Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning returned to his high school roots Wednesday with a tour of Wright-Patterson in his second visit to the base since he became the top civilian leader of the service branch in June.
The 1986 Centerville High School graduate appeared at a press conference Wednesday at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center with Air Force Materiel Command leader Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton.
With high school pennants in the background, all three noted they graduated from area high schools. Wolfenbarger is a 1976 Beavercreek High School graduate and Turner a 1978 graduate of Belmont High School.
Turner said the two high-ranking Air Force leaders have Dayton roots and Midwestern values and “a unique understanding of our community and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
But with a new round of sequestration budget cuts looming and a possible U.S. military strike against Syria ahead, Fanning and Wolfenbarger took no questions from reporters.
While at Wright-Patterson, Fanning toured the National Air and Space Intelligence Center and the Air Force Materiel Command, where he met with generals and senior executives, said command spokesman Ron Fry.
Fanning said he became “hooked on the Air Force” because of childhood visits to the base and lauded employees’ dedication. “It’s thrilling for me to get to see what they do, to visit them,” Fanning said. “And it is amazing that we are able to recruit such talent and that we’re able to retain it even as we go through all the uncertainties of the budget environment.”
In an interview after the tour, Turner said he adamantly opposed a continuation of the budget sequester which he has voted against in Congress. The House has passed legislation that would prevent another round of civilian employee furloughs.
Some 10,000 Wright-Patterson civil service employees were forced to take six furlough days this summer. The Department of Defense faces a $52 billion sequester spending reduction Oct. 1.
The House legislation isn’t a guarantee the unpaid time off work wouldn’t happen a second time, however. “Without Senate action and without the president’s support, though, the furloughs would definitely be on the table,” Turner said.
The White House has selected Deborah Lee James, a defense industry executive, to become the next secretary of the Air Force if confirmed by the Senate. Fanning would return to the role of undersecretary which he was confirmed to in April.