The Future is Now
The Future is Now -- A Perspective on Air and Space Power in
21st Century Conflict
at the Command Chief Master Sergeant Conference, Gunter Annex, Maxwell Air Force
Base, Ala., April 25, 2003, by Dr. James G. Roche, secretary of the Air
Thank you Chief (Gerald R. ) Murray for that kind
introduction. I'm delighted to be here with the senior enlisted leaders of the
world's greatest Air Force. And what better moment in history could there be
than now to spend time with the Air Force's Command Chiefs as we culminate a
tremendously successful performance in combat by the men and women of the United
States armed forces. I also have been asked by (Air Force Chief of Staff)
General John Jumper to extend his respects and best wishes to each and every one
Let me begin by thanking you, and the 700,000 or so active,
Guard, Reserve and civilian airmen you represent who serve our nation. Our
airmen were absolutely vital to the success of the recent campaign in Iraq. They
demonstrated to the American people -- and to the world -- an impressive level
of commitment, remarkable sense of competence, and steadfast professionalism.
Along with their counterparts in the Army, Navy and Marines, as well as our
coalition partners, they have done a service for our nation and the world from
which many generations will reap the benefits. They put their lives on the line
to defend our interests and our values. They did so without wavering for a
moment, despite the grave risks and the extraordinary costs. As we gather today,
we should remember that 132 Americans have given their lives in this war -- so
far. They join the thousands of servicemen and women who have reminded us all
for over two centuries that freedom is definitely not free. Our British allies
have also suffered fatalities and casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Many of you are personally familiar with the human cost of
this war; in terms of families affected by the uncertainty of long deployments
in dangerous settings and, most assuredly, in terms of lives lost. There can no
longer be any doubt that we are an Expeditionary Air Force -- we have, as of
today, over 47,000 airmen serving at expeditionary bases in the AOR, a couple of
thousand additionally in the Pacific, plus another 60,000 airmen permanently
You are there when the families are separated. You are the
voice of the Air Force in the town hall meetings, commanders' calls, and other
forums where our airmen and families gather to get the facts about deployments
and operations. You have spent a considerable amount of time over the past few
months -- and since Sept. 11, 2001 -- preparing our airmen and leading them in
conflict. You are the sounding boards, trusted agents, and often, the conscience
of our commanders as they deal with the challenges of sending men and women into
harm's way, and keeping their bases operating smoothly here at home. You are the
men and women who support our families and unit leaders when the call comes
telling us that an airman was killed -- whether in combat or, all too often, in
You train, you inspire, you counsel, you sustain, you
discipline and, most importantly, you lead -- and for all of your tireless
efforts, we are the world's greatest Air Force. We just proved it once again,
not only in the skies over Iraq, but in the Pacific and Europe, in Afghanistan
and Africa, in the jungles of the Americas, and in the defense of our homeland.
General Jumper, Chief Murray, and I could not be prouder of what you do, and for
all that you do, we offer our sincere thanks and my humble applause.
Today, I want to spend a few minutes sharing my thoughts on
how our combat air forces have performed and bring you up to speed on some of
the things we are doing to improve the quality of life for our airmen and their
Some would argue that our world changed 19 months ago when Al
Qaeda attacked us on Sept. 11. I don't see it that way. Rather, this attack was
another manifestation of the persistent threat posed by radical fundamentalist
ideologies and state-sponsored terrorism. For nearly two decades, starting with
the U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983, Americans have been the victims of a
relentless progression of deadly attacks. For those of us charged with
protecting America, these realities have forced us to redefine our enemies as
well as our concepts of defense. It is these new challenges -- challenges that
were intensified, but not created by the events of 9/11 -- that underscore the
value of our Air Force to our nation.
The capabilities we deliver -- global reconnaissance and
strike, and the mobility assets that make it all happen, often in
enemy-controlled or politically sensitive areas -- these are exactly what
America needs at this time in our history. Operation Noble Eagle -- over the
United States -- began the moment the Air Force was notified of the Sept. 11th
hijackings. Operation Enduring Freedom, our fight against terrorism, began less
than a month later. The Air Force made possible distant operations in a
landlocked nation. Everything going into Afghanistan moved by air, even the
Marines that came ashore via ships transferred to Air Force aircraft to be flown
into Afghanistan. In short order, but not without costs, we liberated that
nation and have set it on a course of reconstruction. In the past month in Iraq,
we have again liberated an oppressed people and have begun the process of
rebuilding in a very difficult tribal and political climate. But we will succeed.
Our Air Force has been a major reason for these successes.
You have done a wonderful job in the war on terrorism as a true total force
working seamlessly in the joint environment -- at home and abroad.
While it is too early to fully digest and dissect the recent
operation, we have been gathering lessons learned as we proceeded through the
war effort. We've learned that there is truth to the phrase "flexibility is the
key to air and space power." We've demonstrated that air and space power is
vital to achieving strategic, operational, and tactical objectives.
I'm very proud of how our team of air and space professionals
came together for this conflict, and how well they worked with our Navy, Marine,
Army, and coalition partners. General Buzz Moseley (Commander, 9th Air Force and
Combined Forces Air Component Commander) has fully integrated joint and
coalition forces to form a flexible team, all commanded from single combined air
operations center at Prince Sultan Air Base in Southwest Asia. Throughout the
campaign, the air picture in the CAOC showed a dense presence of air and space
power over the entire country of Iraq.
We showed that our ability to conduct multiple campaigns
across a spectrum of operations could have a deterring and compelling effect on
our enemies. Our diverse and parallel campaigns -- Strategic Attack,
Interdiction, Close Air Support, Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, Scud Hunting,
and Information Operations -- enabled our maneuver, maritime and special
operations forces to operate under an umbrella of air dominance throughout the
We demonstrated the incredible effects that advanced
technology could have on the battlefield. Weapons conceived in the 1970s and
1980s, and fielded in the 1990s, now are having a revolutionary effect on
combat. A variety of joint and precise weapons, aircraft like the Joint STARS,
remotely piloted aircraft, a generation of space capabilities, and the ability
to integrate those assets proved decisive.
Our ground forces moved more swiftly and further than
virtually at any time in our history, and our air-ground coordination was
similar to the historic cooperation demonstrated by Generals Arnold and Patton
in their famous breakout of Normandy, and Patton's race across France in 1944 -
- a goal of General Jumper and I have shared for the last two years, to return
to the relationships and capabilities of that era. And General Pete Quesada of
the 9th Air Force in 1944 would be proud indeed of how Generals Moseley and
McKiernan (Commander, Third U.S. Army, and the Coalition Forces Land Component
Commander) worked together.
During the entire campaign, the Iraqi Air Force did not fly a
single sortie against coalition forces. This is air and space dominance to the
max! It is what we pledged to deliver to our combatant commanders and to our
nation, and, our airmen have performed magnificently -- not just the Air Force,
but also the entire coalition Air Force.
We destroyed those enemy forces that chose to fight. We have
begun to set the conditions for the formation of a representative government in
Iraq. Former members of the Iraqi regime are surrendering or being captured. And,
a tremendous amount of food is being delivered to the Iraqi people, including
thousands of tons of wheat from the United States.
In a broader sense, we've also learned that the American way
of war has undergone a remarkable evolution in terms of how we command and
control warfare, with respect to the speed and range with which we can deliver
decisive effects, and, with respect to the global information dominance that
enables our nation to see first, understand first, and act first. Years of
development of integrated systems and the professional training of airmen,
soldiers, sailors, and Marines in their application were on display for the
world to see and, by all accounts, the results were simply unprecedented.
Since the advent of industrial warfare, one would be hard
pressed to cite an example of greater speed, maneuver, and precision on the
battlefield, all while simultaneously limiting collateral damage, delivering
humanitarian aid, and saving the lives of combatants and civilians alike. This
is a new age of warfare -- and you can be justifiably proud of the role you and
your fellow airmen played in making it possible.
We are the best at what we do because of our focus on
developing professional airmen, bringing technology to bear in combat, and
integrating our people and our systems together in new and innovative ways.
These core competencies have enabled the Air Force to consistently deliver
excellence throughout its history. They form the foundation upon which we
organize, train and equip, and are the cornerstones of our strength as a
Recently, they enabled us to:
Adapt to the new homeland defense mission. For example,
prior to 9/11, our nation's radars only looked outward from our borders and
only the radars on our periphery were linked. Today, with the integration of
FAA and NORAD radars, we have a networked radar picture providing air
surveillance of the entire country, allowing us to respond to an FAA "track of
interest" when called upon to do so.
Our focus on core competencies enabled us to develop new
ways to bring air and space power to bear in ground engagements. In
Afghanistan, our Combat Controllers integrated new technologies and precision
weapons to do close air support from 39,000 feet using the B-1 and B-52
bombers; a mission that probably has Curtis LeMay smiling as he looks down
Our focus on core competencies led us to treat the Combined
Air Operations Center as a weapon system. In it, we now fuse air, ground,
space, and intelligence into a common operational picture, enabling us to
deliver more precise effects faster than ever before.
Our focus allowed us to quickly adjust to changing
conditions. Integrating airmen with the Special Operations Task Force and
173rd Airborne Brigade enabled our C-17 crews to plan and execute their first
combat insertion mission conducting 15 airdrop missions of heavy equipment and
soldiers into enemy territory, eventually putting 2,700 troops into northern
Our focus on core competencies has led us to link sensors,
weapons and people in innovative new ways, enabling us to better engage time
critical and moving targets. There is no better example of this than our use
just three weeks ago of four space-guided bombs, dropped using revolutionary
new tactics developed by B-1 crews from Dyess (Air Force Base, Texas), to
target Iraqi leadership. In just 45 minutes, we completed the entire process
of finding, fixing, tracking, targeting and engaging this fleeting opportunity.
Our continued focus on core competencies has also led to a
host of improvements in readiness and capability.
In space, we continued our professional operation of a
variety of satellite constellations, delivering essential capability to
warfighters and civil consumers. Last year, we launched 18 missions with a 100
percent success rate -- including the first space launches using Evolved
Expendable Launch Vehicles.
We successfully consolidated our B-1 bomber fleet and
improved overall fleet readiness. Its mission capable rate is now over 71
percent, the highest in its history.
The increased investment we've made in spares funding is
paying off well. Sixteen of 20 weapons systems improved mission capable rates
last year. The C-5B achieved its highest mission capable rate since 1994, at 73
percent. The B-2 improved over 33 percent, the A-10 was up 8 percent, and our
F-15s were up over 5 percent. These are the best mission capable rates we've
experienced in five years and the greatest improvements we've achieved since the
On the people front, we have much good news to report as well.
Our 2004 proposed budget fully funds our education and force development
initiatives, puts us on track to eliminate inadequate housing, and reduces
out-of-pocket housing expenses to 3.5 percent. It also includes additional pay
raises that continue to bring military pay closer to private sector compensation
for our men and women. Our pay proposal provides an average pay raise of 4.1
percent, with the largest raises to going to senior enlisted. This puts pay
where it is needed while ensuring all grades receive a raise. Yet despite the
advantages that technology, organization, and strategy contribute to combat
effectiveness, we recognize our most essential ingredient of success remains the
professionally trained airman. This is why we choose to invest so much in
training and education, and that is why we are working so hard to make force
development a reality.
You will soon see a Chief's Sight Picture on Enlisted Force
Development. In it, General Jumper will explain how we've begun to reshape
training, education, and assignment experiences for our enlisted force. Chief
Murray greatly assisted the Chief in developing these initiatives. Fundamentally,
we view them as integrated processes that provide officer, civilian, and
enlisted leaders the tools they need to be most successful. Our goal is to
employ a deliberate process to create and grow leaders capable of taking our Air
Force to the next level of excellence -- leaders who instinctively understand
how to leverage individual skills collectively to accomplish the mission. There
is no reason we should not be aspiring to have the best-educated enlisted force.
We've already implemented several initiatives, such as
sending enlisted members to the Air Force Institute of Technology to earn
master's degrees. In the future, more enlisted men and women will attend AFIT.
As we graduate these senior NCOs, we'll use the force development process to
assign them where they can best put these degrees to use. We are also developing
ways to leverage the skills of those who already possess advanced education and
examining how other educational programs could support Enlisted Force
The feedback we've been getting from you on improving medical
care has been loud and clear. One of the ways we're working this, among others,
is by improving the promotion opportunities for doctors. What we were seeing in
our medical promotion system was a misplaced emphasis on line officer
requirements for our medical professionals. The unintended consequence of this
focus was a decline in physician recruitment and applications to medical
residencies in critical specialties. This created gaps in our force that
outpaced our ability to attract fully qualified doctors. I changed my directions
to the promotion boards to address this issue a year ago; the primary focus now
is on delivery of quality medical care.
Using increased promotion opportunity has several positive
effects. We retain physicians with clinical expertise who previously may have
been non-selected for promotion. We recognize the value of physicians who are
clinical experts and provide opportunities for them to practice medicine while
in the senior grades. And we maximize the return on investment we get from
training and sustaining the physician force. Most important, we are able to
deliver better medical care to our airmen and their families.
It is too early to determine all the long-term effects of
this strategy on our doctors, but it has already resulted in retaining several
medical specialists who otherwise would have separated to private practice.
We face many challenges in our facilities and infrastructure
across the Air Force, but one area where we have good news to report is in our
housing program. Although over 40 percent of our current inventory of 104,000
houses is substandard, by 2009, every house in the Air Force will meet the high
standards our airmen deserve. We have made a substantial investment in making
good on this promise. We've awarded contracts with private developers and are
now building over 2,300 homes on Lackland, Robins, Dyess and Elmendorf; we are
working with private developers for 4,700 homes at Kirtland, Patrick,
Wright-Patterson, and Little Rock; and have over 4,400 homes planned for Dover,
Hill, Moody, and Offutt. Additionally, this year alone, we'll renovate or
replace over 3,800 existing homes on bases across the Air Force. This is a
tangible investment in our people, and, we need to make sure we see this through
As we continue to adjust to the demands of a variety of new
missions, we must adapt to the new steady state that has stressed so many of the
career fields in our Air Force. Over many months, we've expended considerable
effort studying our "stressed career fields." While certain career fields are
experiencing more pain than others, the results of each study yield similar
conclusions -- every skill and most of our people are experiencing stress of
some kind. Five of 21 Communications AFSCs are stressed and represent over 50
percent of deployed Communications personnel. Five of the 13 engineering AFSCs
are highly stressed, and members in these career fields are deployed an average
of six out of every 15 months. The demand on Security Forces is so great, we've
had to hire 8,000 Army National Guardsmen to help secure our bases. While this
relieved the stress on our guard and reserve Security Forces, and released
augmentees to their primary missions, we must find ways to adjust to this and
other stressed career fields -- and do it soon.
We are engaged in a number of complementary efforts,
including a fundamental reassessment of the basic structure, assignment, and
training policies for our most stressed career fields. We are reviewing who
should fill, how we fill, how we can best fix undermanned career fields, and how
to stabilize our force. We are using the NCO Retraining Program to help correct
some of these imbalances, and we have also taken steps to move 3,700 "spaces"
from less stressed to more stressed career fields. We'll follow these moves by
adjusting accession requirements to get airmen in the door, and reallocating
training seats to produce more personnel in stressed skills.
We are working hard to address these issues, because our
airmen deserve it. They deserve fair and equitable pay for the work they do,
first class medical care for them and their families, an opportunity to progress
through advanced education and job experiences, quality homes in which to raise
a family, and stability in their lives. We are making progress in each of these
areas; I ask each of you to help us continue this process, and to get the word
our to our airmen on what we are doing.
Let me close with a few comments about the Air Force Academy
and offer my perspective on why the sexual assault controversy there also is
important to the enlisted force.
What we have found at the Air Force Academy can be summed up
in two thoughts. First, we found that the processes we use throughout the Air
Force to respond to sexual assaults were not being used at the Academy. Second,
and more troubling, the complaints were not finding their way into the chain of
command or the investigative process due to, among other problems, a misplaced
notion of cadet loyalty to their peers versus the larger Air Force.
We have implemented a broad range of initiatives to correct
these problems including empowering to a much greater extent the enlisted
training cadre in the cadets squadrons. Ultimately, our goal is to properly
educate our graduates on character and Air Force values. Again, Chief Murray has
been very helpful with his counsel and ideas. I want to note that we believe
there are very few offenders at the Academy, and that thousands upon thousands
of graduates for nearly half a century have served our nation with great
distinction. But should we commission just one of those bums who would assault a
fellow cadet, or fail to report these crimes, or shun or harass those who have
the courage to report, that would be one too many. They do not deserve to lead
in our Air Force, nor do they warrant a commission in which we would repose in
them "special trust and confidence." They are criminals and they should go.
Most important, we want to ensure that we commission officers
worthy of the great airmen who serve and sacrifice in our Air Force today. We
want to make sure they are worthy of leading the men and women of character who
populate our ranks; airman who epitomize all that we strive to instill in our
future officers. We want to make sure that our officer corps is up to the high
standards set by Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, Technical Sergeant John Chapman
As we look to the future, we're excited at the opportunities
we have to serve and defend our nation. We remain focused on developing
professional airmen, transitioning new technologies to warfighting, and
developing operational concepts that promote joint and coalition integration.
Our men and women in the Air Force have continued to prove that when asked to
fight for our nation, they will fight, and they will do so with professionalism
and excellence. You have been toughened by a decade of conflict, and you are
demonstrating to this country and to the world your bravery, humanity,
competence, and dedication in the skies and on the ground of Iraq.
I thank you for your honorable and selfless service; you have
my utmost respect and admiration for what you do. Thank you for having me here
today. Let's open it up to your questions.