Leading with excellence in difficult financial times

  • Published
  • By Col. Steven Vautrain
  • 439th Airlift Wing commander
My hope is by the time you read this commentary, our legislators have come to an agreement to avoid sequestration and the Air Force has decided that we can keep all 16 of our aircraft, but hope is not a plan. We live in difficult financial times and the recent generous defense budgets are coming to an end. The Department of Defense and the Air Force must find ways to save money in order to maintain a ready, capable military force. Patriot Wing members must accept these facts; I'm sure that we will adapt and continue to be the best wing in AFRC.

Sequestration -- the across the board cut of $500 billion from the defense budget over 10 years -- was supposed to take effect in January, but an agreement between Congress and the administration delayed it until March. An agreement doesn't seem likely as I write this in mid-February, but even if an agreement is reached, the result will probably still include cuts to the defense budget. The Air Force Reserve and the Patriot Wing will bear a portion of these cuts. We will have to make do with less funding and find more cost-effective ways of accomplishing our mission. Team Westover has done this before. We'll do it again if necessary.

On Feb. 3, 2012, the Air Force announced a proposal to cut eight aircraft from the 439th Airlift Wing's C-5 fleet in 2016. One year later this proposal remains a proposal. Congress has intervened and mandated that a Mobility Requirements and Capabilities Study be completed before the total number of C-5s can be reduced below 79. We have not been advised of the due date for this study, but it most likely will be completed this summer. We will then know the fate of our eight aircraft. The results of the study and the drawdown plan, if needed, will be announced when available. No matter what happens, the Patriot Wing will remain operational.

We live in uncertain times, but there is one thing of which I'm certain, the Patriot Wing is the best wing in the Air Force Reserve and we will weather this storm as we have weathered previous storms. Our priorities are to continue flying C-5 missions in support of the nation, maintain the C-5 fleet with the best Regionalized Isochronal Inspection team in the Air Force, continue to support our deployed personnel, prepare for the upcoming Comprehensive Unit Inspection, and maintain a ready, trained, professional force to support national security.

Future budgetary decisions will have an impact on the Westover family, but we will remain a viable part of the Air Force, an essential East-Coast mobility hub, and an indispensable part of the Western Massachusetts community. We are and we will continue to be committed to fulfilling our global mobility mission, regardless of the outcome of this budget and restructuring proposal. We will continue to be the Patriot Wing, and we will continue to be "Leaders in Excellence."