DOD News Briefing with Gen. Schwartz from the Pentagon
BRIGADIER GENERAL LES KODLICK: Folks, a quick introduction if I may. It is my privilege to welcome to the Pentagon Briefing room the nineteenthchief of staff of the United States Air Force, Gen. Norty Schwartz. Gen. Schwartz has served as the chief of staff since Aug. 12, 2008, leading approximately 680,000 active-duty Guard and Reserve and civilian forces serving in the United States and around the world. He took the job during a particularly turbulent time in our Air Force, and together with the secretary, Mike Donley, they've had a profound impact. Quite frankly, they've made the Air Force a better service and fighting force.
General Schwartz's personal attention, leadership and hard work have restored the confidence in the American people in the nuclear enterprise. You'll recall the phrase "All In," as he spoke to airmen around the world about how the Air Force is a crucial part of the joint team committed to winning today's fight. In addition, Gen. Schwartz, with the support of his wife, Suzie, implemented a series of programs designed to take care of our airmen and their families. Gen. Schwartz's leadership and commitment has positioned the Air Force well to meet the challenges of the future.
On August 10th, his retirement at Joint Base Andrews will culminate nearly 40 years of service to the nation. With that, I'll turn it over to General Schwartz, who has some brief opening remarks before he takes your questions.
GENERAL NORTON SCHWARTZ: Thanks, Les. And thank you all for being here today in letting me share some thoughts on my time in the Air Force and four years as the Air Force chief of staff.
When former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke at my chief of staff welcoming ceremony in August of 2008, he quipped that he and I had something in common, that both of us were planning to retire. Indeed, when he asked me to continue to serve, those earlier retirement plans were put on hold. Today, however, I do plan and I'm preparing to hang up my blue uniform for the final time.
And just as I assume my current position during an inflection point for our Air Force, I'm leaving it during another challenging period, this time as the Air Force contends with fewer available resources and an increasingly complex geopolitical and security environment.
Nonetheless, I remain confident that the Air Force will thrive because of my firm belief in America's airmen. They are talented, they are dedicated, and they will handle today's challenges and tomorrow's contingency in the manner that has earned America's and the joint team's trust over the years.
Our airmen have reinvigorated the nuclear enterprise, institutionalized remotely piloted aircraft capabilities into our service, strengthened our support and our care for one another and for our families, clearly demonstrated our commitment to the joint fight, and established a program of record for the long-range strike family of systems.
As Suzie and I now prepare to enjoy life after this career of service, we feel truly privileged to have found a home in the United States Air Force, the greatest Air Force in the world, and I will always be proud -- always be proud to consider myself an American airman.
Finally, I'd like to close with a special word of thanks to all of you. And this is not the least bit condescending or anything like that, that the men and women of the Pentagon press corps, we thank you. I certainly personally thank you. And to the many journalists with whom I've interacted over the years, it's not gratuitous to say that what you do is important, and I thank you for your commitment to keeping the American people informed, as well as audiences all around the world.
With that, I'd be happy to take your questions. Thank you.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Jeff?
Q: Now that Congress has drawn a line in the sand with cuts to the Guard and Reserve, should we expect that most of the personnel cuts will come from the active force? If so, how many do you anticipate?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: We're putting together the '14 program as we speak. Clearly, we have indications from the Congress on what they believe is executable. And that will carry forward into the -- into the '14 program. I'm not prepared to provide premature insight into those outcomes. It's obviously not the president's budget until it's approved and released in the early part of next year.
But it's clear that -- that we will have to get smaller as an Air Force. There will still be pressure to maintain the quality of our team. And as a result, there -- we will continue to make adjustments, and what I'm indicating is that we have learned from the experience of the '13 program and will adjust accordingly.
However, there are still going to be hard decisions. We will do our best to ensure that those decisions are properly vetted, that the rationale for them is well understood, and while there -- they -- not everyone may agree with them, that they -- they have a greater chance of surviving contact.
Q: (off mic) recent announcement about the F-22, does the Air Force still maintain that the Jeff Haney crash was pilot error?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: As I have said in the past, that what occurred to Captain Haney on that dark night in Alaska -- and it was a tragic event for the family, it was a tragic event for his unit and for our Air Force -- was a complex emergency the likes of which I certainly have never experienced. And what we do know with certainty is that it was not a hypoxia-related event. It was a complex emergency with multiple aspects, and we respect his effort to save the aircraft. And, again, the tragedy of this continues to affect us all.
Q: But was it pilot error?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Jeff, your fixation on that term is unfair.
Q: And, in all fairness --
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Your -- your fixation on that terminology is unfair. Next question, please. Over here.
Q: General -- go ahead.
Q: (off mic) with Inside the Air Force. Sir, you've seen probably some legislation coming out of the Senate this summer about a proposed national commission on the structure of the Air Force. What are your thoughts on that commission, its utility? And if asked, would you be interested in serving on it? That's my second question.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I doubt anyone would -- would entertain having me serve on the commission. Here's -- here's the sort of set up, I think. I understand why the Senate has recommended that as a vehicle for getting -- presumably an objective and balanced view of how to proceed. However, there really is no institution, there's no mechanism that can produce a balanced program for our Air Force better than we in the Department of Defense can, much less provide that sort of advice in a matter of months.
So as a practical matter, while the commission conceptually has some attraction, I think it is unlikely to be able to produce the result that the committee hopes for it to provide. My hunch is that an effort on -- along these lines is a year-long effort, not a months-long -- multiple months-long effort.
So in short, I think, once again, that we collectively in the department need to do a better job of preparing the Congress and other key elected officials of what we have in mind, what the logic behind our choices are, than perhaps we did in the last cycle. And that is a better way to proceed than a commission that probably would not be up to the task, given the timeline required.
Q: Could you explain why the F-22 is safe to fly right now, specifically?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Sure. We have eliminated one of the hypotheses that -- that the Scientific -- the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board postulated as a potential cause, root cause for the hypoxia-related incidents, and that was contamination. We have the data that has confirmed that. We now also have the data that indicates that the problem has to do with the amount, not the quality of oxygen available in the cockpit.
Given tests in the altitude chamber and in the centrifuge, we have confirmed that there is a combination of hardware-related items that have created breathing problems for our pilots. Part of that is the upper pressure garment of the pressure -- the G suit assembly. Part of that has to do with hose and valve and connection hardware in the cockpit.
Given that we have a deliberate plan underway now both to modify that equipment, to test that equipment under the most demanding conditions, and that will begin to hit the field in September, and given the limitations that the secretary of defense has imposed until those improvements are fielded, we're confident that we have managed the risk associated with -- with continuing operations in the F-22, minimized -- perhaps not eliminated until the modifications are in place -- but minimized their risk. And we're doing it in a prudent way that has the endorsement of the senior leadership of the department.
Q: (off mic) minimized the risk, by that you mean there's an altitude restriction still?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Altitude restriction. At the moment our -- our long-duration flight profiles will have to remain within an acceptable distance of potential landing fields. Training missions will continue to have the tether until these improvements are executed or implemented.
So what we have, Elizabeth, is a phased approach to removing limitations. We have to go back to the secretary of defense and demonstrate the results of the improvements, the tests that we've performed, and get his -- his head nod on each sequential release.
Q: (off mic) all you've done is eased the restrictions. There's still a fair amount of restrictions on the plane (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: There are. But the major restriction that he approved last Friday at the briefing was to allow us to deploy the aircraft via the Northern Pacific transit route to Japan. And that -- that deployment will take place in days.
Q: And what is that distance restriction?
Q: (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: This is following the Northern Island chain, and -- and the maximum time roughly between landing points is about an hour-and-a-half. Interestingly, just to give you a sense of the scope of what we're doing, that there will be an F-22 pilot on the tanker that accompanies the fighter aircraft. So there is a person outside the cockpit who can offer advice who's in the immediate vicinity of the deploying aircraft, that the tanker will have sufficient fuel aboard should the formation need to descend to a lower altitude to make it to destination, even at the lower altitude. These are the kinds of prudent aviators' risk management actions that -- that will -- that we're taking for this deployment.
Q: (off mic) what is it now?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I'd prefer not to offer that, Elizabeth, if you don't mind, given that that is an operational matter.
Q: (off mic) how many aircraft in this deployment? And when do they leave?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: They're departing shortly, and it is -- it is a squadron-sized element. I'll get you the exact number.
Q: Shortly, within hours, days?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Days.
Amy? I'll come back to you.
Q: Thank you, sir. General Schwartz, during your tenure, the Air Force has worked very hard to improve its procurement processes, acquisition system overall, after, of course, having some high-profile mishaps. Unfortunately, most recently, the small last contract in value has become a very large issue for the service.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Yes.
Q: What is your assessment of the path that the Air Force has taken to fix this problem? And what is ahead to fix this problem, especially in light of the fact that you really don't have senior acquisition leadership posts filled? What can -- what can the people reasonably expect from the Air Force in this situation?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: It's -- it's a moment in time when the uniformed -- the uniformed leadership and the acquisition community has to play a larger role than they might in other circumstances, when the senior civilian leadership is -- is not available.
And clearly, the Secretary of the Air Force, Mike Donley, is working that problem diligently. And I can assure you that he'd like to have an acquisition executive, you know, onboard. But I think the key thing here is, is that everybody needs to fill the void -- this is both uniforms and senior civilians in the acquisition discipline -- and make sure that we -- that we stay on vector.
With respect to the larger acquisition enterprise, this is an -- this is a continuing effort to improve the skills and the expertise of the workforce, whether it be in contracting, whether it be in cost estimation or program management, these are all unique and important skills that -- that, frankly, defense-wide are in relative short supply. And each of the services, certainly we are working hard to -- to build back that bench of folks who can run major programs, who can tell the difference between a good deal and -- and, you know, good advertising, and, you know, understand what it takes to manage the tradeoffs between cost, schedule, and capability.
As you indicated, we've had some successes. KC-46, I think, is a case in point. And we've had some disappointments, like the light air attack strike aircraft for the Afghanistan air force. And I think the lesson here is that it's -- it's just like the Washington Nationals, instead of playing Atlanta, playing somebody else, and perhaps relaxing. In this business, there can be no relaxing.
Q: Do you feel that -- if I may follow up -- do you feel that you would be in the situation that you are in today if you didn't have that leadership gap since Ms. Payton left in '08?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I think -- well, look, Dave Van Buren did a good job. Please -- please -- please don't sort of indicate that we've been gapped since '08, because we haven't. But we have been gapped since March. And -- and that means that all of those -- much -- much of those decisions and so on rise to the secretary of the Air Force's level.
So the -- the bottom line is that that stability in anybody's business is -- is generally helpful. And clearly, having, you know, a designated service acquisition executive with -- with a bit of continuity is exactly what we need and what we -- what we want.
Q: Colin Clark, AOL Defense, sir. You came in at a time when the Air Force was -- to outside eyes, at least, riddle with problems. UAVs were not considered fit fodder for a real pilot. You had the nuclear problems. I mean, you've dealt with all of that over the last few years. What advice are you giving your successor? He's going to have to draw down. He's going to still face threats throughout the world.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: The -- the advantage that Mark Welsh has, should he be confirmed, is that he has been at the table for much of my tenure. And so he has insight in terms of what has occurred, what the substance of the decisions were, what the thought processes were, what the debates entailed. So he has -- he has a good sense of what ground truth is here.
I think the -- the interesting thing is, is that this is a different Air Force than it was four years ago. And he will face different challenges. For example, while we worked hard to get certain programs established, like the tanker, like long-range strike family of systems, Mark will actually get to field those systems, again, should he be confirmed. That is a different challenge, not a trivial one by any means.
And so, once again, you know, the environment in 2008 was the surge in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, you know, the -- the environment here in 2012 will be a little different in that regard, but -- but the challenges are -- are broader than they were then. So --
Q: (off mic) aside from money, what do you think his two greatest challenges will be, as he starts off?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I think two things. I think the one I've mentioned, which is bringing established programs to fruition, and, secondly, re-establishing the level of trust that -- that perhaps eroded a bit, given the -- the controversy over our ‘13-program proposals.
Yes, ma'am? And then Dave will come to you.
Q: Thank you, General. You signed an agreement with the Navy on Air-Sea Battle. And a lot of what's been discussed, it's kind of been fuzzy on the details. People assumed it was going to be a wish list of equipment. We have not really seen that. Can you tell us -- first of all, is that going to continue after you leave? And in the future, what -- I mean, your assessment of what's been accomplished and what would you like to see accomplished?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Sure. Well, come to CSIS tomorrow and you'll have a sense of, you know, whether this has legs or not, OK? Again, this is up to Mark Welsh. He'll make the determination. My hunch is that he will certainly continue the partnership that we've established with the Navy and that Gary Roughead and Jon Greenert and I have shared over these last four years.
The fundamentals of this -- you know, there's a temptation certainly in the trade press to go to programs and systems. And I would argue there's a range of initiatives out there that clearly apply to Air-Sea battle, those things which -- which essentially are intended to address the improving anti-access area-denial capabilities that are proliferating out there, whether they be improvements in aircraft sensors, whether they be capabilities associated with the new Joint Strike Fighter. The tanker has application in this respect. Clearly, there are weapons programs underway and improvements that apply.
We tried hard, very hard, not to have every good idea or everybody's idea of an Air-Sea Battle initiative sort of get picked up, swept up under that banner. We wanted to be disciplined. We wanted to make sure that this undertaking between the Navy and the Air Force maintained focus and discipline. And so this will not be some wholesale effort to underwrite programs. This will be a tightly focused effort where the two services who really are responsible for projecting American power and -- and maintaining our access to the global commons can amplify each other's capabilities, you know, for best effect, not looking for credit, not looking for, again, bumper-stickers. We're looking for, you know, tactics, techniques, procedures, and equipment that underwrites that to sustain our ability to challenge others who wish us not to assert ourselves in certain geographic areas around the world.
Q: Do you think the Navy and the Air Force are not ready to take that next step yet?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I think we are. I think we're doing it today, without a doubt. Without a doubt.
Let me do this, and I'll come back. Go ahead, Tom.
Q: A couple -- just one or two questions, broader. The nation -- Air Force has spent $67 billion on this program up through this year, before this -- this problem was discovered. A reasonable person would ask, given all the testing in the 2000s that led to -- (inaudible) -- production decision and then -- (inaudible) -- in December 2005, why wasn't this caught earlier?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: This is a unique airplane. You can pull six Gs at 50,000 feet. Tell me what other airplane ever can do that. There were aspects of this that from a physiological point of view for the aviator weren't well enough understood. And in some respects the testing did not reveal the shortcomings we've recently discovered.
And so I think the lesson in this, again, is that in the -- you know, in the early days of jet aviation, physiology and aerospace physiologists were, you know, a rather substantial community in our Air Force. That expertise has diminished over time. And the engineering know-how that's associated with that has diminished, I think, even on a national basis.
And so it's a lesson, again, that if you're going to produce very high performance, superb aircraft, that you also need to pay attention to the man-machine interface, in all of its dimensions, and especially with respect to physiology. We miss some things, bottom line.
Q: (off mic) one follow-up. On the -- a prudent -- another -- a prudent person would ask, why don't you wait for this deployment of I guess 24 planes until September, when you've got everything ironed out? Why do you have to go now (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: There's -- there's an operational requirement, and the birds are ready to go. OK? Dave?
Q: (off mic) follow up on that just very quickly.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Yes, sir.
Q: Once they arrive, will they be under the same restrictions -- they will? OK.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Given that they'll be in a training context upon arrival, they will have the same tether requirements that -- that the airplanes do here, until the improvements are -- are implemented, tested, and we achieve -- we get the SECDEF's approval for relaxing that limitation.
Q: (off mic) 30 minutes from a base?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Correct.
Q: (off mic) now -- but flying over the chain of islands is hour-and-a-half --
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Right.
Q: -- from a landing strip?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: And the key thing here, Elizabeth, is that remember that -- that a deployment flight is not a physical -- is not typically an event -- a physically demanding event, exactly.
Q: (off mic) follow on F-22. Just to make sure, are those the same restrictions for the aircraft in the Middle East?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Yes.
Q: With regard to the F-35, knowing what you know now about the aircraft, back when you are -- with the F-22 -- (inaudible) -- cancellation back in 2008, I recall, would you have said -- made the same decisions now? Because right now it looks like in about 10 years we're going to have six squadrons of F-22s and about 400 F-35s. Is that -- does that give us enough numbers to deal with contingencies around the world, given that small a fleet?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Well, it's not just F-22s and F-35s. You know, we'll clearly have a continuing population of Eagles and F-16s, as well. So please, you know, it's important to sort of keep the legacy fleet in mind, as well. And the quicker we acquire F-35s, I would agree that the quicker that the legacy aircraft will go out of service. The bottom line is, we will acquire F-35s at the highest rate we can afford and in a configuration that requires minimum retrofit as we go forward.
Somebody -- yes, sir?
Q: Thank you, General. May I ask, what exactly happened with the documentation for the light air support deal? And can you give us an update on how that is progressing?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: We're in source selection, so I can't give you any more insight than that. We fumbled on the documentation, just put it that way. We didn't meet standards, and -- and that won't happen this time.
Q: (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Indeed.
Q: General, when you -- I want to go back to when you took over in 2008. There was talk about some of the cultural changes that needed to be made in the Air Force, whether it be in the nuclear side of the house or even just taking a look at some of the ideas of the white scarf Air Force and some of the issues with fighter pilots. What changes have you seen in the Air Force culture over the past four years? And has enough changes been made that you've seen?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I would dispute that the problem -- or that there was an issue with fighter pilots. There's -- you know, all of us come from someplace. We all grow up somewhere in a discipline or a part of our Air Force, and we're damn proud of where we come from. But the issue is that, as one becomes more senior, that you have to become bigger than where you came from. And that was -- that was a central message.
In addition, it was the plain fact that everybody in our Air Force counts. Everybody contributes. And that, I think, was part of the basis for the all-in campaign in the early days. And it is something I believe that that will stick, that is that -- again, while we should be proud of who we are, what we do, and how we grew up in this great institution, that it's about all of us. It's about active-duty. It's about Guard. It's about Reserve. It's about all the dimensions -- air, space and cyber -- that allows us to have the best Air Force on the planet.
Q: How about in terms of nuclear (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Likewise. You know, and -- and clearly there -- and the whole notion of deterrence is an important concept, an important notion that is central to Air Force ethos, and will continue to be so.
Right here, sir, and then I'll come back.
Q: General, Marc Schanz, Air Force Magazine, you mentioned in your opening statement that the long-range strike family of systems -- during your tenure, the bomber -- the next bomber program came back onto the books. Unless something has changed, and you're still looking at about a 10- to 12-year timeframe for that going out into the ramp, to an outsider, though, I don't believe there's been any official requirements document made for this program. So is that timeframe realistic at this point from where you stand?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I think, you know, we've talked about beginning to field the platform in the mid-20s. And -- and there are requirements. And we're -- we're going to pursue this program in a very disciplined fashion, and -- and do it in a way that capitalizes on -- on already proven technologies, in aircraft manufacturing, in sensors, in you know, avionics integration, and so on and so forth.
So, no, we're -- yes, we -- we succeeded in persuading the secretary that this is a capability the country must have, that being able to place targets at risk wherever they may be is an American strong suit, largely performed by the United States Air Force, and that is -- that is a -- extending a sense of vulnerability on others is a tool of statecraft and one we should not concede.
In the back, and then John will be next.
Q: Jon Harper with the Asahi Shimbun. Do you think there will be sufficient funding available in the coming decades to modernize the ICBM arsenal? And do you think it would be acceptable to sacrifice that leg of the triad to protect funding for other key Air Force programs, like the F-35?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I don't know what the trades will ultimately be. But I do believe that -- that the land-based ICBM is an important component of our nuclear deterrent posture. And -- and I would envision that future chiefs will see it that way, as well.
So, you know, I happen to believe that -- that the triad is -- that is both sea- and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, along with -- with a bomber capability that allows one to extend deterrence, is a useful capability for the country to maintain over time. So, yes, I do see a future ICBM in the cards, and -- and, again, I -- I'm unable to speculate on what the trades might be.
Q: Sir, when you and Secretary Donley came in, it was ostensibly to address the nuclear issue. You've now had an opportunity to do a deep dive on that for four years. Was it really that bad, that it required the firing of the two top leaders of the Air Force to get the service's attention to address it?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: John, you shouldn't be asking me that question. That's something to ask Bob Gates.
Q: Can I try again?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Sure.
Q: Slightly differently.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Slightly differently.
Q: Out of the last eight chiefs, one was publicly reprimanded, two were fired, one resigned early. No other service has this track record. And Senator Graham the other day mentioned -- and you did before -- that the Air Force has a trust problem with the Congress. What do you think it is about the Air Force or the Air Force culture that the -- that other elements of our civilian leadership feel the need to correct the Air Force from time to time?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I think it's a temporary condition, at least the one at the moment. We know what the cause was, and we know essentially what the remedy is, although satisfying everybody will be a tall order. I guess I -- you know, in other words, the -- getting -- making force structure reductions is -- is -- you know, is not for the faint of heart.
Nonetheless, I would argue that -- that the Air Force has had remarkable leadership, even those who you mentioned who left office early. Who can contest that Ron Fogleman wasn't an effective and -- and memorable Air Force chief of staff?
So -- and I would argue Mike Dugan likewise, although, again, we work for civilian masters in this country, and that's the way it works. But I -- I -- again, I think that -- that all of us come to these jobs at a moment in time. And I think it's important, John, to make the point that -- that none of those events occurred because of malfeasance, because of misconduct in a -- in a -- certainly in a criminal context.
And -- and that -- I think that -- that this legacy of Air Force leadership both for civilian and on the military side is -- is noteworthy. And I -- and I am proud to be a part of it.
Q: But has it just been bad luck? I mean, the other services haven't had this kind of problem getting along with the civilian leadership.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: You know, all I can do is tell you what my own experience has been, in that there are lots of reasons for leaving a position, and some of -- some of which are -- well, let me just leave it at that. There's lots of reasons, and not all of them appear -- are what they appear to be.
So one in the back, and then we'll come back upfront.
Q: Given what you said earlier, sir, about the difficulties in figuring out the man-machine interface with advanced aircraft, is it reasonable to have those concerns about the F-35, as well, and if so, whether it's hypoxia or another engineering challenge, if so, what should your successor do to make sure that he doesn't have to ground or restrict the fleet?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Test. Test deep, test continuously. There's no such thing as engineering perfection. What kind of car do you drive?
Q: (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Well you know, they -- they get recalled from time to time. I mean, even in something we understand quite well, that's not really advancing the state-of-the-art. You know, you -- you have these engineering imperfections. So I don't doubt for a moment that there won't be -- and we found some already, frankly, you know, in the F-35.
This is one of the things that I think is an important message, that -- that the notion of perfection at the outset, even with all the computer power we have and the CAD/CAM and all that stuff, you know, I think we went through a period where we kind of thought that we could design perfect airplanes or near-perfect airplanes, and the -- you know, motor vehicles and so on. Apple may be the only one that has been successful in engineering near-perfect products. Test deep, test thoroughly, test continuously.
Q: Excuse me as I speak Air Force. We heard from some one-Charlie-fours that the training for 13 Limas, the physical standards might be reduced a bit in order -- and they think to allow women to join the career field. The official reason is that the 13 LIMA program was supposed to supplement the [air liaison officers]. And there -- so it'd make sense that they would have the same physical standards. I'm just checking to see -- I mean, just seeing, is there any follow-up to this? Is the plan still to make '13 Lima and [air liaison officers] have the same physical standards?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Yes. Thank you for your question.
Q: I just had a question about [remotely piloted aircraft]. There was statements recently that in the next year or so the military estimates that there will be more unmanned pilots than pilots in the air. Is that possible?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: We're training --
Q: (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Yeah, the factoid is, that we're -- we're training, you know, more [remotely piloted aircraft] aviators than we are bomber and fighter pilots.
Q: Right (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Ultimately, it is conceivable that the majority of aviators in our Air Force will be remotely piloted aircraft operators.
Q: (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I don't know. I think that we're building to 65 orbits, as you're aware, and that -- and we'll have that by May of 2014. And as we build the crew force out, the crew force for those 65 orbits is 10 per orbit, 10 crews per orbit. And -- and --
Q: (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Well, it's -- that includes sensor operators. It includes -- it includes pilot-to-crew ratio for aircraft, actually, so it's 4 times 10 times 65. In any case, so we don't do math in public here, at some point, we will cross paths.
But, Elizabeth, let me just make this point, please, that certainly for your and my -- you know, as long as we'll be able to read and write, that manned aviation will be a part of the chemistry here, because at least for the near term, the remotely piloted aircraft capability is not for contested air space. It is a benign air space capability.
And so when -- when and if we're challenged, in the [anti-access/area denial] environment that you referred to earlier, this is why manned aviation -- F-35s are a case in point, B-2s another -- where they will be a part of our force structure. I would estimate at least for a generation-and-a-half, 30 years probably, maybe -- maybe more, probably not less.
And I guess the -- you know, I would just point out that -- would you put your grandchildren on a remotely piloted passenger-carrying aircraft?
Q: No. But I don't have grandchildren.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Well, if you did -- right. If -- if you did, I think the point is that -- that there are some things we're not yet prepared to do, and it's not that it might not happen at some point, but it's not a near-term eventuality.
Q: (off mic)
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: OK, let's get one with Amy. We'll get one with Tony, and then we'll call it a day.
Q: I actually wanted to ask you about space. The space domain has become congested and much more complex than it was even five years ago. Are you confident that not just the Air Force, but the DOD, the government writ large has a cohesive plan for dealing with what is a potential denial of space activities on which we are so reliant, not only in procurement, but in operations and policy, writ large?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Sure. I -- we're not sitting on our hands. Space situation awareness, Amy, is an essential ingredient to mission assurance in space. And so we're moving out in that area, maybe not quite as aggressively as some would like, because there are resource constraints. But it is important to know, if you're under threat, and it is -- it was -- it is equally important to try to attribute the source of that threat.
And -- and so there is both a deterrent value to space situation awareness, as well as a -- you know, as a mission assurance value. So bottom line is, absolutely, we know what the trend lines look like, and we're working diligently in a number of areas both in terms of the up and down links, in terms of on-orbit capability, and so on, to provide space situation awareness to strategic command and to the operators of the platforms.
Q: (off mic) I've asked that question of several senior leaders over the years, as I've been covering space, and everyone goes immediately to SSA as their answer. Obviously, that's the first pillar, in a sense, of our presence there and increasing our presence there.
What about offensive counter-space, defensive counter-space, those other elements that are so critical to when you do have an attributable event, you can react appropriately? What is your sense of our plan there?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I would just say that that's part of the plan.
Q: Profound. Thank you.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Now, I'm not -- I'm not being deliberately evasive. The deal is there are some things that are easier to talk about than others.
Q: (off mic) people reading the transcript who aren't schooled in living in Washington are going to wonder, what's he talking about? General Welsh said this at the hearing -- (inaudible) -- the Air Force has a trust problem. What is the trust problem, allegations that you're misleading lawmakers or pissing them off because of your plans or what?
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: I think there is -- you know, there is a sense perhaps that we surprised some of our lawmakers, that we -- we didn't -- didn't succeed in avoiding the tension that evolved out of this program period as well as we might have, so that they would not have had to intervene to the same degree in order to -- to resolve some of the issues.
I think that -- that the reality is, is that there are some who question whether our motives for the relative reductions between the active-duty, the Guard, and Reserve, whether -- whether that was truly analytically based or whether that was, you know, the -- whether there were other motives involved.
And -- and I think, again, that that one of Mark's chores will be to -- should he be confirmed -- will be, again, to reassure the lawmakers that we are one Air Force, that we rely on all three components of our Air Force, and that the balance between these components is driven fundamentally by a concern for overuse of any one of those segments of our Air Force, and that -- that sizing them properly means that you can sustain this, this capability, that people will stay in our Air Force, airmen will stay, and -- and that our -- that the -- that the expertise and the continuity that we need will -- will be a part of the equation going forward.
So fundamentally, this is -- this is a question of reassuring those who make these calls that -- that we have our stuff together, that this was not capricious, that it wasn't thoughtless, and that it wasn't motivated by ill intent. OK?
Ladies and gentlemen, let me just wrap up by once again saying I started here at that platform behind me in the fall of 2002. It's been a wonderful ride. Suzie and I have -- it's been a privilege. We've loved every minute of it, some days better than others, obviously. But you need to know that -- that like your profession, this profession is about our airmen, soldiers, sailors, and Marines, and -- and there is a great future out there for our youngsters in space, in [remotely piloted aircraft], yes, in even, yeah, in acquisition, too, and that -- and that the leadership, I think, John, just to go back to your point earlier, Mark and Betty Welsh will be absolutely worthy. And I -- and I do hope that he's confirmed here quickly.
Thanks very much for your time.