Air Force contributions to our military and our nation
Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz
World Affairs Council of Wilmington, Del.
Thank you for that kind introduction; and Michael, thank you for the invitation. It truly is an honor to address this distinguished organization. I sincerely appreciate your hospitality today, and I am grateful for your support of our brave men and women in uniform, as well as of their families. They have served our country nobly, and continue to serve with great distinction.
And just when we thought that we could not ask any more of our service men and women, particularly in light of our sustained wartime footing over the past decade, they answered the call yet again, in another landmark year.
Consider that, a year ago at this time, Tunisian President Ben Ali had just been toppled. Eleven days after he fled to Saudi Arabia, mass demonstrations began in Cairo, on the 25th of January. At the time, we could not have appreciated the full breadth and scope of what was to become commonly known now as the "Arab Spring." Top U.S. government and military leaders monitored the events closely as they unfolded across Northern Africa, and observed the movement as it swept into the Levant and Arabian Peninsula.
But on the 19th of March, your United States Air Force became directly involved in the Arab Awakening, when operations to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya kicked off, two days after the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1973.
What many might have since forgotten is that the U.S. Air Force and Armed Forces already were conducting surge operations some fifty-five-hundred miles away, providing humanitarian and disaster relief to our friends in Japan. Performing brilliantly, Airmen were singlehandedly and concurrently responsible for evacuating 7,500 American citizens from hazardous zones, delivering 60 percent--some five million pounds--of U.S. relief supplies, and providing a measure of comfort after multiple concurrent disasters began with the earthquake and tsunami.
When you consider that, all the while, the Air Force remained fully engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, commencing with another major operation in yet another theater of operations was not a trivial matter.
With Airmen contributing more than 65 percent of all coalition sorties in Libya--specifically, 99 percent of operational airlift, 79 percent of in-flight refueling, 50 percent of airborne reconnaissance, and 40 percent of strike missions--this really was our own version of "March Madness." One truly would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling example of the Air Force's ability to provide strategic flexibility and versatility in all of their dimensions, all at the same time.
As we meet the challenges of the moment, the U.S. Air Force and Armed Forces are strategizing and planning responsibly for the future, so that our men and women in uniform can perform as brilliantly as they have done in the past decade, and certainly in this past year.
Today, I would like to share with you some thoughts about the new Defense Strategic Guidance, which addresses this issue and other matters. I'd also like to describe the capabilities that the Air Force contributes to that strategy and, more broadly, to our core national interests. Throughout my remarks, I will refer to the challenges that we face--geostrategically and fiscally--and comment on their potential implications for the future.
Defense Strategic Guidance
As you know, on January 5th, President Obama and Secretary Panetta announced the new Defense Strategic Guidance after a comprehensive reevaluation of our national interests and the role that the U.S. military will play in achieving those interests. Although the broad contours of our national security interests endure, many specific features have evolved.
And they continue to evolve, due to a dynamic geostrategic environment, uncertain economic circumstances, the proliferation of destructive technology, and the diffusion of regional centers of influence. For example, as a Nation, we are renewing our emphasis on the Asia-Pacific.
With its 13 time zones and more than 100 million square miles, this expansive region is rich with economic and diplomatic opportunities that are vital to our core national interests. Our rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific will emphasize our existing alliances and relationships while we expand our network of cooperation with emerging potential partners.
From an Air Force perspective, we will continue to strengthen our long-standing partnerships, such as with Australia, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines, and to continue developing burgeoning relationships such as with India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Through these air force partnerships, we will work to leverage the unique characteristics of airpower to support our Nation's, and mutual, strategic interests.
But even while we recognize the opportunities in the Indo- and Asia-Pacific, we remain focused on the epicenter of violent extremism: in the broader Middle East and South Asia.
Of particular concern is the proliferation of ballistic missile systems and weapons of mass destruction, which the Air Force is helping to address by, among other ways, collaborating with the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Army and Navy on integrated air and missile defense architectures where our interests are potentially threatened by these developing systems.
The President and secretaries of State and Defense have also emphasized Gulf security, which the Air Force will support through its robust partnerships with the air forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Meanwhile, we will maintain our commitments and advance our long-standing alliances in Europe. Our European allies remain our principal, most stalwart partners in global security, with whom we will work to bolster, even further, the vitality of NATO and of broader transatlantic integration, across security, economic, and diplomatic dimensions.
In maintaining our Article 5 commitments, we will promote fair burden-sharing and enhanced interoperability toward greater future collective capabilities. This represents, in part, our strategy toward overcoming deliberately-planned reductions in capacity that are necessary due to ongoing resource constraints.
Working with our European allies, as well as with other global partners, we will seek to develop an enhanced, "smart defense" approach that capitalizes on our ability to specialize, share, and pool capabilities toward collective effects.
In addition to strengthening interoperability with selected key global partners, the U.S. military will also continue to increase Joint interdependence. This strategy will enable a smaller and leaner, but more flexible, agile, and ready force, that can withstand and adapt to evolutions in the strategic, operational, economic, and technological spheres. And through enhancing our networks--both institutionally and technologically--across the services and with diplomatic, development, and
intelligence agencies, we can be more responsive with whole-of-Nation efforts to address our multi-faceted challenges.
A fitting example of enhanced, more strategically-focused collaboration is our ongoing efforts on the Air-Sea Battle concept. As potential adversaries are pursuing strategies and investments in technical capabilities that are designed specifically to challenge our access to, and ability to maneuver in, areas where we have national interests, our Nation's advantage in establishing and maintaining air superiority, sea control, and access to forward bases is being threatened. And therefore, so is our global power projection capability. Ultimately, these calculated A2/AD pursuits could create areas that effectively would be off limits for the U.S. military.
So as the new strategic guidance rebalances from a land-intensive focus to a broader maritime environment--with air and space above one-hundred percent of it--we find that it is ever more crucial to create an enhanced and enduring partnership between the Nation's air and sea services.
This initiating concept for Air-Sea Battle represents the logical evolution of U.S. combat arms, to remain relevant, effective, and on the cutting edge in the 21st Century.
Air-Sea Battle also enables the global reach of our Nation's humanitarian and disaster relief capability, which is unparalleled in its depth, breadth, and scope--bar none. This capability is priceless in terms of extending our Nation's goodwill and generosity of the American people to the world--especially in times of crisis.
The implementation of this concept will help to maintain U.S. freedom of action across the full range of missions, including non-military; enhance our power projection capability in defense of U.S. and partner-nation interests; and preserve our access to the global commons--in particular, vital lines of communication and transit that are beyond any nation's sovereign control.
On the fiscal side, ongoing efforts in Washington to bring our deficit spending under control have made it all the more important to be extremely efficient, even as our primary consideration is operational effectiveness--which is why it is vital that we remain prepared to execute the primary missions of the U.S. Armed Forces as prescribed in the new Defense Strategic Guidance as our most critical.
In short, this strategy is a reflection of our belief that national security and fiscal responsibility are not mutually exclusive--and the result of a comprehensive and deliberative evaluation of our national objectives and priorities. We have no illusions about the road ahead being easy, but we are focused on maintaining an agile, flexible, and effective force that remains prepared to defend America and her interests.
Air Force Contributions to Our Military and Our Nation
There are essentially four core contributions that the U.S. Air Force integrates into the Nation's military portfolio of the Joint team, and how I foresee that they will contribute to the new strategy: (1) domain control; (2) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; (3) air mobility; and (4) global strike. These four core contributions--plus our unparalleled ability to command and control air, space, and cyber systems--have a proven track record of sustaining our Nation's military advantage in the face of emerging threats. I'd like to describe each of them briefly.
Domain control of air and space--and of cyberspace, to the extent necessary to perform our core missions--is a Joint enabler of the first order, and is long recognized as an essential precondition to successful land and maritime operations.
Freedom of action in air and space means that our Joint teammates can accomplish their missions without the threat of adversary attack from above.
And for nearly a half-century now, the Air Force has seen to it that our teammates have been able to do so.
So whether friendly naval forces are helping to secure vital lines of communication and transit, or marine forces are conducting amphibious operations, or special operations forces are executing counterterrorism missions, or large ground forces are conducting major land campaigns, they all expect the Air Force to continue providing mission-essential domain control of air and space, across the full spectrum of operations. This expectation has now been articulated formally in the new Defense Strategic Guidance.
It is important to note that domain control of the air and space has implications that are far beyond military significance only. The United States remains as the world's only genuine air and space nation--the first to take to the skies over Kitty Hawk in manned powered flight, and the first to descend onto the Sea of Tranquility from an unprecedented space flight that not only inspired our Nation but captivated the world. In the intervening decades, our Nation has become uniquely dependent on air and space power for its diplomatic, commercial, and other non-military requirements.
Affording America with an unparalleled decision-making advantage, from strategic planning to battlefield tactics, is Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or "ISR." Your Air Force safely and reliably operates an extensive mix of aircraft and satellites with powerful sensors that provide unparalleled data-collection capability.
Moreover, Airmen provide expert processing and exploitation of staggering volumes of raw data and timely dissemination of usable intelligence, benefitting the national decision-maker and battlefield commander alike. Clearly, in the last 10 years, Air Force ISR contributions--particularly, from our remotely-piloted systems--have been ascendant, evolving from a larger-scale, theater-level focus, to now also supporting small-unit engagements, providing the distinct advantage of being able to detect, and sometimes eliminate, potential danger that's lurking around a corner, over a wall, or on a roof. With Air Force ISR, the guesswork that is reduced substantially for friendly ground forces could be a matter of life or death.
Air mobility--both the capability to get friendly forces to the fight, and also to extend the range of airborne strike platforms--is a core Air Force capability that not only enhances Joint effectiveness, but also underpins the Nation's global reach and power projection capability.
Air Force airlift--whether transporting humanitarian relief supplies or wartime materiel--is unrivalled in its ability to move massive amounts of cargo with unparalleled speed to distant locations all around the world, while in-flight aerial refueling gives us the ability to project power at intercontinental distances and to provide persistent overwatch once we arrive. Put another way: our assets can get to the fight, and then can remain in the fight as an ever-present threat to adversaries.
And finally, with our ability to conduct global strike, the Air Force provides the Nation with the ability to hold at risk any target on earth. Air Force conventional strike forces compose a significant portion of the Nation's strategic deterrent,
imparting a sense of vulnerability to potential adversaries, and providing national leaders with a range of crisis response and escalation control capabilities. And through the Air Force's continued stewardship of two of the Nation's three legs of the nuclear triad, Airmen will directly support the Defense Strategic Guidance's emphasis on deterring aggression and maintaining a safe and effective nuclear deterrent. Considered all together, the Air Force's ability to conduct global strike enables the Nation to address emerging threats, deter potential aggression, and ultimately, enhance global stability.
Collectively, these Air Force contributions, including the ability to command and control the air, space, and cyber systems that provide these capabilities, can be summarized as providing the Nation with Global Vigilance, Reach, and Power--a holistic construct that describes the interconnected and interdependent core contributions of your Air Force.
The Nation has come to rely on this strategic flexibility to create desired, timely, and precise effects at times and places of our choosing, and your Air Force is committed to providing it, even as current combat operations wind down. Note that historically, as land forces withdraw from active combat, the relative requirement for airpower typically increases.
Illustrative of this is the fact that Airmen have sustained combat operations for two decades, dating back to the opening salvos of Operation DESERT STORM. When our brave, unrivaled ground forces that fought the brilliant campaign returned home weeks later, America's Airmen launched operations NORTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN WATCH, thereby maintaining America's toehold in Iraq for a dozen years, until ground troops were ordered back for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM in 2003.
This decades-long combat operation in the skies over Iraq demonstrates that American airpower is not a birthright, but rather is the result of the dedicated, unremitting work of our Airmen. As we continue our responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan, we likely will be continuing to meet their requests for airpower training and other operational support, as we did for our Iraqi counterparts, long after significant U.S. ground presence has diminished.
As President Obama has stated, "Our Nation is at a moment of transition." While we have made great progress in dismantling and disrupting al Qaeda, the U.S. Armed Forces remains ever vigilant for continuing security threats stemming from violent extremism, proliferating technology, and instability relating to ongoing struggles in the global economy.
And we will further strengthen our partnerships with U.S. government agencies that are responsible for intelligence, diplomacy, and development, enabling better orchestrated and more effective whole-of-Nation efforts to shape the security environment and pursue our core national interests.
Leading and pursuing this effort on behalf of the Nation are dedicated, operationally-tested service members, supported by their remarkable family members. On their behalf, I express sincere gratitude for your continued support of the U.S. Armed Forces and for your wonderful hospitality. Thank you again for the opportunity to share with you today some thoughts on the path ahead for the National Security Community in all of its many dimensions