By Col. Brian Robinson
19th Airlift Wing commander
Our base, the Air Force and Department of Defense are currently experiencing the effects of sequestration. There is no doubt that the 9 percent budget cut across all DOD programs will affect our mission and you.
This week I want to talk to you about getting through times of uncertainty. In order to get through these uncertain fiscal times, we must foster a culture of bold leadership and innovative, informed risk taking. We need every Team Little Rock Airman – active-duty, Reserve, Guard, civilian – to look for smarter, more efficient and more effective ways to conduct our mission and do business. Leaders should empower Airmen to think creatively, find new solutions and make decisions and recommendations. The person closest to the challenge is often the one with the best solution.
Despite the current budget uncertainty, our vision and focus hasn’t changed. Team Little Rock provides “unrivaled tactical airlift, propelled by Airmen, fueled by innovation.” What is a real mission example of this? The 19th Operations Group realized that a five-day fly week was not efficient or as effective as it needed to be in meeting broader requirements and needed improvement. By dedicating one day a week to mentorship and ground and ancillary training, we have increased readiness, promoted a community of innovative risk-takers and have saved taxpayer dollars.
From an installation standpoint, the base has curtailed or stopped minor purchases. The base is also purchasing office supplies on need-only basis. Furthermore, facility sustainment, restoration and modernization for non-emergency facilities will be put on hold.
Following guidance from Air Force leadership on the uncertain budget environment ahead, Little Rock Air Force Base leadership is currently developing plans in order to execute budget measures in the most efficient and appropriate manner. As you know, the triggering of sequestration means our 650-plus civilian workforce will be furloughed one day per week starting in April. A Furlough is placing an employee in a temporary non-duty, non-pay status due to lack of budget funds. We are deeply concerned about the negative effects of furloughs on the morale and effectiveness of our valued civilian workforce.
Within fiscal 2013, the base has taken actions to address the budget austerity and continue good stewardship of taxpayer resources. The 19th Airlift Wing’s C-130 tactical airlift will continue to support contingency operations around the world, pending Overseas Contingency Operations funding and sequestration, which will have a drastic impact on our mission. The 314th and 189th Airlift Wings and 22nd AF Det 1 will continue to provide “cradle-to-grave” C-130 warfighting capabilities.
There will be times that we have to say “no” or recognize limitations and constraints when we do not have the resources to complete a task. To make these choices, we must collect the data and determine what the costs will be. We must be able to make prudent choices to ensure we are able to employ the greatest potential of tactical airlift.
In the near term, both the 19th and 314th Operations Groups will be conducting less off-station training, to include air show support and fly-overs, to save travel costs. This decrease in off-station flying will result in a greater use of air space in the local area and the potential for fewer flying hours for aircrew; but it will cause a need for additional C-130 simulator resources and an increase in aircraft noise, but these are the risks we must assume in this fiscal environment.
The onset of sequestration has brought significant uncertainty into the lives of our military personnel, families, retirees, civilian workforce, contractors, and defense industry partners, and this uncertainty is expected to continue given the nation’s ongoing budget challenges. We will have to push through and deal with the uncertainty.
As your commander and fellow Airman, I am committed to carrying out our mission while dealing with the chaos and inefficiency of sequestration that will seriously disrupt our ability to serve the nation. I’m confident that with great teamwork LRAFB will see our way through this tough time, take advantage of opportunities and ultimately emerge a better and smarter force.