This month we welcomed Dr. Heather Wilson as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force. Secretary Wilson is an inspirational leader with a deep knowledge of the Air Force and national security matters and has long been a supporter of our armed services. We are very happy to host Secretary Wilson at an AFA breakfast on June 5th at the Capitol Hill Club. Read Air Force Magazine’s article on her confirmation, here.
On May 20th, National Armed Forces Day, we held our first annual Wounded Airmen Cycling Challenge at CycleBar in Arlington, Va., and it was a huge success. Early on, we set a goal to raise $50,000 to support our Wounded Airman Program, and thanks to our incredibly motivated staff, dedicated AFA chapters, and generous sponsors, we were able to not only reach that goal, but surpass it, raising over $54,000.
HUGE kudos to a group of dedicated Airmen deployed to the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron in Niger. Despite the harsh conditions and crushing work schedule, these Airmen took it upon themselves to promote AFA’s Wounded Airmen Cycling Challenge. These brave Airmen literally started from scratch by building bikes and helmets, many of which were destroyed due to the harsh riding conditions. Perhaps MSgt Dustin Lawrence summed up the effort best when he said, “I have always been an active member of AFA and the WAP, and I felt this was a great opportunity for our Airmen at Nigerian AB-201 to constructively pass time and support a great agenda, to do something that had an outside effect and made a positive impact.” So far, these deployed Airmen have raised $2,500 towards their goal of $5,000. What a great effort from our dedicated AFA members.
Our Air Force faced a turbulent few months after struggling with the possibility of a Continuing Resolution (CR). Congressional appropriators finally reached an agreement to fund the government until October 1, 2017, through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017. The Omnibus Appropriations bill combined all 12 of the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations bills, including defense appropriations. Read more about the CR and Consolidated Appropriations Act in AFA’s Legislative Update, here.
On May 23rd, the Trump administration released its Fiscal Year 2018 President’s Budget. I discussed the budget with the acting DoD comptroller and the Air Force comptroller. The budget prioritized 1) improving warfighting readiness; 2) achieving program balance and addressing shortfalls; and 3) building capacity and a more lethal joint force. The request increases Air Force end strength; strengthens readiness recovery; procures 46 F-35 strike fighters and 15 KC-46 tankers; increases munitions; and ramps up funding for the B-21 bomber. Bottom line: Great start, but there is more work to be done.
Finally, I want to recognize the life and service of Mr. Frank William Nash, who passed away at the age of 92. Mr. Nash served in the Air Corps as a pilot during WWII. He joined AFA in June of 1946 and his membership card was personally signed by General Jimmy Doolittle. Mrs. Nash recently called our office to let us know how proud Mr. Nash was of that membership card and how proud he was to be a member of our Association. Our condolences go out to the Nash family and we thank them, as well as Mr. Nash, for his long and honorable service. Rest in peace, Mr. Nash!
Larry O. Spencer