Under Secretary Jones Preparing for Pacing Challenge, Prioritizing Potential

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Elora J. McCutcheon
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones celebrated what she described as her homecoming July 26, 2021, when she was sworn into office as the 27th Under Secretary of the Air Force.
In an interview August 17, the department’s second highest-ranking member shared her passion for prioritizing the abilities of the nearly 700,000 Airmen and Guardians who make up the total force. Her message emphasized working towards removing barriers and biases to allow the best to serve in their full capacity while posturing for the pacing challenge and working as one team to champion a culture of success.
“Something that continues to guide me is the idea that talent is universal while opportunity is not,” Jones said of her applied philosophy for the newly assumed position. “We should all be thankful that we have a commander in chief who understands that diversity and inclusion are important to our national security. These are not nice-to-haves; these are must-haves. We need to have talent within our services that is as diverse as the challenges and opportunities we face as a country.”

Jones, a member of the LGBTQ community who served under “don’t ask, don’t tell”, understands the importance of Airmen and Guardians needing to see themselves succeeding to their fullest in the Air Force and Space Force. She reflected on a defining moment in her career as a Boston University ROTC cadet when she had to sign a disclaimer stating she would not engage in homosexual behavior.
“This idea that you could serve your country—you could die for your country—but you could not be honest about who you were, really runs contrary, I believe, to how we want people to serve,” Jones said.
The call to serve for Jones is rooted in a desire to give back to a country that had given her so much. It was something she recalled her mother emphasized often.
“My mom came from the Philippines as a domestic helper and like so many, she wanted a chance at the American dream,” Jones explained. “She reminded my sister and me every single day that we were fortunate to have grown up in a country that has given us so many opportunities. It’s why I served and it’s why my sister serves proudly in the Navy to this day. I very much feel called to make sure I protect those same opportunities that allowed me to grow up healthy, get an education and serve our country.”
Jones’ professional experience spans over 20 years and across Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and the United States between positions in security cooperation, partner engagement, social-cultural analysis and economic security—all of which she said will shape her approach to her the strategic role she fills now as the 27th Under Secretary.
“I will continue to use core values to shape how I lead,” she explained of her anticipated next steps alongside Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “When I think about moving forward, I think of how we understand the nature of the threat, and are we really looking at things that matter and will move the needle. And if not, how do we change and identify the assumptions that are preventing us from doing so?”
Jones’ motivation to continue setting up the nation for success against China as the pacing challenge is backed by her direct involvement with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s call for “integrated deterrence,” which includes multi-domain and joint operations, new technologies and seamless cohesion among U.S. military services, national security organizations, and allies and partners.
“Being well-postured for the pacing challenge…is not a responsibility that falls solely on the shoulders of the military, but the country as a whole,” Jones said—urging individuals to look beyond themselves and more at the contributions everyone is making as a team to align all efforts and investments.
She echoed that prioritizing potential and building a system of trust and respect are what count when executing the secretary’s team philosophy. “I think ‘One Team, One Fight’ encompasses how we really should be thinking about ourselves and the way in which we need to be focused on the pacing challenge that is China.
“Secretaries Kendall and Austin are very clear about the threat this poses not only to our economic security but our national security. When I think about my time as the Under Secretary of the Air Force, I want to make sure we’re making the right investments not only in capabilities but in people to ensure we are ready for the fight.”