|SECAF Talks Weapons, Air Force Issues During Visit|
SECAF Talks Weapons, Air Force Issues During Visit
By Tech. Sgt. David Donato, Air Armament Center Public Affairs.
Eglin Air Force Base, Florida -- (AFPN) March 20, 2002 -- During a visit to the Florida Panhandle March 14 and 15, the Air Force’s top civilian stopped here and presented his views on Eglin’s role in the war on terrorism, the Air Force’s transformation journey and the ongoing issue of retention.
Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche was one of several key Air Force leaders who attended the Air Force’s fourth annual Air Armament Summit in Sandestin, Fla. The two-day event brought together more than 450 people from the national and international armament communities to chart the future of air-delivered weapons.
Precision-guided weapons have played an important role in the war in Afghanistan, Roche said. The Air Force has dropped more than 8,500 tons of weapons in the conflict and nearly 75 percent of those weapons were precision-guided, the type of weapons for which Eglin is known for developing and testing, he said.
"Weapons have to be such that they are precise," Roche said. "If they are not, then we’re going to get ourselves in trouble. Therefore, Eglin's role in developing and testing these types of weapons is pivotal in the future challenges ahead.
"The hallmark of a successful armament center is going to be one that is very agile and very anticipatory," he said. "Weapons will change fast through the pipeline. One of the most important things is for Eglin to be able to adapt quickly to make changes to develop weapons that fit conditions (under which) we're fighting."
For any Air Force organization to meet the challenges of the 21st century, Roche said the organization needs the skills, knowledge and resources to accomplish its mission.
"The success of the future of the Air Force rests with providing Air Force members what they need to become more modern and more efficient," he said. "That's why the Chief of Staff put us on this transformation course.
"This is a new millennium. The cold war is over," Roche said. "Now we need to sit back and ask ourselves the fundamental question, 'what more radical change needs to be made?'"
Since the transformation journey began, Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper have been soliciting ideas from the field for smarter ways to operate the Air Force.
One idea may result in a policy change which will allow enlisted people the opportunity to attend the Air Force Institute of Technology. AFIT is a graduate school historically attended by military officers and civilians only.
"That idea was brought to me by a young sergeant during a visit to Langley (Air Force Base, Va.)," Roche said. "Enlisted people will go to AFIT not to become officers, but to become more knowledgeable in their field. That will pay off for us in a lot of ways.
"Good ideas have been coming in from all over," Roche said. "If there is a smarter way, then General Jumper and I would like to know about it."
Roche said the war on terrorism has actually accelerated the transformation process.
"We're doing things now that we didn't envision doing a year ago," he said. "We are setting goals, like being able to have intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance over part of a country seven days a week, 24 hours a day for a year."
Aside from the war on terror, Roche said the biggest challenge facing the Air Force is recruiting and retaining people.
"We have to make careers in the Air Force fulfilling and something that people really want to do," he said. "If we lose a qualified technician at the 13-year mark, it takes us 13 years to replace him. We can buy things, but we can't buy a technician with 13 years experience.
Roche suggests several ways to attract and retain quality people are in the works including offering vast education opportunities, housing improvements and pay increases with asymmetric raises for career enlisted and officers.
"We are trying to find ways to retain people," he said. "We've got a…recruiting program to recruit specialties like scientists, engineers and air battle managers. We want to fix the Air Force."
It is more than money that makes people stay, Roche said. "It's making people feel that they have input and that input is valuable even though they may be an engine mechanic. As for new people coming into the Air Force, we will value them, their judgment and their sense of commitment. We'll make sure they know that it's going to be a great ride."