Joint Base Charleston will continue to play a starring role in the nation's defense future.

Gen. Darren McDew, the Air Mobility Command's leader, said Friday the military base will remain a key player amid concerns over budget cuts and decreasing U.S. military involvement abroad.

"Here's what I can assure you: Joint Base Charleston has a place in our national defense," he said. "Today, it is one of the crown jewels of Air Mobility Command. And I can see, for the foreseeable future, that we'll rely on those airplanes that are here."

McDew, who took over leadership of Air Mobility Command in May, was wrapping up a two-day visit to Joint Base Charleston, where he met with service members, families, civilian employees and local leaders. He commanded the 14th Airlift Squadron at Charleston from 1997 to 1998, more than a decade before Charleston Air Force Base and Naval Weapons Station Charleston merged.

Joint Base Charleston plays a critical role in cargo movement, McDew said: 37 percent of Boeing C-17 shipments go through the base, as do a substantial portion of Army shipments. Improved efficiency at the base, he said, will be key as active military involvement decreases abroad.

"It's a significant chunk of our national defense and movement of logistics," he said. "So as the war comes down, how do we keep that machine well-oiled? How do we ensure that those men and women continue to keep their skills up, and what do we do with training going forward? I want to make sure that training is more efficient, more effective and we get more out of it."

McDew acknowledged the worry at Joint Base Charleston over budget cuts and the possibility of a Base Realignment and Closure in 2015, saying it's a universal concern.

"Really, we are concerned across the board for how budgets, how our next crisis will impact how they serve, where they serve and the equipment they have to serve with," he said. "I don't want to predict in the short term, but in the long term, we need to make sure that the resources are here for all of those areas to still thrive, and I think that we can do that."

McDew is responsible for the 130,000 active duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Department of Defense civilian employees in the command located at Scott Air Force Base.