Posturing Our Air Force for the Future
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley
Remarks at the Air Force Association's 27th Annual Air Warfare Symposium & Technology Exposition, Orlando, Fla.
Thank you for that kind introduction. It is indeed an honor to be here today. Reflecting on this week, which is not yet over, I counted about 18 Members of Congress whom the Chief and I either called or met with, and that was before yesterday's posture hearing before the House Armed Services Committee. So, I would like to start this morning by sincerely, sincerely thanking you for this invitation to be here in Orlando.
Founded before our US Air Force became a separate service, and a significant force in making that service a reality, AFA remains an important influence as an advocate and supporter of our Air Force. I am honored to join such an impressive list of speakers from industry and government to highlight aerospace technology and education. Thank you AFA for all you do; you do it very, very well.
This event is timely. In just the last two weeks we have rolled out a new National Security Space Strategy and a new National Military Strategy; and this week has kicked off the budget season in earnest. Just yesterday General Schwartz and I testified before Congress on the Air Force's current posture and FY12 budget.
This morning I will review again the status of our most significant priorities. Many of you have heard them before, and I apologize in advance if I sound like a broken record. But the fact is that General Schwartz and I believe we have these priorities about right. Addressing these priorities is an ongoing, multiyear effort; and, while we have many short and longer-term tasks and objectives to deliver, this set of priorities helps to keep us focused on the big picture. Today I'll update you on the status of our work in these areas, and the road ahead.
Before doing so, I should note that in our interactions with Members of Congress over the past few weeks, General Schwartz and I have noted a distinctly different budget climate this year. Congress has begun a serious and most likely protracted debate over the national debt, persistent annual budget deficits, and priorities in the federal budget.
In this context, Secretary Gates was more than prescient in setting DoD to the task of finding over $100 billion in internal savings and efficiencies that could be shifted from lower priority tail to warfighting tooth over the Future Years Defense Plan. While I will not describe our $33 billion piece of that total today, I would note that
--as an Air Force that has reshaped it's mission sets to meet shifting and growing wartime requirements, while at the same time reducing our active duty end strength by 26 thousand personnel over the past 7 years;
--as an Air Force with aging equipment inventories and many competing requirements for modernization, but living with essentially flat budgets;
As this kind of Air Force, we recognize the continuing imperative to get the most of all the resources we are provided. We are absolutely committed to implementing the efficiencies now planned; we recognize that some may yield less than we have projected, some may yield more; but we will stay after it and continue to look for additional opportunities for savings and efficiencies going forward. This will certainly be an interesting budget year.
Strengthen the Nuclear Enterprise
First, we continue to strengthen the nuclear enterprise. Air Force Global Strike Command reached Full Operational Capability this past September, completing the alignment of ICBMs & nuclear capable bombers in a single MAJCOM to provide safe, secure & effective combat-ready forces for nuclear deterrence and global strike operations. We've also continued progress in our management and oversight of nuclear weapon related material and in the inspection process. But the brief communications outage affecting some of our ICBMs at F.E. Warren last October was a reminder that we cannot for a moment take our eyes off this mission. Our missileers, maintenance, and technical teams did some excellent work in isolating the problem; and we are satisfied that the root cause analysis done by the Operations Review Board has identified the necessary technical and procedural actions necessary to prevent a recurrence, and that work is now underway.
We have a number of important investment efforts in this area and I will not mention all of them. But I would note that most of them involve sustaining and upgrading what are inherently older systems that will eventually need to be replaced. The immediate work ahead this year includes more detailed attention to the managing the human capital so essential to supporting the nuclear enterprise, working with the Navy and DoD to streamline the Personnel Reliability Program, following through on plans for sustaining nuclear capabilities well into the future, and sorting through alternatives for lower levels of deployed ICBMs and nuclear capable bombers consistent with the ceilings outlined in the New START Treaty. In all these respects, our Air Force Nuclear Oversight Board has an active agenda.
Partner with the Joint and coalition Team to Win Today's Fight
Second, our priority of partnering with the Joint and coalition team to win today's fight has been fundamental to successes in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the past year. With nearly 34,000 Airmen deployed to contingencies across the globe, 28,000 of whom are supporting the fight from 63 locations in CENTCOM, we have supported the Joint and coalition team with over half a million hours flown in theater in the last year, averaging over 400 sorties a day...as well as with nearly 60,000 sorties dedicated to protecting the homeland since 9-11. We remain as committed as ever to providing the Global Vigilance, Reach, and Power that enabled the successful transition in Iraq from combat operations to a train and support role, and the surge in Afghanistan.
Our race to provide warfighters with increased ISR continues as we support up to six Combatant Commands daily. Our MQ-1/9 RPAs currently provide 48 ISR CAPs working to find, fix, and finish an elusive, embedded, and tenacious adversary. They also supported troops in contact over 400 times this last year with kinetic attacks, but the numbers don't tell the story as much as the ground forces that are still around to talk about it, do. Meanwhile, high-altitude RQ-4s flew 7,000 combat hours, and provided over 140,000 images to our Joint and coalition partners. Also, the last of 30 MC-12 Project Liberty aircraft is now deployed in theater and supporting the fight , and we will use funds saved by efficiencies to normalize MC-12 funding from contingency operations to the Air Force base budget.
As CENTCOM has shifted resources between Iraq and Afghanistan, requirements for Global Reach remained high. Supporting the drawdown in Iraq and the 30,000 troop plus-up in Afghanistan, Mobility Airmen performed superbly with outstanding aerial delivery, air refueling, and aeromedical evacuation support.
Airdrop operations in Afghanistan have doubled every year since 2005 and grewto a record 60.4 million pounds of fuel, food, water and ammunition delivered to austere locations throughout the country last year. We also airlifted 850 million pounds of supplies to support forces in theater.
AMC Airmen also fueled the fight as tankers set a new record for air refueling in CENTCOM, offloading 4.5 million pounds of fuel to aircraft on a single day and a staggering total of 1.5 billion pounds of fuel in 2010.
Finally, Aeromedical Evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams gave lifesaving care to wounded warriors, swiftly moving nearly 21,000 patients out of theater to advanced care. Last Sept. 28th, the US House of Representatives honored our aeromedical evacuation Airmen with a resolution commending the fact that the aeromedical evacuation system has garnered a 98-percent survivability rate since 9-11, the highest in US history, with an average of nearly 10 potentially life-saving missions a day.
The fight to save lives this year also extended to humanitarian relief in Haiti, Chile, and Pakistan where we delivered over 45 million pounds of life-saving food, water, and medical supplies, transporting more than 45,000 passengers and nearly 300 patients, and brought the air refueling capability to make that all happen.
Once to the fight, Global Power from the air, from space, and in the cyber domain are brought to bear in the Joint and coalition fight.
This year we deployed new capabilities to the fight, like AFSOC's CV-22 and Dragon Spear modified MC-130s - which were fielded from test to combat in six months, to fill a critical armed overwatch requirement until new AC-130J models are fielded. And, the fleet of light and medium SOF intra-theater aircraft grew by 20% this past year as a system of choice for discrete missions.
The Joint fight also continues with unprecedented support from space. We continued our record with the 76th consecutive successful national security space launch just this month.
And, we continue to support operations with cyber operations and defense. The 24th Air Force achieved Full Operational Capability status in October and was designated Air Forces Cyber. We also graduated the first class of cyber warriors from Undergraduate Cyberspace Training.
Even with this record of success, our continued capability to balance today's and tomorrow's requirements dictates that we continue to modernize and recapitalize of our air and space inventories with priorities that to us are clear.
Modernize our Air and Space inventories, organizations & training
Execute the Tanker Recapitalization Contract
First, we must recapitalize the tanker fleet. As we posture for the future our mobility assets will remain central to joint, interagency, and coalition expeditionary operations in peace and war. In the last year, we solicited and received proposals for the KC-X tanker. And, despite the inadvertent release of some information, we are confident that the integrity of the process has been maintained, and that we are positioned to make a source selection soon.
Implement the Joint Strike Fighter Restructure and F-16 SLEP
Next, we must implement the Joint Strike Fighter Restructure and more closely assess the need for F-16 service life extension. JSF procurement continues to be challenging, and OSD has de-coupled testing for the Marine's Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing variant from the other two so as not to slow progress. And, because the final assembly process at Ft. Worth is still maturing, and because slowing production reduces concurrency risk while development and testing are continuing, the production rates will remain at relatively low levels.
Another enhancement we will implement from efficiency savings is the procurement of additional F-35 simulators. This will improve realistic 5th generation aircrew training, improve operational capability and safety of flight, and help reduce the total operating cost of the F-35. The F-35 training syllabus will rely heavily on the use of simulators as an effective and efficient alternative to augment aircraft flight hours and accelerate the transition to the F-35.
Given a further delay in F-35 deliveries, we are beginning a deeper assessment of the need for F-16 service life extension; however, decisions on how to proceed are not required until the FY15 timeframe. This work represents prudent planning on our part; but our strategic intent remains to increase F-35 production as soon as practicable and avoid unnecessary investments in legacy fighters.
Field ISR systems
Our third acquisition priority is continuing to field more ISR capability. As the demand for ISR continues to grow, the Air Force is aggressively evolving ISR capability to support combat operations. While we currently support 48 medium altitude Combat Air Patrols, or CAPs, we will reach 50 CAPs by this September, and are committed to 65 by 2013.
We will also take a closer look this year at how best to size and balance our full portfolio of ISR assets in the future, including how best to balance ISR capabilities across the spectrum of conflict with both manned and unmanned systems. In active response to today's urgent operational needs, in pushing forward additional breakthroughs in new technology using rapid acquisition processes, and fueled by supplemental appropriations, we have developed a wide range of new ISR sensors and platforms. As resources diminish, we need to rationalize this work and develop a balanced portfolio for the future.
And our ISR forces are not just key to today's fight, but will be a critical part in the Long Range Strike Family of Systems of the future, another acquisition priority for the Air Force.
Support the LRS Family of Systems Program of Record
Maintaining the ability to hold virtually any target on the planet at risk is fundamental to the President's National Security Strategy as a conventional and nuclear deterrent against aggression around the world.
LRS as a "family of systems" creates desired effects across the full range of military operations with the integration of ISR, electronic attack, communications, munitions, and strike capability. In the family of systems, we must ensure appropriate redundancies while avoiding unnecessary duplication, to maximize effectiveness and efficiency. One of the most important impacts of our efficiency savings across the FYDP, is that it has given us the opportunity to begin a new long-range, nuclear-capable, penetrating bomber program.
In contrast to the previous Next Generation Bomber program, this long-range bomber will leverage mature technologies to deliver on-schedule and in sufficient quantity before the current fleet ages out. We will constrain requirements, lower technical risk, put more emphasis on affordability, and use an established, streamlined model for program management and oversight . Envisioned to accommodate manned or unmanned operations, we expect to build between 80-100 of these aircraft, with deliveries to begin in the mid-2020s. It is our intent to protect the technical details of this program with appropriate security measures.
Execute the space systems and launch capability acquisition strategy
The President's National Space Policy and the recently released National Security Space Strategy continue to reinforce the importance of the space domain to the U.S. and to our joint and coalition operations. And in this domain roughly 85% of DoD's space resources are in the Air Force. Space accounts for ten percent of our total Air Force budget, but over 20% of Air Force investment. And we have a significant number of space-related initiatives on our agenda, aimed at improving capabilities, reducing costs, and building stronger interagency, international, and industry partnerships.
Working in coordination with NASA and the NRO, we added over $3 billion across the FYDP to stabilize procurement of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle at five DoD launch cores per year to assure access to space for both military and other government agencies, and to stabilize the industrial base. We will also work with industry partners to reduce the costs and broaden alternatives for access to space.
We have also proposed a new Evolutionary Acquisition strategy for Space Efficiency, or EASE, to permit block buys of satellites and related components, in order to stabilize procurement and normalize research and development in critical areas of this highly specialized industrial base. We will work with Congress this year to develop the necessary multi-year and advanced procurement authorities to begin this effort with the proposed buy for AEHF-5 and 6, and later extend this to SBIRS-5 and 6, and other platforms.
EELV, AEHF, and SBIRS are DoD's largest space programs, so progress on containing costs and stabilizing the industrial base for these programs is essential. To support this work, strengthening the space acquisition workforce is also a priority for this year.
Proper oversight and management of these modernization and
recapitalization efforts is essential, so we continue to make recapturing acquisition excellence an Air Force priority in order to be both more effective, and efficient.
Recapture Acquisition Excellence
The Acquisition Improvement Plan from May 2009 established five initiatives designed to increase rigor, reliability and transparency across the AF acquisition enterprise. 2010 saw significant progress toward improved acquisition processes to deliver better outcomes. We continue to revitalize the acquisition workforce, improve the requirements generation process, instill budget and financial discipline, improve source selections, and maintain clear lines of authority and accountability within acquisition organizations.
The Acquisition Workforce has increased by one-third over the past three years, from 24 thousand to 32 thousand personnel. Critical training courses have been doubled, and Tuition Assistance for acquisition-related civilian education increased to full reimbursement, and the number of Program Executive Officers has expanded from 5 to 16. We were very gratified last September when Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics, Dr. Ashton Carter, encouraged other components to emulate the Air Force AIP.
Develop and Care for Airmen and their families
As much as I have talked today about the work we have to posture for today and tomorrow and hedge against uncertainty and lean budgets, our greatest guarantor of success remains our Airmen.
Twenty-five percent of our Air Force budget goes to military personnel costs, and developing and caring for our Airmen and their families remains a very high priority. Last summer we completed the comprehensive review we called the Year of the Air Force Family. The results of that work highlighted the importance of Airman resiliency, strengthening our sense of community, and supporting Airmen with exceptional family situations. We continue emphasis on housing, education, health and fitness, and other elements of strong communities, while at the same time addressing the challenges of suicides and sexual assaults, and the need to improve diversity in our ranks.
Taking care of Airmen and their families is an Air Force priority because it is on their shoulders that we prevail in today's fights, prevent and deter others, and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. And, it will be their insight and innovation that will drive much of way we organize, train, equip, and operate to meet future challenges.
As I close today, it is clear that we are and will continue to be challenged by this rapidly changing world we live in, and the fiscal realities which will constrain us from buying our way out of it. But, clearly, we will meet the challenges, as we have always done, because of the men and women in this room, and the great Americans across the globe who serve our Air Force, and our Nation and all that she stands for. As ever, I remain confident in our future, and it remains an honor to serve with you in the world's finest Air Force.