Budget despair! What can we do to help?

F. E. WARREN AIR FOR BASE, Wyo. -- Recently, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley published a series of four opinion editorials, each alluding to the upcoming budgetary constraints. Unfortunately, our weapons inventories are aging while budgets and manpower are shrinking. Donley, in the first op-ed dated Jan. 8, summed it up: "Crafting the right mix of people and weapons to accomplish all those things (security, technology and upgrades) in these dangerous days is going to be incredibly challenging." Our Air Force leaders realize this, but in the lowest unit levels it's still conceptual. How can we, at the unit level, mitigate the sting of these constraints?

First, every Airman from airman basic to general needs to look at their day-to-day activities. Do you do the little things like turning off the lights when leaving a room? What about making sure the water is turned off in the restrooms? Do you shred the blank page that prints out sometimes or do you put it back into the printer? These things sound trivial but over time it can save thousands unit wide and millions Air Force wide. Plus, the best part about them is that it takes little to no effort on your part.

Secondly, supervisors need to look at their acquisition requests. Col. George Farfour, 90th Missile Wing vice commander, worded it perfectly. "It's not about saving money, it's about not spending money," he said. When budgeting or requesting items, ask yourself the following questions: does that item directly ensure mission success and safety? What is nice to have but not critical? Order the first, but skip the second until a healthier fiscal time. An example of something mission essential is gasoline. Gas enables us to trip out to the missile field and to go from one launch facility to another. Whereas, new carpet is functional and attractive but its absence doesn't mean the missile will not launch.

Finally, we need to change our attitudes. We cannot make headway successfully with negative attitudes. Instead of complaining about what we don't have or by focusing on the good old days when we had more money, focus on the fact that this is a great way to get back to basics. While you were in Basic Military Training or officer training it became second nature to conserve utilities. Why not start again? Read what the Air Force Instructions say. If you look at what you do versus what the minimum requirements are, will you likely find a mismatch? Are those extra things costing additional money or manpower? What would happen if you stopped doing them? Will someone's life be put at risk? If the AFIs do not support stopping the behavior submit a Strike Now! recommendation. The key is to be honest with yourselves and remember just because you have always done it doesn't mean it's essential!

Historically, this isn't the first time the Air Force has faced cuts or hardships. Those who served before us made it through similar times successfully, and so will we. Remember, do the small things by reducing, reusing and repurposing while also cutting the budgetary fat with stern realism and getting back to basics with limitless optimism and innovation.