By Randy Kirby
Whiteman AFB commander Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere paid a visit to the Whiteman Area Leadership Council’s quarterly meeting, held at US Bank in Sedalia on Nov. 14, and offered his thoughts on the importance of community support for Whiteman.
Bussiere emphasized “the power of civic leadership in the military, specific to the Air Force, and how much senior leadership values community input and support” at the start of his 30-minute presentation to the WALC. “Maybe even more so now than in the past.”
The WALC invited the base commander to speak to the group of nine board members as part of their last official meeting of 2013.
“There are folks who believe the passing of (former Congressman) Honorable Ike (Skelton) will change the dynamics of Missouri, even though he wasn’t currently serving,” Bussiere noted. “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if there’s any thread of truth to that, then it may be even more important that organizations like this stay informed.”
Brig. Gen. Bussiere then provided updated info on military leaders, such as Lt. Gen. Stephen W. “Seve” Wilson, who is the new Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, Barksdale Air Force Base. Former Whiteman Base Commander Maj. Gen. Scott A. Vander Hamm is now the Commander, Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic), Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Joint Functional Component Commander for Global Strike, U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt AFB, Neb. Bussiere replaced Vander Hamm at Whiteman about 17 months ago.
Most wing commanders at Whiteman last between 16 months and 24 months, Bussiere noted.
He then spoke about personnel levels in the Air Force– around 328,000 — which accounts for less than one percent of those serving in the American military today. And that number is about to shrink, he noted, by about 25,000 across the board. If approved, the cuts will happen this year, the base commander said.
According to published reports, The Air Force’s proposed budget for fiscal 2014 calls for cutting 2,640 airmen next year.
“From my bully pulpit, I try to educate and inform anybody I can, whether it’s military folks, civic leaders or community partners, because it’s not well understood. If we don’t educate our community leaders and our members of Congress and our military leadership, then I would offer to you that we have a difficult road ahead,” Bussiere told the WALC.
“We’ve had multiple (visits) with both the state and federal congressional delegations and every time we have that opportunity, we educate them on not only what the B-2 does for the nation, but the value of what we provide for the nuclear enterprise with two-thirds of the nuclear triad,” he said. “It’s educational; I need to keep members of Congress informed so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to whatever bills they pass or whatever appropriations they support.”
Brig. Gen. Bussiere added that he spent most of Thursday morning with Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and his staff on what happens at Whiteman AFB.
As an illustration of Whiteman’s ongoing economic impact on the surrounding counties, the base commander quoted a study that noted that in the past fiscal year, WAFB brought $680 million into the local economy.
Sequestration and the recent federal government shutdown has not been kind to Whiteman. Currently at risk are the KC-46 tanker, the long-range strike bomber, referred to by Busssiere as a “Mini-Me” of the B-2, the F-35 fighter jet, the A-10 jet and the Strike Eagle, a multi-nation, multi-strike weapons system.
Bussiere thanked the WALC for their efforts. “I hope you know how important this is … thank you for what you do, because I know you don’t get a whole lot of pay for your time on these committees,” he told the all-volunteer board. “But I think it probably pays back in spades with how much impact you make on our airmen, our soldiers and their families. And obviously that’s a direct link to our national security. So that’s a pretty big deal.” — Photo courtesy Whiteman AFB.