Chief of Staff Notes Keys to Air Force’s Future
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chyenne A. Adams
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2010 The Air Force must be able to operate across a spectrum of conflicts, using a myriad of warfare tools and tactics, while keeping up with advancing technologies and the ways the nation’s adversaries use them, the service’s top officer said here this week.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz describes his vision for the Air Force’s future during the 38th Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis-Fletcher Conference on National Security, Strategy and Policy in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2010. U.S. Air Force photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"This demands that the United States Air Force set a clear vision of how it will move to meet emerging threats and fulfill evolving requirements," Gen. Norton A. Schwartz said Jan. 20 at the 38th Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis-Fletcher Conference on National Security, Strategy and Policy. "We must establish clear priorities for investment and yes, divestment, all while corresponding to strategic and fiscal realities."
Schwartz stated his intent for the Air Force to remain agile and able to act in response to current affairs while being ready and able to respond to any number of potential contingencies. Flexibility, he added, is essential to the Air Force's ability to contribute to the joint team and ensure its success.
"While this is a conference on air, space and cyber power, we must remember that national defense is a total team effort," he said. "Further joint integration and interservice cooperation toward enhanced air-land and air-sea interoperability remains a top strategic imperative."
Rapidly advancing adversary capabilities and threats that aren’t confined to any single domain pose significant challenges, and only a coordinated response from all of the military services will deliver what is required for national security, the general told the group.
"As we further integrate, the benefits are not limited to a single domain," he said. "Air power makes surface warfare better, and land and sea power enhance the effectiveness of air forces."
Schwartz noted current projects in which the Air Force and the Navy are working on ways to better integrate maritime interdiction operations, anti-submarine warfare and missile defense.
"These types of advances represent new territory into which we will venture to provide battlefield commanders with even greater capabilities, especially in irregular warfare environments," Schwartz said. "In this ever-increasing complex landscape, we must leverage every bit of capability that we have and that we will develop."
The general cautioned that this capability cannot be taken for granted, as peers and potential rivals also continue to advance their capabilities. "We must consider that our advantages will not be unmatched or asymmetric for an indefinite period," he said. "And our systems must be more agile and responsive to combatant commander's needs."
To ensure the continued viability of air and space operations, the general discussed options for operating from distributed bases around the globe and for delivering balanced capabilities through smaller, tailored forces.
While forward locations have operated under relative security over the last 20 years, the general said, the nation's adversaries actively seek weaponry to threaten that advantage.
"As we move forward, the Air Force must actively protect itself against emerging vulnerabilities," he said. "Our operations cannot grind to a halt for want of a degraded or denied system, or a scarce resource."
For example, Schwartz said, the Air Force's reliance on information technologies enhanced the service's ability to maintain unprecedented situational awareness, but also created vulnerabilities officials must mitigate. In addition, he said, Air Force Research Laboratory physicists also are exploring new technologies to move the Air Force toward achieving accurate navigation systems that aren't as dependent on GPS technologies as today’s systems.
The service's dependence on petroleum is another issue the Air Force must continue to address, Schwartz said.
"The Air Force consumes more petroleum each year than any other agency in the U.S. government, and thus is the most susceptible to energy-price volatility and disruption of logistics lines," he said. "Each $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil equates to a $600 million increase in fuel costs to the Air Force."
Air Force engineers have made significant headway and continue to field innovative technologies to provide energy to bases, reduce the logistical footprint and research new propulsion systems for future platforms, the general said.
The Air Force is working hard to meet the growing demand for near-real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from remotely piloted systems and the continued requirement for timely airlift and air refueling, Schwartz said.
"Approximately 75 percent of our Predator-class unmanned aircraft are currently deployed,” he said, “and we continue to surge more into Afghanistan and Iraq. … We're adding another 300,000 flying hours to the 600,000 we have already accumulated."
The general used the current example of rapid air mobility response to humanitarian operations in Haiti in his remarks on air mobility.
"I am extremely proud of our airmen who immediately lent their substantial expertise to help the Haitians regain air traffic control and manage airfield operations in Port-au-Prince, enabling U.S. [C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules transports] and aircraft from a host of other nations to rapidly deliver vital lifesaving and life-sustaining emergency supplies," he said. "Yet again, in critical moments, American air power has made, and will continue to make, a significant difference."
Schwartz identified the key elements in the Air Force’s path to the future.
"Our Air Force has the following overriding imperatives: to increase our capabilities, decrease our vulnerabilities and enhance our integration with our joint and coalition partners," he said.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chyenne A. Adams serves in the 11th Wing public affairs office.)