Kelly speaks on accelerating change at Air Force Association panel

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  • By Air Combat Command Public Affairs

During the 2021 Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium, Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, shared remarks during a panel on “Accelerating Change Across the Air Force,” Feb. 25.

Kelly discussed how ACC is working to accelerate change to remain relevant and credible for both today’s and tomorrow’s fight. In addition, he emphasized the Air Force should make significant changes to instill a warrior culture and harness the importance of the electromagnetic spectrum for the future of warfare.

“Neither air superiority nor victory are American birthrights,” Kelly said. “Both are at significant risk. And then of course, the required sustainment apparatus to ensure that our warrior culture, credibility, capacity and capability are resilient. Because fragility anywhere is going to be vulnerability everywhere.”

ACC is focused on five key requirements of a modern peer-war fight to execute Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” action orders. Four of them being warrior culture, credibility capacity, and capability.

To develop leaders who can build and articulate intent and feel comfortable enough to delegate down to the lowest competent level, the Air Force has to instill a expeditionary warrior culture, according to Kelly, referencing Brown’s Action Order A: Airmen.

“We cannot have fragile Airmen,” Kelly said. “They have to be resilient and adaptive. They must be afforded time to train together as a cohesive team before they are required to fight together as a cohesive team in any location.”

As Airmen entrusted with this nation’s security, implementing change in warrior culture and ensuring the credibility of recurring combat skills has become imperative to the endurance of the Air Force.

“It requires changing agile combat employment from episodic to reoccurring and mainstream,” Kelly said. “It requires change where training against the contested electromagnetic spectrum isn’t a contingency, it’s actually the norm.”

The Air Force is not as powerful as what it owns on a spreadsheet. Rather, the service is only as powerful as what it can project forward, protect, sustain and credibly operate, Kelly continued.

“Our combat Air Force fleet is twice as old as the United States Navy’s,” Kelly said. “That means every day, we (ACC) are hemorrhaging readiness to care, feed and supply an older fleet.”

Chinese and Russian advances in stealth, weapons and precision navigation are all credible gains, but is not what keeps the general up at night.

“Our adversaries’ ability to operate across and jam across the EMS is significant,” Kelly said. “Their EMS advances, combined with 5G, quantum computing and artificial intelligence are what they will use to close their red kill chains and what they will use to break blue kill chains.”

Referencing a quote from Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, a British military commander of World War II, “If we lose the war in the air, we lose the war and we lose it quickly.” Kelly contends “that if we lose the war in the electromagnetic spectrum, we are going to lose the war, and we are going to lose it quickly.”

Changing the understanding of the United States’ adversaries is essential to the progression and enhancement of agile combat airpower.

“I, for one, am confident that we will generate better solutions once we acknowledge the real possibility of losing a peer fight,” Kelly said. “Or to quote President Biden last week when referring to China, ‘If we don’t get moving they’re going to eat our lunch.’ Our combat Air Force is strong, but when it comes to ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’, our theme for today, if you don’t like change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more, and you’re going to outright hate a kinetic defeat.”

In closing the general highlighted the Airmen that the Air Force has to help reinforce the mantra “Accelerate Change or Lose.”

“If we are committed to staying relevant, if we are committed to win, we have to change along with our adversaries,” Kelly said. “We have phenomenal Airmen that are ready to adapt expeditionary warfighting. Our training regimen can and will adapt to contested ops. We have great high-end capability, but it needs to stay cutting edge, it needs to thrive across a multi-spectral environment, and it needs to become more affordable.”

Other senior leaders on the panel included:
Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander, U.S. Forces Europe & Air Forces Africa
Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, commander, Pacific Air Forces
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, commander, Air Force Materiel Command
Gen. Timothy M. Ray, commander, Air Force Global Strike Command
Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, commander, Air Mobility Command
Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander, Air Education and Training Command

To listen to Kelly’s full remarks, visit to find the Accelerating Change Across the Air Force panel.