Vows To 'Steady This Great Institution'
He's got a tough task ahead... and he knows it. That's the
message Michael B. Donley, acting secretary of the Air Force, gave
Capitol Hill legislators during a confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Donley told the Senate Armed Services Committee he'll work to
re-establish national confidence in the Air Force, in the wake of
missteps in the handling of nuclear materials that led to the
resignations of the service's top military and civilian
The most urgent tasks for the new Air Force leadership are "to
steady this great institution, restore its inner confidence and
your confidence in the leadership team and rebuild our external
credibility," Donley said.
As ANN reported, Donley (above) became
acting Air Force secretary after the June 6 resignations of Michael
W. Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley,
spurred by a report on the erroneous shipment of four non-nuclear
missile trigger components instead of helicopter batteries to
Taiwan in August 2006. A year after the mistaken delivery, an Air
Force B-52 bomber crew inadvertently flew across the United States
carrying six armed nuclear cruise missiles.
"The mere existence of weapons with such destructive power
alters the international landscape -- and rightfully brings much
scrutiny to bear on how they are handled," Defense Secretary Robert
M. Gates told airmen and civilian employees during a June 9 visit
to Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, VA.
Donley, who also served as acting Air Force secretary for seven
months in 1993, told legislators that he created a nuclear task
force on June 26 "to synchronize corrective actions under way
across major commands and to unify these efforts at the strategic
The nuclear task force is to provide its recommendations at the
end of September, Donley said, adding that Gates has asked former
Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger to critique how the Air
Force stores and manages its nuclear materials.
"I have met with Dr. Schlesinger and his panel, and the Air
Force schedule is structured so that we can incorporate their
recommendations as we move forward," Donley told legislators.
Donley said he approves of Gates' decision to reopen the process
to replace aging Air Force KC-135 aerial refueling tanker planes.
In June, the Government Accountability Office found improper
practices related to the $35 billion tanker contract awarded in
February to a Northrop-Grumman/EADS/Airbus consortium. Rival bidder
Boeing Co. protested the award of the contract.
In June, Gates directed John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of
defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, to replace the
Air Force as the source selection authority for the tanker
"Secretary Young will have whatever support he needs from the
Air Force to continue forward," Donley pledged. "The Air Force
needs a new tanker; the joint warfighters need a new tanker. This
is a critical capability that facilitates the projection of U.S.
influence around the globe."
Donley said he has directed senior Air Force acquisition
officials to ascertain lessons derived from the GAO's decision
regarding the air tanker issue.
"We need to strengthen confidence in the Air Force and DoD's
capability to manage these large, complex competitions and
successfully withstand contractor protests," Donley said.
Donley said that after attending numerous recent meetings with
both senior and junior servicemembers and civilians, he is
confident the Air Force is eager to move on.
"Without exception, leadership and airmen at all levels are
ready to put the difficulties of the past few months behind them,
to learn the appropriate lessons from these experiences and to move
forward," Donley said.
The way ahead for the Air Force, Donley said, includes "a
recommitment to upholding the high standards of excellence that
have always been the Air Force's hallmark, and for our core values
of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we
do to underpin every action by every airman at all times."
The Air Force is an all-volunteer organization of professionals
who are dedicated to excellence, Donley said.
"There is no quicker recovery of our inner confidence and
credibility than the power of tens of thousands of airmen
recommitting to our own high standards," Donley emphasized. "Our
values and our high standards form the core of all Air Force
Those high standards serve the Air Force well during the global
war on terrorism, Donley said, and point the way to a bright