to deliver the capabilities that we need together to meet future security challenges," he said.
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