Transformation and Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

  • Published
Well, thank you Congressman Miller (R-Fla.) for that very kind introduction, General Reimer (Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs), and General Stenner (U.S. Army, Ret.), and distinguished guests. Let me add my thanks to all of you as well for taking the time out of your busy schedules to be here today. I really am pleased to take this opportunity to showcase what the great men and women of the Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance community are doing for our nation's security today. As the congressman mentioned, this is also an opportunity to address a subject that's getting somewhat of attention of late, and that is how the Department of Defense can move to the next level of jointness, service inter-dependence, if you will, by designating the Air Force as the executive agent for medium- and high-altitude UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). So I'll give you a couple of my thoughts on that subject as well.

Related to all the above, this seminar title of transformation has particular significance with regard to Air Force ISR, so that's where I'd like to start. As many of you are aware, the threats that we face today are much more complex than the predictable one we faced in the Soviet Union. This reality, combined with fiscal imperatives and the maturation of our air and space capability, is the driving force behind your Air Force reforms and realignments in the realm of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. We spent the last century figuring out how to rapidly strike any target, anywhere, day, night, all weather, around the globe. Today, the real challenge is no longer how to engage, but, rather, what kind of threat does one want to achieve, lethal or non-lethal, against what, or whom, and where. In other words, today we may be witnessing transformation in the relationship between supported and supporting with respect to the traditional notions of operations and intelligence. By way of example, when we took out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq last June, that operation consisted of over 600 hours of Predator time, followed by about 10 minutes of F-16 time. The find, fix, track and target part of the equation in this case took far longer, and was much more complex than the engage part. So, are operations supported by intel, or is intel supported by operations? I would tell you that in the 21st Century intelligence is operations. And that's part of the rationale behind our Air Force Chief of Staff (General Moseley) establishing Air Force A2 as a three-star deputy for the first time in our history. Previously in the Air Force, the intel job, the top intel job, was held by a two-star. This move is a reflection of how critical Air Force ISR is as we face a future of significant security challenges.

Today we need to ferret out our enemies from among civilian populations, mountain caves, tents in the desert, and the like. They're not massing on the other side of the Fulda Gap (Germany). They're diffuse, deceptive, and elusive. As a result, Air Force ISR is one of the most critical weapons we have at our disposal. Accordingly, General Moseley charged me to (develop the) A2 way-ahead for assessing where we've been and where we are and where we need to go. I parsed that task into three major study areas: ISR capabilities, organization, and personnel. I made my recommendations to the chief. He accepted those, and now we're on our way forward in what I call our major muscle moves in these areas. So, let me give you some insights into each one of these as we move forward.

In terms of ISR capabilities, we are making a major modification in how we manage our Air Force ISR resources. Historically, I think all of you are very familiar with this, we tend to define ISR and our program capability by program elements. These program elements are structured according to platforms. So, we've worked the planning, the programming, and deployment aspects of ISR based on platform types: U2s, RC-135s, Predators, and the like. But now we're embarking on a resource management approach that's based on capabilities. After all, it's a capability that a ground force commander is looking for to achieve a particular objective. The platform that supplies it is immaterial. There are still a number of details that we're working to implement into this new construct, but the end-state is the governance, planning, and programming of ISR as a consolidated, functional idea. The platform approach has too often resulted in difficulties ranging from lost potential synergies to the fielding of system components that can't talk to each other. 

In the fight against today's enemy, we can't afford to bleed off any air speed, and some of the problems created by thinking in platform vice to capability are akin to flying with your speed break out (deployed). Now, one form of transforming ISR capabilities does deal with platforms and insuring we maintain our technological edge over our adversaries. While we have a virtual limitless capability and capacity for high-tech innovation, we are constrained by what are not limitless fiscal resources. So while we're going forward with developing new technologies and fielding the new capabilities, we're simultaneously extending the useful eyes of the ISR workhorses that you've already become so familiar with. 

Our nation's premier Air Force Signals Intelligence platform, the RC-135, for example, is undergoing spiral upgrades and modifications that guarantee is valuable contribution for years to come. And we're looking into explaining how ISR potential of our targeting pods at virtually every combat aircraft that we fly now employs. There are many other examples in that regard. Highlighting the need to focus on capabilities versus platforms, the programming and implementation of new resources will make sure our ISR capability portfolio will increase overall. It's important to remember that the capabilities resident in the platform rolling off the line today are much greater than the platforms of the past on a one-for-one basis. This is a significant point that some overlook when assessing bang for the buck of various Air Force platforms. Instead, folks tend to generally only focus on the buck piece. For example, as we begin to retire our U2s from service, service that started in the 1950s I would remind you, we have already brought Global Hawk online. Relative to the U2, the technological advances of Global Hawk will allow us to increase the duration of one mission from the nominal eight hours to over 24 hours, increase range, provide greater area coverage, more sensor availability, and conduct signals, radar, and imagery collection simultaneously from one aircraft on a single mission. All capabilities will result in greater effects for our joint warfighters.

But while I'm on it, the prime example of how far astray the myopic platform price logic will lead you is evident with the F-22. There's been no shortage of F-22 criticism claiming that it's too high-tech, read that expensive, for today's enemy, or there's no enemy fighter to justify the F-22. Regarding the lack of a comparable enemy fighter, would these critics rather we make our weapons choices in favor of ones where the enemy has the same or better equipment? But more to the point of capabilities is that arguments only consider the F-22 as an air-to-air fighter, the implication being that if there's no significant air threat it's an unnecessary expense. However, I will tell you the F-22 is not just an air-to-air platform. And here's where traditional nomenclature strains understanding of capability. I will tell you that it's not an F-22. It's an F/A/B/E/EA/RC/AWACS-22 (airborne warning and control system). It's a flying ISR sensor that will allow us to conduct network-centric warfare inside adversary battle space from the first moments of any conflict, in addition to its vast array of attack capabilities. 

And, the fact that it's not opposed by like fighters means we can make use of those robust capabilities all the more. From that angle, the expense argument loses steam pretty quickly, as does the no- comparable-enemy-jet argument. It's the focus on capabilities that will dispel the myth that there's no place for the F-22 in securing our nation's security future. It's more accurate to say there's no place it can't go. My point is that our focus needs to be not on platforms, but on providing optimal, maximized, and seamless ISR capabilities for the benefit of our nation, and that's where we're headed in our Air Force.

Now, regarding what General Moseley refers to as our most precious resource, our personnel, we've undertaken a number of initiatives to maximize their contributions. We've updated and modernized existing courses to build and reflect a new operating environment, and we've created entirely new training programs based on feedback from the field. We're continuing to invest in technologies and architectures that give us the ability to reach back vice deploy forward. Our distributed common ground stations, perhaps more descriptively called ISR exploitation centers, have been a real success story in this regard, as an example of transforming the notion of needing deployed personnel in order to achieve war-fighting effects. Benefits include faster and higher quality intelligence processing, reduced deployment frequency for our people, and thus improved quality of life and opportunities for additional training. 

Such reach-back allows us to keep the bulk of our footprint at home while delivering effects and capabilities to anywhere on the globe. In other words, this system allows us to project capability without projecting vulnerability. The significant personnel concern that we're also addressing is the need to better position our officer corps to assume joint and national leadership positions in the intelligence community. Consider that over 50 percent of our more than 19,000 total force intel Airmen are assigned to agencies outside the Air Force but that only four of the roughly forty general officer corps positions in the joint and national (intelligence) communities are filled by Air Force officers. In fact, the last time a combatant command J2 was an Air Force officer was over six years ago. That's simply not desirable from a joint perspective. So, to that end, the Air Force is planning on building a bigger bench of intel general officers viable to compete for senior joint and national intel positions.

Final major muscle-move area. In the realm of organization, the precursor to implementing a new ISR resource-management construct is the organizational restructuring that it necessitates. But there are other elements to the organization piece of ISR transformation. Most notably, we're realigning some of our most significant ISR organizations and elements across the Air Force. The goal here is two-fold. First, to rewire the organizational diagrams that have evolved over time. These structures are complex. They slow down information flow. And, in some cases, they've resulted in convoluted command linkages. And second, we need to give Air Force ISR a single voice. With a complex spaghetti-like organizational structure, there is simply no ISR focal-point, no distinct entity to paint a coherent picture of our capabilities for joint, national, and coalition partners. Therefore, I requested, and the Chief of Staff approved, designating the Air Force A2 as a Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. The intent here is to provide a single ISR focal-point at Headquarters Air Force, minimize process seams, and establish an advocate for ISR.

Okay, that last point wraps up my broad-brush overview of the major near-term muscle moves of our way ahead. There are many others that I plan on addressing with a longer-term horizon. For example, our nation's aerospace forces now have the ability to impose effects at a rate much greater than we can assess those effects using traditional battle damage assessment. So, I've charged my staff to explore how we might accomplish effects-based assessment. We need to figure out how to task our growing stable of ISR capabilities resident on platforms we generally associate with other tasks, sometimes those non-traditional ISR. Effectively doing so will get to the heart of what I touched on earlier regarding capabilities-based approaches to planning and employment. But this is a good branching-off point to the other main topic that I want to touch on, and that's General Moseley's proposal that the Air Force be assigned executive agent responsibilities for meeting the high-altitude UAVs.

But first, what I want to do is, given some of the misinformed statements that are floating around on this subject, I think it's instructive to briefly review the way America fights its wars, which, summarized, essentially boils down to this: our individual services do not fight wars. We have combatant commands who appoint a joint force commander who's responsible for doing that. Jointness means that among our four services, a separate array of capabilities is provided to the joint force commander. His or her job is to assemble a plan from among these many capabilities applying the right force, at the right place, at the right time for a particular contingency. It does not mean four separate services deployed to a fight and simply aligned under a single commander. Neither does jointness mean that everybody gets an equal share of the action. That will be contingency dependent. The reason joint force operations create synergies is because this inter-dependent approach allows each service to focus on and hone and offer its own core competencies. The notion is to be likened to doctors concentrating on healing the sick, and firemen focusing on rescuing people from burning buildings. Growing out this analogy, such an approach means joint force commanders have, at their disposal, the ability to both put out fires and cure sick people no matter which is needed where, and both these important tasks are being performed by specialists in their fields. 

The unfavorable alternative to inter-dependence is to have firemen also attempting surgical procedures and physicians darting in and out of blazing structures between seeing patients. When a single service tries to achieve warfighting independence, instead of embracing inter-dependence, jointness unravels, warfighting effectiveness is reduced, and costly redundancies and gaps likely abound. The last thing we need to do is turn the clock back on Goldwater-Nichols (Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986) by allowing the services to develop redundant capabilities, thereby rejecting the premise of joint warfighting. General Moseley's request for appointment of the Air Force as Executive Agent for the medium- and high-altitude UAVs aims to harness the Air Force's proven experience and success in this mission area.

The benefits of the proposal fall in three areas. First, it seeks to deliver the greatest UAV ISR products to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines by optimizing the use of medium- and high-altitude UAVs. Second, it aims to achieve increased acquisition effectiveness by unifying procurement for medium- and high-altitude UAVs through an Executive Agent. And third, it champions interoperability by creating an agency with the authority to synchronize architectures data links and radios for all UAVs operating above the coordination altitude for a particular theatre. So, if we briefly look at the rationale behind each of these areas, starting with the request for designating the Air Force as Executive Agent for medium- and high-altitude UAVs, the primary focus of the executive agent would be on programs where the majority of DOD near-term investments were being made, with the MQ-1A Predator, the MQ-1C Warrior, RQ-4 Global Hawk, Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS), and the MQ-9 Reaper. 

Today, for these systems, the DOD has, or will have, multiple UAV program offices, multiple independent training operations, multiple logistics and maintenance operations, multiple intelligence support facilities, and multiple procurement contracts. As Executive Agent, the Air Force would merge and streamline these separate efforts, eliminating costly duplication and decreasing premium and procurement cost resulting from much greater economies of scale. Savings would accrue. But the $64 million question is 'how much?' The current Jane's Defense Weekly cites Mr. Krieg, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics as stating that consolidating Warrior and Predator alone in one acquisition program has the potential to save $400 to $600 million. That does not address consolidation of BAMS and Global Hawk and the MK-9. Additional savings could be achieved through common basing, training, sustainment, and employment. 

The beneficiaries of this move include the American taxpayer, the Department of Defense, and the services by freeing up resources for them to invest in their own core competencies. With respect to the rationale for interoperability, it's important to understand that the Air Force believes that each of the services should be able to field as many small UAVs with local effects as they want to meet the needs of their units. Now, UAV flights, like many aircraft flights, must be coordinated to ensure deconfliction with other air space users, and to ensure area air defense. To do that, a field coordination altitude is used, above which all aircraft must be visible to the air space control authority. Assigning the executive agent responsibilities to a single service will facilitate interoperability between the different service's platforms and the joint force air component by assigning that as one of its responsibilities.

Finally, the most important element of the Air Force position is maximizing the effectiveness of medium- and high-altitude UAVs for the benefit of our joint warfighters. Joint Pub 2.0, Intelligence Support to Joint Operations, states "Because intelligence needs will always exceed intelligence capabilities, privatization of the effects of ISR resource allocation are vital aspects of intelligence planning." The Air Force agrees that the demand for unmanned aerial vehicles exceeds supply, and will continue to exceed it even after the services build all their program UAVs. This reinforces the notion that the best possible way to get ISR from medium- and high-altitude UAVs to our joint warriors is by allocating a capability to where it is needed most across the entire theatre. It argues against assigning medium- and high-altitude UAVs organically to units that will preclude their benefit to the entire theatre joint fight. If you will, consider an analogy of a city area of 50 blocks, where the mayor owns five fire trucks. If the mayor designated one truck to one block, his five fire trucks would only be assigned to five blocks. That's the approach our friends in the Army would like to take. 

The joint approach, which the Air Force supports, would leave it up to the mayor, or the joint force commander in this case, where to allocate the five fire trucks based on which blocks need it the most. Today, every operationally-designated medium- and high-altitude UAV in the Air Force is dedicated to Central Command, where there are no such things as Air Force targets. The only targets that are a part of the joint campaign, the appropriate joint task force commanders, who happen to be Army generals in Iraq and Afghanistan, allocate those, not the Air Force. So, if the Army has a problem with the way those medium- and high-altitude UAVs are allocated, it has an issue with the Army joint task force commanders, not the Air Force. It's also important to recall that the War on Terrorism, by definition, is global. At some point, medium- and high-altitude UAVs will be allocated to theatres other than Central Command, perhaps in locations without significant U.S. ground presence. Now the Army plans to assign medium- and high-altitude UAVs to each division, which means that if the division isn't in a war zone, then neither are the UAVs. 

The joint approach, applicable in any region of the world, is already a part of all combatant command's joint force operational constructs. The objective of the Air Force approach is to get medium- and high-altitude UAV ISR distribution to be just as transparent as a GPS signal is to all the services. GPS is 100 percent owned by the Air Force, 100 percent operated by the Air Force, and yet it's used by all the service components without any concern. We can do that with medium- and high-altitude UAVs.

It's instructive to note how medium- and high-altitude UAVs are actually used today. Air Force component-provided Predators are routinely tasked to conduct tactical operations for our forces on the ground. When a sniper was pinning down Marine Corps ground forces in Iraq, a Predator UAV, flown by Air Force personnel from Nevada, spotted and identified the insurgent. The Predator delivered video of the sniper's location directly to a Marine controller in the fight, and he used that video to direct a Navy FA-18 (Hornet) into the vicinity. When the Navy jet's laser bombs were guided to the enemy position by the Air Force Predator laser designation of that target, it eliminated the sniper. This engagement took less than two minutes.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is what joint warfare is all about. And the Air Force proposal on UAVs is all about getting the most out of our ISR resources to increase this kind of capability to America's sons and daughters on the ground, at sea, and in the air, while promoting service interdependency and the wisest use of America's taxpayer dollars.

Okay, that concludes my prepared remarks, and I guess I've left little doubt as to how I feel about our need to embrace a joint approach to warfighting. I'd be happy to entertain any questions, and I'd also be certainly interested in hearing your perspectives on the subject. Thanks for your attention.