Top Air Force generals address Airmen's concerns

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Monique Randolph
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Recapitalization, creation of an Africa Command, unmanned aerial vehicles and deployed Airmen were just a few of the key issues discussed during a four-star forum at the Air Force Association 2006 Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition here Sept. 24.

Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff, was joined by Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, the vice chief of staff, and 11 major command commanders at the forum. 

This forum "offers us a chance to listen to and address the things that concern you," General Moseley said. 

The first topic of discussion was recapitalization and modernization of the Air Force's aging aircraft fleet.

"We have a huge fleet out there that's averaging 24 years for fighters and 40 years for (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms) and bombers," said Gen. Ronald E. Keys, the commander of Air Combat Command. 

Budget constraints prevent the Air Force from purchasing aircraft at a rate necessary to replace the aging aircraft. The older the aircraft become, the more maintenance they require, leaving even less money to purchase new aircraft, he said. 

"We're not modernizing as quickly as I would like," said Gen. Arthur J. Lichte, the commander of Air Mobility Command.

General Lichte sited the C-5 Galaxy Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program, as well as the Air Force's top acquisition priority, the KC-X, as examples of programs that have progressed slower than leaders had hoped.

"We have to recapitalize and we have to modernize, and we have to do it quickly," General Lichte said.

Air Force leaders also discussed the creation of an Africa Command, a unified combatant command with the mission of overseeing military operations on the African continent.

In addition to providing the essential role of airpower, Airmen will play a significant role in fighting HIV and AIDS by assisting at AIDS testing centers that Defense Department officials plan to open in the southern part of Africa.

"We will continue to formulate and fight the war on terrorism, help with disease control and (form) partnerships which are very important to future stabilization in the region," said Gen. William T. Hobbins, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe.

Another topic of discussion was the use of unmanned aerial vehicles within DOD. DOD officials recently decided to assign a joint UAV oversight task force to coordinate operations between the services.

General Moseley said four issues must be resolved concerning UAVs: The need for a single concept of operations throughout the theater to standardize tactics, techniques and procedures; a streamlined process for the acquisition of UAVs; airspace control and deconfliction to operate manned and unmanned systems in the same airspace and achieve the maximum, desired effects; and air defense.

"All (those challenges are) emerging into the future as we begin to get more and more systems that are more and more capable into the battlespace," General Moseley said.

Steps are being taken to resolve these issues, but there is more work to be done, General Moseley said.

In addition, the generals addressed concerns about Airmen performing jobs typically carried out by soldiers, called "in-lieu-of" taskings. While these taskings will not go away in the near future, Air Force leaders are making strides to ensure the Airmen tasked are trained and capable, General Moseley said.

"The notion that the Air Force is a member of the joint team being able to contribute when and where we can is a constant and a given," General Moseley said. "The challenge is providing people with the core competencies that meet the requirements defined by the theater."

General Moseley said U.S. Central Command officials define the requirements for in-lieu-of taskings, which Air Force officials then try match with Airmen who already possess the required skill sets. Air Force officials are also taking steps to ensure the Airmen are not placed in jobs they are not trained to do once they arrive.

"We are very sensitive to sending people out to do something that is not part of their core competencies," he said. "We will continue to be very vigilant in ensuring our people are trained to do what we send them to do." 

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