Checkmate: Strategic studies group supports leaders

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The Air Force chief of staff announced June 4 the establishment of a new Air Force strategic studies group at the Pentagon that will carry a familiar name -- Checkmate.

The new Checkmate will act as a catalyst for strategic initiatives and directly support the chief of staff and Air Force leaders with independent, critical assessment of proposed strategic actions. 

It will also act as a focal point for interaction with joint, interagency and research communities around Washington, D.C.

"Just as the old Checkmate once served a 'red team' function at the operational level, the new Checkmate will provide independent, alternative analysis at the strategic level," Gen. T. Michael Moseley said.

Since its inception in the 1970s, Checkmate has been a cross-functional planning and analysis organization on the Air Staff that has taken on various roles depending on the needs of the Air Force's senior leaders. What has been constant is the use of Checkmate to give Airmen the edge they need in tomorrow's as well as today's fight by looking across the spectrum of conflict. In that capacity, it has helped counter the tendency to "fight the last war."

The group will be composed of 15 to 20 military and civilian members whose mix of expertise will range from eminent authorities in defense and academic circles to respected practitioners of air, space, and cyberspace power. General Moseley said he sees an important role for the group in officer and civilian development.

"It will serve as an incubator -- not just for new ideas -- but also for future leaders and strategists for the Air Force and the joint community," the general said. 

Gen. William L. Kirk, the former commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and an early leader of the organization that became Checkmate, sees many parallels between the new Checkmate and the old. 

"We were able to talk across the Air Staff and interagency process," General Kirk said. "Our initiatives often had Air Force-wide impact, so you had to have the right kind of people."

The new Checkmate will be closely linked with existing functions on the Air Staff, including strategic planning, strategic communication, public affairs, legislative liaison, studies and analysis, and air and space operations. "We're not growing the staff or adding a redundant organization, rather, we are adding a complementary capability that will act as a catalyst for new ideas and initiatives in conjunction with the current processes," General Moseley said. 

The group will also have a link to the Air University Research Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. AURI will do the deeper research on and independent analysis of key national issues as it works in concert with the new Checkmate to complement and supplement their work on air, space, and cyberspace power issues.

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