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Air Force Strategic Choices and Budget Priorities Brief at the Pentagon

Presenter: Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz
January 27, 2012

            CAPT. JOHN KIRBY, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR MEDIA OPERATIONS:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome back.  It's my pleasure to welcome here to the Briefing Room General Norton Schwartz, chief of staff of the United States Air Force.  The general has been serving in that capacity since October of 2008, which makes him the longest-serving member of the body of the Joint Chiefs, and would make this his fourth budget season -- so somewhat of a masochist, I think, probably, as well. 

            Today he's here to provide you some context on the Air Force implications of the Defense Strategic Guidance that, as you know, was released last week, and the budget priorities inside that guidance which the chairman and the secretary discussed with you yesterday. 

            The general will be making a brief opening statement, and then he'll be taking your questions. 

            General, over to you, sir. 

            GENERAL NORTON SCHWARTZ:  Thank you so much. 

            Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  We appreciate your being here today and allowing me to share with you some insight into the Air Force's contributions to the new defense strategy and how we have approached the budget challenges that we face. 

            Innovation and adaptability are essential strengths of the United States Air Force, and ones we have sharpened during the last two decades of combat operations.  We've become ever more integral to the successful operations of the U.S. armed forces, and our joint teammates rely on the Air Force for the core contributions that we provide. 

            Against a backdrop of fiscal challenge and diminishing resources, the security environment continues to evolve and [has] become ever more complex.  That's driving the need for a new Defense Strategic Guidance. 

            And as the Air Force approaches further reductions consistent with that guidance, our fleets are already smaller and older than at the end of the post-Cold War downsizing. 

            By trading size for quantity [sic; quality], the Air Force has made the hard choices to support the new strategic guidance in the fiscal year '13 budget submission.  And we will be [a] smaller but superb force that maintains our agility, our flexibility and readiness to engage a full range of contingencies and threats. 

            Throughout this evolution, we remain and shall remain committed to our ongoing responsibilities to provide globally postured, regionally tailorable full-spectrum air power, from nuclear deterrence to air, space and cyber operations, counterterrorism and global intelligence,  surveillance and reconnaissance. 

            Although smaller, we will sustain global operations through our continuing presence in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and by tailoring our presence in Europe. 

            Air Force capabilities are clearly instrumental to the major priorities of the new Defense Strategic Guidance, such as deterring and defeating aggression, projecting power in anti-access and area denial environments, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, space and cyber operations and, importantly, strategic deterrence. 

            Through virtually every area, although every area of the Air Force budget faces constrained resources, the Air Force has taken care to protect the critical capabilities on which our joint interagency and coalition partners rely.  

            In summary, these distinctive and enduring capabilities that Airmen provide every day are air and space control, global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, and global strike. Airmen also maintain the cross-domain command and control necessary to make these capabilities effective across the full spectrum of operations. 

            Confronted by a more complex and dynamic security environment as well as significant reduction in defense resources, the Air Force determined that the best path forward was to become smaller, emphasizing multi-role systems and common configurations in order to maintain and protect a high-quality force, mitigating risk from reduced capacity while seeking to improve our ability to deal with advancing adversaries over time.  To avoid a hollow force, we have and we will protect readiness at any force level and strengthen our integration of the total force team of active, Guard and Reserve Airmen. 

            We are slowing modernization in some areas, but at the same time we will protect the key programs that are most critical to future Air Force capabilities, for example, the KC-46 tanker, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the long-range strike bomber. 

            Despite the many challenges that we have faced, today the Air Force is still, by any objective standard, the world's best.  It is our intent -- indeed, it is our obligation -- to the American people and to our Airmen and their families that we remain the world' finest air force in the years and the decades to come. 

            Ladies and gentlemen, I'd be happy to take your questions. 

            Yes, ma'am. 

            Q:  Yesterday Secretary Panetta offered numbers for the size of the active-duty Army and Marine Corps.  Can you talk at all about the size of the active-duty Air Force over the next 10 years, including what happens to personnel in those six eliminated squadrons? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  The total force of our Air Force will come down in the neighborhood of 10,000 personnel.  Importantly, however, that those reductions are tied to force structure going away.  So we are not reducing personnel in order to meet budget targets. 

            This -- these are directly connected with the force structure adjustments that we've undertaken. 

            Q:  General Schwartz, could you explain to us what is meant by using the word "terminate" when you talk about the Block 30 Global Hawk, but "divest" when you talk about the C-27J?  Are you mothballing the jets you already have?  Are you going to sell them to other forces, give them to other government agencies? 

            And if you could go into a little bit of detail about the cost assessment that went into play that tipped the scales in favor of extending U-2 service and will it (inaudible). 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  The bottom line on your multiple questions -- let me start first with the rationale.  It was our expectation, our -- certainly our hope, that the advantages that a Global Hawk-like platform provides would -- which we anticipated both would be cost of operation, on the one hand, and clearly persistence on the other -- would play out in practice. 

            The reality is that the Global Hawk system has proven not to be less expensive to operate than the U-2.  And in many respects, the Global Hawk Block 30 system is not as capable from a sensor point of view, as is the U-2.  And so we have made the choice, as the deputy secretary mentioned yesterday -- cancel the Block 30 program. 

            And the disposition of the aircraft is not yet finalized, but it would be my expectation that we would place these assets into storage, usable storage, for future possibilities, whatever they might be. 

            Importantly, we will retain the Block 20 and the Block 40 capabilities, and so we will -- we will use the Global Hawk to its best effect.  But the bottom line is that the delta between the Global Hawk and the U-2 was not sufficient in order to retain both for the same mission. 

            Yes, sir. 

            Q:  (Off mic.) 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  (Inaudible) -- please. 

            Q:  You mentioned that every aspect of the budget is under constrained resources.  Aside from the Block 30, are any ISR platforms getting cut, getting pushed to the -- getting -- (inaudible)?  I noticed that the Predator and Reaper CAPs are going up.  Is there any sacrifice you're seeing in ISR, aside from the Block 30? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  ISR is one of those areas, clearly, that we maintained at -- and in some areas increased, but generally maintained our levels of investment.  There are individual changes.  For example, there is a JSTARS platform that was damaged beyond economical repair that we will not repair.  But generally speaking, the existing ISR inventories will remain as they are, with the exception of the Block 30 that we answered earlier. 

            Q:  (Inaudible) -- there an increase or decrease in future budgets for R&D on these platforms? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I would say we -- particularly in the S&T [science & technology] area, this is an area where we'll continue to invest. 

            Yes, ma'am, and I'll come back up front. 

            Q:  Thank you.  General, you talked about the rationale for the Global Hawk 30 being too expensive compared to the U-2.  Does the same rationale apply to other UAV programs?  Do  they have to be cheaper than the manned variants to become justifiable in the budget? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  It is a consideration.  I mean, we, in a limited budget circumstance that we face, have to compare what is the best value to the armed forces and obviously to the taxpayer.  I would say each circumstance is an individual assessment, but clearly we're going to make calls on what gives us the best capability for the dollar invested.  And in this particular instance, the U-2 was the better bet. 

            Tony. 

            Q:  One follow-up on the Global Hawk.  Then I had a separate question on surge.  Block 40 -- does your FYDP -- do you buy additional Block 40s in the FYDP, no matter what the quantity is, to show some confidence in the program? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  You will have an opportunity to see the five-year defense program investment profile next week, Tony.  I prefer not to go into greater detail at this time, given that we would prefer to give the Congress an opportunity, the courtesy of seeing our program before we open it up at that level of detail. 

            Q:  Reversibility -- how do you reverse surge pilots who have been taken out of these six squadrons if many are the reserves and they haven't flown for a number of years?  What's the concept there of surge and reversibility for pilots who haven't flown? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  For us, what we are doing is re-missioning the units.  In other words, for example, a unit that was operating manned aircraft might transition to a remotely piloted aircraft mission.  And so, their fundamental skills will still be employed, but in a different way. 

            OK.  Thank you. 

            Q:  The Block 40 of Global Hawk -- is it expected to be that much cheaper or that much better than a U-2?  Why is it that the Block 40 is not being eliminated and Block 30 is? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  The Block 40 is a ground moving target indicator-based platform that is not a U-2 sensor capability.  On the other hand, the Block 30 is the comparable platform to the U-2 in terms of its sensor suite.  And it's for that reason that it was a trade.   

            Q:  Just to follow up, all told, what percentage -- will you see an increase in the number of UAVs flown by the Air Force after all this is said and done, or decrease?  And if you can put a percentage or a number on that. 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  We're at a -- you know, somewhere over 250 remotely piloted aircraft today, and that number will continue to increase through the five-year defense program. 

            Q:  Do you have -- (inaudible) -- number? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Please. 

            Q:  General, just to shift a little bit, you're getting smaller, you're getting more agile; what is that going to mean for Airmen and their families moving forward?  Are they going to deploy more?  Are they going to be based in places longer?  How does that work for you? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  What we have done is to adjust the mix of forces, active, Reserve and Guard, to recognize the tempo that is inherent in the new Defense Strategic Guidance.  And our goals will be to -- as a norm -- to manage the active duty force at a deploy-to-dwell ratio of not less than 1:2, and not less than 1:4 for the Reserve and the Guard, or better, and that we have approached this in that mix in order to attain that predictable level of workload that we think is sustainable for the long term.  You can surge, but the sustainable level of effort will be 1:2 and not less than 1:2, not less than 1:4. 

            Yes, ma'am. 

            Q:  Sir, you mentioned earlier reducing the personnel by 10,000. Over what period would that happen?  And also, can you talk about what effect reinstating BRAC, you believe, will have on the Air Force? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Sure.  We will execute those reductions, provided the -- you know, the Congress authorizes those reductions, over the program period. 

            And with respect to base closure, for the United States Air Force, base closure round 2005 did not close bases.  We did a multitude of realignments and so on.  And as you may be aware, there are estimates in that era that our infrastructure -- we had excess infrastructure in the neighborhood of 20 percent.  Since 2005 our inventory of aircraft, for example, has declined in the neighborhood of 500 aircraft.  And so the presumption is -- I think it's a fair presumption -- that there's yet more excess infrastructure.  And so indeed, we certainly support the proposal to go through another round of base closure analysis and execution. 

            Q:  But do you -- do you have a number of bases that you think could be closed?  Do you see -- do you see any being closed, or just a reduction of the size of the ones that you have? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I think our expectation is that we would actually close bases in a future base closure round. 

            Please, Tom (sp). 

            Q:  Thank you, General.  In your opening statement, you cited the Air Force's role in strategic deterrence.  Yesterday Secretary Carter acknowledged that this budget is basically status quo when it comes to nuclear forces, except delaying by two years the Ohio class. 

            What kind of analytics are under way in the Air Force today to help the president reach his goal of going lower with the aspiration of getting to zero?  And as you look at that, since both the air-breathing and land-based leg of the triad that you own are aging and need to be replaced, do you think it's wise to sustain both in future years or could you see getting rid of one of those?  

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I think that -- multiple questions once again, Tom (sp) -- I think first of all, while there are no reductions adjustments in this -- the strategic nuclear force structure for us, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the bombers in the FY '13 program, the important thing you need to appreciate is that we do have new START targets to meet by February of 2018.  Those central limits -- just quickly -- address 700 strategic delivery vehicles,  deployed delivery vehicles, another 100 not deployed, 800 total, and then 1,550 warheads.  And that of course is across the enterprise, including our Navy teammates.  The bottom line is that there are still decisions pending on how to go about reaching those new START central targets, and I would expect that that would unfold in the '14 program.  

            With respect to your question on the mix, it remains our conviction that small -- that especially as you go down in terms of nuclear force structure, that the triad actually becomes more important, the diversity, the variety, the attributes associated with each leg of the triad actually reinforce each other to a greater degree.   

            So I would certainly expect, and will offer best military advice, recommending that we retain the triad even as we go to lower numbers. 

            Back here, please. 

            Q:  You mentioned that there's commitment to the next-generation bomber, the F-35 and the next-generation tanker.  Do you have concerns about these various programs coming into production at one time?  And what effect might that have on resources? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Well, in -- 

            Q:  (Inaudible) -- about the timelines a little bit. 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  -- in fact, you know, there is a stagger there. Clearly, the F-35 is currently in low-rate, initial production.  The new tanker will begin to deliver in the '15 and '16 period.  And of course, we're talking about the bomber post-2020.  So, clearly this is a challenge in terms of sequencing this in a way that meets budget targets, but the bottom line is these are important capabilities for the nation and ones that we will make sacrifices elsewhere to sustain. 

            Over here, sir. 

            Q:  (Inaudible.)  The plan unveiled yesterday talks about or points to the retirement of older C-5s and C-130s.  How confident are you, given the intense global demand for airlift, that the Air Force can continue to deliver on that front, especially when we're talking about continuing to operate in places like Afghanistan or shifting to the Pacific? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Sure.  The force sizing construct that we're dealing with, which produces lesser number of brigade combat teams, for example, also has implications for the size of the Air Force.  And so our assessment is that the strategic airlift force, pegged at the 275 aircraft level -- that is, 223 C-17s and 52 C-5 -- reliability -- re-engine and reliability improvement program modified aircraft -- are sufficient to satisfy the demand for dedicated military airlift, strategic airlift. 

            And with respect to the C-130s, an inventory of 318 modernized C-130s likewise is sufficient to provide the intratheater support. 

            So this is an analytically based approach.  You asked me if I'm comfortable.  I am.  And importantly, the other -- the combatant commanders concerned in this instance are as well. 

            Yes, sir.  Back here. 

            Q:  Sir, I want to get back to Tony's (sp) question about reversibility writ large across the program going forward.  How is the Air Force going to address that across the board as far as force structure?  Are you talking about keeping things in the bone yard, putting capacity with contractors to surge if needed?  How is this being dealt with across the whole program? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Reversibility has a different flavor for the Navy and for the Air Force, perhaps, than it does for the ground forces. Both the Navy and the Air Force are major capital end-item intensive. And so when you think about reversibility, one needs to think about what programs do you have in train that really serve the role of modernization or recapitalization?  Because there are long leads associated, obviously, with major end items. 

            And in each of the major disciplines, I think you will find in this program, and certainly outlined in the defense strategic guidance, commitment to those programs that will allows us to either -- to expand, if necessary, on an established program that would compensate for the unexpected.  And I think it's certainly true with the tanker.  It is true with the bomber, F-35, space programs similarly, OK? 

            Yes, sir.  Right here. 

            Q:  Sir, by what process did the Air Force determine that it could (inaudible) six fighter squadrons rather than 10 or 12 or however many?  And have you identified which squadrons you're talking about and where those are based? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  The basic approach was a -- there was an analytical approach associated with what is known in -- the jargon is case 3 scenario.  It's one of the baseline scenarios that the department uses to conduct force sizing analysis and so on.  And that assessment, based again on the new strategy -- not the QDR, but the new defense strategic guidance -- and we -- and this addresses your question as well, sir -- came to the conclusion that we had somewhat excess capacity on the fighter side.  And that was the driving -- that was the driver for the choices that were made here. 

            The mix of this was -- again, had to do with emphasizing multi-role over those kinds of aircraft with more niche or less versatility, because in a smaller force I think you can appreciate the mandate, the necessity for maximum versatility. 

            CAPT KIRBY:  We have time for just two more, sir. 

            Q:  Sir, is the decision to probably mothball the Global Hawks a reflection of the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan; that we just don't need as much ISR?  Is there a broader lesson? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I don't think so.  In fact, my combatant commander colleagues would probably indicate to you that there has been suppressed demand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance outside the Central Command area for a number of years.  And so it is not our expectation that when combat operations subside, that the demand for ISR generally will come down dramatically.  We believe that some substantial proportion of that capacity will be reapplied in other theaters where -- who have been underserved for a significant period of time, OK? 

            Q:  What do you plan to do with the C-27Js that you're getting rid of? 

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  Disposition is not clear.  At -- one option clearly is to put them in type-1,000 or type-2,000 storage at Davis- Monthan Air Force Base at the bone yard.  And that will -- that's probably our best option. 

            Q:  What does that mean in layman’s terms?

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I'm sorry, forgive me.  My fault.  Type-1000 storage is essentially recoverable storage.  You don't use the airplanes for spare parts.  You don't pick and choose and cherry- pick, which type-2000 storage allows you to do.  So obviously, type-1000 storage is more expensive.  It requires sort of ongoing surveillance and so on.  So that -- the disposition is not final-final, but those are the options. 

            (Cross talk.) 

            If I -- if I can just conclude, sir, by saying that we have talked about lots of things here today.  I would just like to remind that the real power of our Air Force, like our sister services, is our people, our Airmen, in this case, and not only the excellence that they strive to provide, but the commitment that their families offer us on a daily basis. 

            So again, while we tend to focus on things, I just want to remind that this is really about wonderful people doing the nation's business. 

            Thanks very much.