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SecAF reflects on year's accomplishments, looks ahead in 'State of the Air Force' speech

WASHINGTON -- Air Force leaders will continue to use technology, efficient resourcing strategies and Airmen to strengthen combat power and meet changing security environment demands, the service's top civilian said during his keynote address at the 2010 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference Sept. 13.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley highlighted the year's total force successes, and pledged to ensure the service remains well-postured for tomorrow's challenges.

"The technology, resource and strategic dynamics in this environment make it imperative that we keep the pressure on ourselves, for we have yet more work to do in the immediate years ahead," Secretary Donley said.

The secretary added that Air Force officials will continue to face challenges such as the need for new missile defense and cyber requirements, greater situational awareness in space, recapitalization of satellites, and modernizing our aging aircraft inventories by bringing on the F-35, trainers, bombers and especially tankers.

Improving internal efficiencies and reallocating resources is not a new concept for the Air Force, the secretary said, citing the perennial task of acquisition improvement.

"Our ongoing tasks are to be better negotiators, know our internal business imperatives, understand contracts ... know our industrial base and respect that every dollar is an Air Force dollar, every dollar is a taxpayer dollar," Secretary Donley said.

The secretary noted "continuing and powerful" examples of Airmen in action such as members of the 100th Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England, who purchased time- and cost-reducing work-assist vehicles in place of bulky B-4 stands currently used for aircraft inspections.

On the subject of long-range strike, Secretary Donley explained the Air Force would continue to work with the Department of Defense on "the next steps to advance the family of systems" -- the weapons, platforms, (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), electronic warfare and communications that make up this critical national capability."

In a review of the last 12 months, the secretary described the Year of the Air Force Family as a "focused assessment" of how the service supports Airmen and their families. He said the program identified successes and areas for improvement in current programs such as Airman resiliency, spouse support, the exceptional family member program, and military dependents' school transitioning among others.

Calling Airmen the "very best hedge we have against the future," Secretary Donley recognized the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year and the thousands of others who "translate their organizations, doctrine, training and equipment into combat power in the air, space and cyber domain."

"For ... the 12 represented as our Outstanding Airmen of the Year here, there are nearly 35,000 Airmen for each of them around the globe providing combat power for America," the secretary said.

Secretary Donley also lauded Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger as the epitome of an outstanding Airman for his heroic achievements and ultimate sacrifice in Laos 42 years ago. President Barack Obama will present a posthumous Medal of Honor to Chief Etchberger's family Sept. 21.

Overall, the secretary emphasized that along with the Air Force's balanced approach to investments, wise application of technologies and strengthened commitment to efficiencies, the service's true strength lies in Airmen who deliver global vigilance, reach and power "upon which our joint and coalition partners depend."