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VCSAF discusses benefits, uniforms, F-35 while at Luke

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Cindy Dorfner
  • LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.
The Air Force's vice chief of staff addressed a packed house during an Airmen's Call here March 2.

Gen. Phil Breedlove, who visited Luke AFB for two days, covered a variety of issues during the all-call, to include military benefits, the F-35 Lightning II, and uniform policy.
Breedlove began by talking about the "elephant in the room" - the nation's financial situation.

"The number one threat to the military is our national debt, and the nation is facing tough decisions on how to handle it," he said.

The general said the Air Force's approach to the austere budget environment is to become a smaller but still supremely capable force. To that end, the service will look to divest aging and niche aircraft.

Such measures are aimed at ensuring reduced defense budgets do not "hollow out" the force, Breedlove said.

"After Vietnam, we had a similar drawdown," he explained. "The nation pulled a lot of money out of its military. On this base, if you looked out on the ramp, every third airplane was missing something, like an engine or a wing."

By retaining force structure despite reduced budget levels, the post-Vietnam War Air Force was a hollow force, in that it only presented the illusion of readiness, Breedlove said.

"If the nation had been asked at the time to do what we're doing today, I'm convinced our Air Force would not have been able to do it," the general said. "So what we're focused on, and what all the service chiefs agreed to, is a smaller force, but a force that is capable and absolutely able to do its mission."

Also at the center of attention for the Air Force's top leaders are military benefits, since they make up a large portion of the defense budget, Breedlove said. While the Defense Department is taking a hard look at this area, senior leaders are committed to keeping the faith with those currently serving in uniform and not breaking promises already made, he said.

During the question-and-answer session, Breedlove was asked if Airmen are likely to see a shift from wearing the blue uniform once a week to four days a week, similar to the recent change in uniform wear policy in the National Capital Region.

"For those in the Pentagon, it makes sense," he said. "We're in and out of meetings that require us to be in the blue uniform. But, it's not the intention of [Air Force Chief of Staff] Gen. [Norton] Schwartz to institute that policy outside the NCR."

For those in the audience curious about the F-35A, Breedlove said the Air Force is completely committed to the new strike fighter.

"There are a few nations who have the ability to cause problems for us, and we're getting to the point that our fourth-generation aircraft won't be able to do the job we need them to do," he said. "We need a fifth-generation strike aircraft."

In closing, the general thanked those in attendance and acknowledged Luke AFB as a premier training location for the Air Force.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a better place in the world to train fighter aviators, maintenance and intel Airmen than Luke Air Force Base," he said.
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