Gen. Larry O. Spencer, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, told SA to DC participants that
sequestration and the government shutdown made 2013 a challenging year for the military. And while a budget agreement has addressed those problems for the short term, there is still great uncertainty in the military community about what will happen in 2016 and beyond. That uncertainty, he said, is "pretty tough on our airmen."
Spencer said the Air Force and other branches are planning for reductions. "Regardless of how a budget is settled, the Air Force and military will be smaller in the future." In some respects, this is not unlike the peace dividends reaped following military build-ups in World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War. What differs with the expected cutbacks following the build-ups for Afghanistan and Iraq, he noted, is that the nation's enemies haven't yet been vanquished, and new adversaries are emerging on the horizon.
Americans need to have a serious conversation about the size of military and capabilities they want and about national defense needs, Spencer advised. "How much military do the American people want? How much of GDP do they want to spend?"
Spencer, who went through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, gave special thanks to the San Antonio community's embrace of the military. "If we could clone a community to replicate across the military, it would be San Antonio."
Spencer also made a special plea for recognizing and addressing the needs of military personnel with wounds that aren't necessarily visible, including PTSD. He referred to his own father, an Army veteran who was gravely injured in Korea, and failed to seek help until he was 80 years old -- two years before his death.