Brown provides update on Air Force’s effort to ‘accelerate change’ to meet global security challenges

  • Published
  • By Charles Pope
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Emphasizing themes that are now familiar, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. said in a Sept. 12 speech to an influential audience that the service must continue to change to meet the challenges of today’s complex security environment or “risk losing the certainty with which we have defended our national interests for decades.”

Highlighting efforts that have been his focus since becoming the Air Force’s highest ranking military officer, Brown’s remarks to the Air & Space Forces Association’s 2023 Air, Space & Cyber Conference carried an air of nostalgia given his nomination to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Today I want to reflect on the journey of the last three years, on our accomplishments (and) how we are accelerating change,” Brown told an overflowing conference hall filled with several thousand Airmen, Guardians, industry leaders, elected officials and others.

He thanked “my wife of 34 years,” Sharene Brown, and his two sons. “They never raised their right hand to take an oath but like many family members, they have sacrificed more than we probably realize.”

He credited his parents for providing the “inspiration to join the Air Force,” saying, “four years in the military wouldn’t hurt me.” He added, “Mom and Dad, you were right.”

Most of the speech, however, was dedicated to detailing progress on Accelerate Change or Lose, Brown’s 2020 blueprint for the Air Force, which has been characterized by four ‘action orders’ aimed at developing Airmen with the attributes needed for a high-end fight, reducing bureaucracy and streamlining decision-making processes, reshaping the service’s culture and mindset to address strategic competition, and designing the force required for the future.

“Throughout my tenure as Chief of Staff of the Air Force, I’ve been focused on accelerating change,” he said. “Change is a journey, and the journey must continue to ensure we remain the most respected Air Force in the world.”

The goals are to infuse speed, innovation, and efficiencies while fostering collaboration, he said. By example, Brown offered that the service’s official doctrine was re-written and condensed.

“We took the old doctrine and slashed the length to 16 pages,” he said. “We included mission command as a key tenet. But a culture of mission command doesn’t just happen because it’s in our doctrine. Airmen and leaders must practice mission command daily, using simple scenarios to build confidence ahead of complex challenges found in combat.”

Brown also emphasized the importance of collaboration.

“We must collaborate across the Joint Force, interagency, with industry, with our allies and partners. We must be integrated by design, starting at the beginning with the end in mind,” he said.

Brown itemized successes to help Airmen, such as evolving “command and leadership selection processes” and changing “enlisted promotions to better value experience,” among others.

“We have the best Airmen in the world, and we must continually focus on creating an environment where all Airmen can reach their full potential,” he said.

On efforts to reduce bureaucracy, Brown noted that the service’s tattoo policy was relaxed, leading to an average of 1,300 more Airmen a year. And, ongoing efforts to make acquisitions more rapid and maximize multi-year procurement will provide benefits by “making sure we can seize opportunities when we see them and giving clear demand signals to industry.”

Of his focus on “competition,” Brown said the definition needs to be applied broadly. “Competition isn’t just about orders of battle, operations, activities, and investments. It is how we accelerate our understanding of our adversaries, how they make decisions through an emphasis on competitive thinking and comparative analysis so that we can better deter and be prepared for conflict.”

In the real world, that means emphasizing Agile Combat Employment, or ACE, which uses smaller, nimbler, and multi-capable forces and tactics, and conducting more challenging exercises.

Brown harkened toward the implementation of the Air Force Force Generation model, publication of the Air Force Future Operating Concept, and establishment of the Department of the Air Force’s seven Operational Imperatives as evidence of the service’s transition from the present-day force to the force required.

Those achievements are important and necessary but not sufficient, Brown said.

“Today, with the convergence of security challenges impacting the current and future geostrategic environment, change must continue. We’ve changed before, and we can do it again. We know Airpower is the answer, and that we are the most capable, most respected Air Force in the world,” he said.

“Change is a journey, and the journey must continue to shape our future.”