CSAF: Air, Space and Cyberspace Conference 'jump starts' Air Force's future vision

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chyenne A. Adams
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz kicked off his portion of the 38th Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis-Fletcher Conference on National Security Strategy and Policy in Washington, D.C. , Jan. 20 by addressing air, space and cyberspace power in the 21st century.

The strategy conference was attended by Air Force senior-level officials, senior military sister service officials, foreign military officers, leaders in academia and science and other distinguished visitors.

"In this room, we have a wide array of leaders and thinkers who have contributed to our nation's worldwide leadership and prominence in air, space and cyberspace," the general said. "We, as professionals in this dynamic field, have an obligation to protect and uphold that legacy of leadership and innovation and to continue considering how we can best leverage and integrate air, space and cyberspace power to protect our nation against current and future security threats."

The chief of staff spoke about the U.S. Air Force's "unique brand of air-mindedness" and the contributions the service has made, and continues to make, to national security.

General Schwartz said the Air Force's most significant and enduring contributions to national defense -- global mobility; long-range strike; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities -- require stewardship so that they may be applied to today's challenges and developed for employment in the future security environment.

The chief of staff said the Air Force must be able to operate across a spectrum of conflicts, using a myriad of warfare tools and tactics, while keeping up with advancing technologies and the ways our adversaries use them.

"This demands that the United States Air Force set a clear vision of how it will move to meet emerging threats and fulfill evolving requirements," he said. "We must establish clear priorities for investment and yes, divestment, all while corresponding to strategic and fiscal realities." 

General Schwartz stated his intent for the Air Force to remain agile and able to act in response to current affairs while being ready and able to respond to any number of potential contingencies. He also said that this flexibility is essential to the Air Force's ability to maximize its contribution to the joint team and ensure its success.

"While this is a conference on air, space and cyber power, we must remember that national defense is a total team effort," he said. "Further joint integration and inter-service cooperation toward enhanced air-land and air-sea interoperability remains a top strategic imperative."

The general noted that issues the services face are even greater now due to rapidly advancing adversary capabilities and because threats are not confined to any single domain. He asserted that only a coordinated response from all the military services will deliver what is required for national security.

"As we further integrate, the benefits are not limited to a single domain," he said. "Airpower makes surface warfare better, and land and sea power enhance the effectiveness of air forces."

He gave examples of current projects where the Air Force and Navy are working on ways to better integrate maritime interdiction operations, anti-submarine warfare and missile defense.

"These types of advances represent new territory into which we will venture to provide battlefield commanders with even greater capabilities, especially in irregular warfare environments," General Schwartz said. "In this ever-increasing complex landscape, we must leverage every bit of capability that we have, and that we will develop."

The general cautioned that this capability cannot be taken for granted, as peers and potential rivals also continue to advance their capabilities.

"We must consider that our advantages will not be unmatched or asymmetric for an indefinite period," he said. "And our systems must be more agile and responsive to combatant commander's needs."

To ensure the continued viability of air and space operations, the general discussed options for operating from distributed bases across the globe and for delivering balanced capabilities through smaller, tailored forces.

While forward locations have operated under relative security over the last 20 years, the general said the nation's adversaries actively seek weaponry to threaten that advantage.

"As we move forward, the Air Force must actively protect itself against emerging vulnerabilities," he said. "Our operations cannot grind to a halt for want of a degraded or denied system, or a scarce resource."

He used the Air Force's reliance on information technologies as an example and said that this capability enhanced the service's ability to maintain unprecedented situational awareness but also created vulnerabilities that must be addressed and mitigated.

Air Force Research Laboratory physicists also are exploring new technologies to move the Air Force toward achieving accurate navigation systems that aren't so dependent on global positioning system technologies.

Another area of vulnerability the general discussed was the service's dependence on petroleum.

"The Air Force consumes more petroleum each year than any other agency in the U.S. government and thus is the most susceptible to energy price volatility and disruption of logistics lines," he said. "Each 10-dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil equates to a 600-million-dollar increase in fuel costs to the Air Force."

Air Force engineers continue to field innovative technologies to provide energy to bases, reduce their logistical footprint and research transformative propulsion systems for future platforms, according to the chief of staff.

General Schwartz addressed the growing demand for near-real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from remotely-piloted systems, and the continued requirement for timely airlift and air refueling.

"Approximately 75 percent of our Predator-class unmanned aircraft are currently deployed, and we continue to surge more into Afghanistan and Iraq...," he said. "We're adding another 300,000 flying hours to the 600,000 we have already accumulated."

When discussing air mobility, the general used the current example of rapid air mobility response to the ongoing humanitarian operations in Haiti.

"I am extremely proud of our Airmen, who immediately lent their substantial expertise to help the Haitians regain air traffic control and manage airfield operations in Port-au-Prince; enabling U.S. C-17 (Globemaster IIIs) and C-130 (Hercules), and aircraft from a host of other nations, to rapidly deliver vital lifesaving and life-sustaining emergency supplies," said the general.

"Yet again, in critical moments, American airpower has made, and will continue to make, a significant difference."

The general thanked all the experts for their collective efforts for national security and the success of the Air Force, asking them for new ideas on how to better the credibility and viability of the Air Force's contribution to the national security strategy.

"Our Air Force has the following overriding imperatives: to increase our capabilities, decrease our vulnerabilities and enhance our integration with our joint and coalition partners," General Schwartz said. "We commissioned this conference to jump-start our look to the future, to re-energize a service with a proud heritage of innovation."