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April Chief's Concerns

Chief Master Sgt. Everett Perkins, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., March 3, 2013.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Everett Perkins, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., March 3, 2013. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- We are currently preparing for our operational readiness inspection (ORI) in November, as we face one of the toughest fiscal climates in memory. Many of the fiscal steps we will be required to take are unprecedented within the Air Force and Air National Guard. How many of us even heard of the word "sequestration" as it relates to finances before last year? Our budgets are shrinking, yet we must find ways of continuing to provide outstanding air power to our state and nation. Although this will not be easy, we must begin to examine what we do and why we do it, while asking ourselves the following questions: Is this critical to our mission? Is this the most efficient way to accomplish the requirement? Not to say we didn't already do these things, but it is vitally important now, because the resources just aren't there. If you have been watching the news or been out on the Air Force Portal recently, you've seen the military secretaries, the Air Force Chief of Staff, National Guard leaders and others address these concerns.

Over my career, I have seen many changes in the financial arena. Not long ago, preparing for an ORI automatically brought additional operations and maintenance dollars to the unit to prepare for the inspection. It was a given that additional monies were needed to ramp up preparedness. Not only that, but justifications for any increases in money were fairly simple to prepare because there were not as many competing priorities, and frankly the finances were available. Throughout our history the military has seen its budget levels go up and down, so this is not new in that aspect. As we have transitioned from major conflicts in years past, we generally have seen our budgets reflect the shrinking demands of peacetime. However the size and scope of the potential cuts along with the suddenness makes this time different from earlier rollbacks.

Over the last few years, we have often heard the expression, "do more with less" and I believe we have excelled at that challenge. We have continued to get the job done with less money, less people and less equipment. In the future we will be faced with some tough decisions and we may reach a time of 'doing what we can with what we have.' Each of us will be challenged to find innovative ways to accomplish the mission with less funding available. We must take advantage of technologies, review processes for efficiencies, and be mindful of wasteful spending; All while ensuring we aren't sacrificing safety, the welfare of airman and their families, or mission standards. While we implement strategies at our level, our senior leaders are working to ensure we do not hollow out the force; a situation which would leave us improperly manned or improperly trained to carry out national military objectives.

The good news is we have always risen to the occasion and I have no doubt we will do so once again. As one of my old supervisors used to say when I was a young airman, "We have been provided with an opportunity to excel." When he said this, it usually meant there was some challenge to overcome or it was just a job no one else wanted. The funny thing is that when you are doing them, they don't always seem like opportunities. However, in the end you realize you had learned and accomplished something you didn't know you could. The opportunity became a growing experience which yielded benefits beyond the task at hand. So I challenge each of you to do what you can to find efficiencies within your own work areas. Offer solutions and continue our legacy as a world class air force.