Allvin adds detail, texture to plans for reoptimizing the Air Force

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin offered a forceful – and deeper – explanation for plans to reshape and “reoptimize” the service and for why it’s necessary during an appearance Feb. 28 at the Brookings Institution.

“The strategic environment compels us to do this. Otherwise, we find ourselves in a situation next year, then the year after, and the year after that, where we fall further behind,” he said.

Allvin’s session at the influential think tank was his first since becoming the Air Force’s highest ranking military officer and two weeks since the service’s leadership unveiled a broad and ambitious plan to reconfigure the Air Force and Space Force to better confront China.

“We assessed that we are really optimized for an era that has bypassed us,” Allvin told the Brookings audience. “There are still threats from around the world but the pacing threat, the one that could have an existential impact to our nation and our way of life, is one we need to get after.

“When we look at the environment we find ourselves in, we say ‘Ok, if we’re going to build the U.S. Air Force from scratch, what are the attributes you’d want in that air force?”

The changes, grouped under four broad categories – Develop People, Generate Readiness, Project Power, and Develop Capabilities – are designed to make the services more modern, more integrated, more agile, and more likely to adapt as needed to new threats without delay.

That means, Allvin said, putting the changes in place as quickly as possible even if it means questions are not fully answered and every possibility understood.

“It may be unsatisfying to some because we are rolling this out without having a national, signed official document stating what everything will look like,” he said. “But I do believe that is something we need to embrace as an institution -- as a government -- to be able to solve for agility. Don’t confuse precision … with accuracy.

“If you know you’re headed in the right direction and adjust along the way, you get to a better destination,” he said.

Like other senior leaders, especially Department of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Allvin agreed that there is an urgency surrounding putting in place the most substantial change in the recent history of the force and that action must be taken without delay.

“We feel very confident in the general direction. But we don’t have the final answers and that’s ok. We feel very confident in the direction we’re going,” he said.

Allvin said the changes are designed to ensure the Air Force has an integrated organization, adaptability, and agility and that it can, “seize new technologies rather than contemplate them as they go by,” he said.

“You want a mission over function focus to understand what’s the best for a true, single air force design. That’s how we came up with these four areas for how we want our Air Force reoptimized,” he said.

Allvin noted that the changes are for the most part “budget neutral” so they can be designed and put into action without delay.

That reality reflects concerns by Allvin and other senior leaders that budget delays and disruptions by Congress are worrisome.

“The one thing we really lose is time and our ability to be able to spend our precious resources on things that we depend on in order to keep pace,” Allvin said in response to a specific question about delayed and uncertain budgets.

Despite unanimous agreement among Kendall, Allvin and other senior leaders for the changes and ambitious pace of change, unexpected events are unavoidable.

Allvin experienced that firsthand during his session at Brookings when demonstrators repeatedly interrupted his remarks protesting U.S. policy in Gaza. In several cases they mentioned by name the active-duty Airman Aaron Bushnell who set himself on fire at the Israel embassy in Washington and later died.

Allvin ignored the demonstrators as they were removed but later, in response to a question, called Bushnell’s death “a tragedy” and stated, “we lost one of ours,” while noting the incident is under investigation.