COMPACAF talks force shaping during all-call
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- General Hawk Carlisle, Pacific Air Forces commander, met with PACAF Airmen Feb. 4 at the Hickam Officer's Club during two separate "all-calls" centered on force management topics.
In 2013, the Department of Defense was mandated to cut $43 billion from its budget - approximately 10 percent, in less than a year. Approximately $10 billion of those cuts were required of the Air Force. Congress' "Balanced Budget Control Act" returned about half of that $10 billion in fiscal year 2014, and projects to return around $2.2 billion in 2015. In 2016, however, the effects of sequestration will cause the Air Force to change significantly.
"Instead of going down very steeply we're going down (more gradually)," said General Carlisle. "If something doesn't happen between now and FY16 when we go back to (full) sequestration, our Air Force will be fundamentally different than it is today. We will not be the global power that we are today if we have to go through the continued sequestration cuts of '16."
Due to this requirement for increased cuts, the Air Force has been forced to turn to reducing its personnel, Carlisle said.
According to Chief Master Sgt. Steve McDonald, PACAF Command Chief, 50 thousand enlisted Airmen alone have already been notified that they are eligible to be removed from the Air Force when the retention board meets in the summer - a fact that puts the onus on front-line supervisors to help Airmen understand their options and transition to the next phase of their lives, if necessary.
"If you look across the 280 thousand Airmen that we have enlisted in the force, 50 thousand of them got a notice saying 'you're eligible to be sent out of our force.' That's probably putting a lot of anxiety on our Airmen, and we really need to talk to each one of them," McDonald said. "They really need to do what's in their best interest at this point for them and for their families. We'll continue the mission, we'll train people, we'll do what we do. For those Airmen who have given and sacrificed so much to be part of this institution and now won't be part of the institution any longer, it's very unfortunate. Based on where we're at with the budget and with the things that are happening, it has to be done."
This reduction in force has increased the need for "bold and innovative leadership," according to Carlisle, as the Air Force will rely heavily on its Airmen to operate in an environment with fewer resources.
"I need you more now than ever. We need your help because I don't have the answers. General (Mark) Welsh, Chief (James) Cody, they don't have the answers. Secretary (Deborah Lee) James, she doesn't have the answers. The people that do it day in and day out - you, the (numbered air forces), the wings, you're the ones that have the answers. And that's what we need. We need a new way of thinking. We need bold and innovative leadership. We need to think of better ways to do what we're trying to do."
Despite the hardships, however, Carlisle said the Air Force's core responsibility remains the same.
"We can never lose sight of our job and why we do what we do...we owe it to the American people to produce the very best Air Force we can produce with the amount of resources they give us," Carlisle said. "We have to be able to do that job of defending this nation, so we have to build the best Air Force we can build with the resources we have."
Despite the unfortunate cuts PACAF will face in the future, Carlisle said this moral obligation to safeguard America is made possible by its supremely resilient Airmen.
"The work (PACAF Airmen) do is incredible. If you look at FY13, that had to be as bad a position as we could have possibly been put in," Carlisle said. "What you all did to make us the most effective we could possibly be - to be the best warfighting capability that we could possibly produce in the Pacific - was because of the work you guys did. My hats off to you. It was an incredible year, thank you for everything you've done, thanks for being great Airmen, thanks for stepping up and doing what we ask you to do, and we will do everything in our power to take care of you."