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NEWS | May 29, 2013

Our biggest threat …our role

By Lt. Col. Matthew Leard 437th Airlift Wing Operations Support Squadron commander

For decades, the biggest threat to our nation has either been another country, terrorist organization, or cyber-attack on our vital systems. Today the danger is much different and internal to our nation.

"The single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt," said retired Adm. Michael Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This was an incredibly powerful statement made by the highest-ranking military officer at the time, and principle military advisor to the President. He went on to say, "I also believe we have every responsibility to help eliminate that threat ... We must, and will, do our part."

What exactly is our part?

From our level, budget talks can seem like nothing more than the daily D.C. banter we read or hear about in the news. But, as sequestration becomes increasingly entrenched and the looming furloughs come nearer, make no mistake about it - you are pivotal to our greater success. I offer that performing our part starts with three primary ideas.

Recognition: We need to recognize that future operating budgets will likely continue to decrease. Simply put, this means that next year we will not be able to do everything we did last year ... subsequent years potentially even less. Recognizing this reality properly postures us for the tough choices required in order to address this challenge. Too often, we discuss the challenges of the current budget and refer to next year's budget as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. This can lead to carrying over projects or processes that are no longer sustainable within the current budget reality. If we are simply deferring requirements until next year in the hopes that this was all just some sort of bad dream, we are fundamentally deferring the hard choices required of us today, while letting them grow until tomorrow.

Prioritization: We must prioritize. This requires us to identify our high-priority tasks or processes that are core to the mission. These are the tasks that could potentially lead to mission failure if we were to stop doing them. For those processes that are deemed to be low-priority tasks, we should either reduce them significantly or terminate them altogether. Only through prioritization will we be able to resist the temptation to simply do everything ... just a bit less.

Ownership: Every one of us must take ownership of our role in addressing this challenge. No one understands or knows your processes better than you. You execute them daily, to near perfection. The truly innovative ideas that make your processes more efficient cannot come from a headquarters or consultant. If true efficiencies are to be realized, they must come from you. A challenge this size cannot simply be addressed by someone else, we all must do our part.

As Airmen, we are a service born from innovation. Those that came before us recognized the daunting challenges of their day, and each time rose to defeat those challenges confronting them. If defeating this threat, our biggest threat, is truly the challenge of this day, I call on you to recognize, prioritize and own the fact that we must, and will, do our part in conquering it.