Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Jesse Stirling
314th Airlift Wing command chief
Have you heard? The Department of Defense is facing budgetary challenges! Check out the verbiage from the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office.
CBO: “Reduce defense budget authority below the Administration’s plan by $143 billion, or 10 percent…The forces that would remain might, because of the investment reductions, need to continue to operate older equipment longer than planned, but they would retain the funding necessary to maintain readiness.”
The GAO report isn’t any brighter; “The United States is in the process of implementing the largest drawdown of its military forces since the end of the Vietnam conflict. Both the Congress and the Department of Defense have established various targets and objectives to guide that drawdown…As the number of end-strength reductions increases in the coming years, DOD and service officials believe the number of involuntary separation actions could increase because the population of persons eligible for financial separation incentives is decreasing, and those most willing to leave under such incentives will have done so already.”
Sound familiar? Oh, I forgot to mention, these reports were published in 1993.
You see, tight budgets are nothing new for our Air Force and through it all we somehow managed to maintain air/space/cyberspace superiority, build the most educated and trained force on the planet, and care for our Airmen and their families. How is this possible?
Several years ago, an old wing commander told me “smooth skies do not make skillful pilots.” He meant turbulence may not be ideal but it builds valuable experience. This is good news for us. The reports I mentioned above were referring to the ramifications of the 1991 Defense Authorization Act. That was nearly 20 years ago, just when our current Air Force leaders were learning how to operate in a fiscally constrained environment. Today, these same leaders are now skillful, fiscal pilots with the experience to fly us through this turbulence. They know what worked, what didn’t work, and what will work. Just as our aircrews trust the skill of our maintainers, we must trust in the skill of our leadership to navigate through these challenges, they will not fail us.
I know times like these can be stressful but don’t panic. I would like to offer some advice on how to minimize the worry.
At work: Focus on what you control. Many budgetary decisions are made above your span of control, so focus on what matters…performing your mission to the best of your ability!
Community and Family: When leadership asks for your input, be engaged. Little Rock will not be immune to funding cuts. Team Little Rock leadership needs to know what programs are important to you, your family, and fellow Airmen…let us know!
Trust: We trust you to execute your duties and responsibilities…trust your TLR leadership to execute ours, we will not fail!
We currently do not have the answers for everything but rest assured, the Armed Forces will continue to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies. The Air Force will continue to organize, train, and equip the finest fighting force the world has ever seen, and Little Rock will remain the nation’s center of excellence for tactical airlift.