ISR invests in infrastructure, Airmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
Increasing demands for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, coupled with limited funding across the Air Force, were discussed during the Air Force Association’s monthly breakfast Feb. 18, in Arlington, Virginia.

“What we’re facing here in our nation is certainly one of the more challenging environments I’ve seen since I put on the uniform,” said Lt. Gen. Bob Otto, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR. “The unconstrained demand for what we bring to table – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – within the limited budget, is creating some very difficult times.”

In 2006, the Air Force presented 11 combat air patrols (CAPS) of full-motion video, meeting approximately half of the combatant command’s requirement, Otto said. Today, at 65 CAPS, the Air Force is meeting about 21 percent of Central Command’s ISR requirement.

“When you look at that situation, something has changed,” he said. “There’s been a dramatic shift in the role of ISR for the forces, and ISR is the first line of defense; it’s more important than it ever has been.”

Otto said under sequestration it will be very difficult for the ISR mission to meet all the requirements of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance.

"When you have 75 percent of your ISR assets engaged and 100 percent of your MQ-1B's (Predator) and MQ-9's (Reaper) and analysts, how would you describe that?" he asked. "If you simplify our Defense Guidance to Defeat a regional adversary while denying an adversary in another region, I think what we are doing now in CENTCOM is a "Deny" operation. We're not 'all-in' on an adversary - this is not major contingency operations. So, what's left if we had to do the 'defeat?' It's very challenging for our Air Force. We have got to modernize our force."

Some of the modernization efforts include keeping the U-2 Dragon Lady until 2019, to facilitate a smoother transition and allow upgrades to the Global Hawk’s sensors.

“We want to rebalance and optimize integrated ISR capabilities – today and tomorrow,” Otto said. “We’ve got to get enough maneuvering room to make some changes from the force we are today to the force that we need to be tomorrow.”

The general recognizes the shift to prepare for tomorrow’s fight requires a balancing act, across all mission sets of ISR. The changes needed in collection; analysis; targeting; cyber, space and operational intelligence; architectures and Airmen encompass innovative ways of doing the mission while keeping good faith with ISR Airmen.

“We’ve got to teach the fundamental tradecraft so that we can turn intelligence products to inform the (Combined Forces Air Component Commander) on a timeline that’s relevant to him or her in their fight,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to have good training – you have to work through the requirements and we need to be able to make some decisions on how good is good enough and how much risk are we willing to take.”

ISR Airmen constitute about half of the Airmen who operate in the Air Force’s cyber missions, Otto’s concern is by spreading them too thin, some of the best ISR Airmen will be lost to an improving economy.

“The Airmen in ISR have a high satisfaction rate,” he said. “They love what they do and they do it extremely well. These are smart Airmen and they have choices, especially with an improving economy.”

Otto plans to provide some relief to ISR Airmen in the way of increasing certain bonuses, decreasing CAPS from 65 to 60 and find a more systematic approach to provide relief.

“They stay with us because they’re patriots,” he said. “We need to give them a break. We’ve been surging, essentially, for the last seven years – we did take a year off, but barely felt relief down at the crew site. We need to give them a reason to stay, because they love what they do.”