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Acting Secretary Donley speaks at AFA conference

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley speaks to attendees at the 24th annual Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15 in Washington. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael J. Pausic)

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley speaks to attendees at the 24th annual Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15 in Washington. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael J. Pausic)

WASHINGTON -- From uniforms to deployments, nuclear priorities and the service's future, acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley spoke of a variety of topics at the Air Force Association convention here Sept. 15.

"We are providers of tremendous capability of air and space," Secretary Donley said. "All Airmen in every function specialty are contributing. We need to prepare to engage and debate the major issues facing the Air Force."

Some of the major issues he addressed regarded the nuclear mission, the recently deferred tanker deal and Airmen-specific issues such as manpower, force shaping and taking care of families.

"We need to take care of Airmen and families," Secretary Donley said. "We can have the best technology in the world, but our Airmen are the most valuable asset."

He spoke of improvements being made in childcare availability and making sure families of deployed Airmen are receiving the care they need.

He also said that when it comes to uniforms, the focus is now on fixing problems with the current physical training uniform, Airman Battle Uniform and the jacket for it, the All Purpose Environmental Clothing System.

There will be no new service dress at this time, though future leadership may want to consider it again, he said.

"For now, we need to put our attention to the uniform issues that are affecting our Airmen now, and that does not include the service dress uniform," he said.

Secretary Donley said the service dress uniform was an issue when he last served as acting secretary in 1993.

"And I want to be clear that my policy on this matter remains the same: any questions on uniforms go to the chief," he said of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, drawing laughs from the audience.

Secretary Donley expressed some disappointment that the tanker deal, which would have refurbished the Air Force's aging fleet of air refuelers, couldn't be resolved as quickly as he hoped, but said he understood and supports Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates of deferring the decision on how to proceed until the next presidential administration is in place.

"With the tanker, seven years of history on this program culminated in a missed opportunity to begin modernization of an important capability for the joint warfighter," he said. "Eventually, the Air Force and Department of Defense will need to circle back on air-to-air refueling."

Regarding the nuclear mission, he said, the Air Force's first priority is to reinvigorate the nuclear enterprise.

"We established an Air Force nuclear task force in June to review the nuclear mission area from a strategic perspective, including a thorough review of our inspection processes."

Secretary Donley wrapped up his speech by saying he is optimistic that the Air Force will work through the challenges that faces it.

"We will continue to deliver the kind of decisive air, space and cyber power that the American people deserve and expect. And, just as in the past, the Airmen of tomorrow will inherit a force that we decide upon today," he said.

To view the speech in its entirety click here.