A new general who will command the Ninth Air Force says he expects billions in federal budget cuts to demand much of his attention for the foreseeable future, calling it a “fog of sequestration.”
Major Gen. H.D. “Jake” Polumbo took command Friday in a ceremony at the Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Polumbo said he believes he will have to prioritize spending on his watch.
“I think it’ll be a large part of my job to try and connect the resources with the units out there,” he said. “All of the eight wings that we have… will have a lot of challenges budget-wise. And so my job will be to try and help those commanders succeed and make the resources match the mission.”
The impact of sequestration has been noticeable at Shaw. One of the base’s three squadrons was ordered to temporarily stand down after returning from Afghanistan in April. Meanwhile, Polumbo’s predecessor Major Gen. Lawrence Wells closed the Shaw’s movie theater and put off all but the most important maintenance projects in an effort to save money.
About 8,000 civilian employees are also facing 11 days of furlough from July to the end of September.
Gen. Gilmary Hostage also addressed the budgets cuts minutes before he instated the new commander. “I wish I could tell you that resources could be plentiful to face these challenges, but I fear they will not be.”
Wells plans to retire in August after 35 years in the Air Force. During his farewell address, he called the sequester a serious challenge that consumed his last year of command. He did not have time to speak to reporters after the ceremony.
Wells offered advice to his successor: “Never eat before your airmen eat. Never sleep before your airmen go to sleep. And, most importantly, never leave your airmen out on the flight line in the hot sun working hard without understanding why they’re there.”
Polumbo’s previous assignment was as commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force– Afghanistan. He has also served in the Headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, among other postings. He entered active duty after graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1981.
Wells received the Distinguished Service Medal during Friday’s ceremony. He has served in over 28 assignments for the Air Force since graduating from the Academy in 1978. He also has the distinction of being one of the first airmen to pilot an F-16, being part of the first operational squadron at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
The Ninth Air Force comprises eight active-duty wings and three direct reporting units located in the Southeast. It has more than 400 aircraft and over 29,000 active-duty and civilian personnel.