Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says she'd protect personnel over modernization should the service become fiscally stretched, a possibility in the next 18 months to three years.
"We need it all. We need people. We need readiness. We need modernization. It's not an 'either-or' position," James told reporters today at the Air Force Association's Air Space Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Md. "With that said, if you're asking, 'If we come up against the wall on a really hard choice, what are we going to vote for?' I vote for people."
James was responding to comments made by the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, who said on Monday the service will struggle to pay for new acquisitions under its projected budget.
"I hope it doesn't mean that we have to have large trade-offs in other areas. But if we do, so be it," James said of the sacrifice. "People [have] to be, in my opinion, No. 1 going forward until we regrow and fix some of the areas within our Air Force that need fixing. I'm particularly thinking of the maintenance area, and we also need to grow our [drone] force."