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The State of the Force - 2005

The State of the Force - 2005

Remarks delivered by Pete Geren, Acting Secretary of the Air Force for the opening keynote address to the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference, Washington, September 12, 2005. Source: Air Force Link.

    Thank you, Don (retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald L. Peterson, AFA executive director) for that warm introduction.

As partly a Longhorn I could make an Aggie joke, but I won't.  I'm afraid General Moseley might get even with me if I do.  But I was raised in an Aggie household so my blood runs burnt orange and a little maroon, so it's a little bit of both.  But after this weekend it's hard not to cling to that Longhorn heritage with that big win over Ohio State, but I'm not going to mention anything else about that.

I appreciate that introduction.  It's good to see such a great crowd here supporting the Air Force Association and supporting our Airmen all around the world.

There are several of our leaders who were not recognized this morning.  I'm told they're in the audience, and literally with the brightness I cannot see all the faces but I wanted to recognize them because they weren't recognized this morning.  I'd ask them to stand up and introduce all of them, and then we can hold your applause until I reach the end.

General Bruce Carlson (Commander, Air Force Materiel Command) is here.  General Doc Foglesong (Commander, U.S. Forces in Europe).  General Paul Hester (Commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces).  General Ron Keys (Commander, Air Combat Command).  General Bill Looney (Commander, Air Education and Training Command).  General Lance Lord (Commander, Air Force Space Command).  General Norton Schwartz (Commander, U.S. Transportation Command).  I'd ask them to stand so that we can show our appreciation for the great job they do.

I am very pleased to be with you today and talk to you about the great things your Air Force is doing, to talk to you about the state of the U. S. Air Force, and I have a lot cover. My goal is to quit talking before you quit listening, but I do have a lot to cover.

I want to talk to you about our commitment to doing even better in the future.  I’m particularly glad that AFA has dedicated this conference to the professional development of our Total Force – active, Guard, Reserve and our civilians.  It covers a broad range of topics from updates on the latest air and space systems and the Law of Armed Conflict to our Air Force history and the parenting challenges posed by frequent duty transfers.  We need that sort of broad-based approach to professional development, both within the Air Force and in the industry that supports us.

Our mission is broad and our responsibilities to our Air Force family run deep. Our Airmen are doing outstanding work across the globe and deserve everything we can do to help them prepare themselves and we’re far from done.

As General Moseley and I see it, we have three priorities we need to work on:

accomplishing today’s missions, from hurricane relief to our on-going war on terrorism;
developing our Airmen and maintaining our culture of excellence; and
recapitalizing and modernizing our aging air and space fleet – the oldest fleet in Air Force history.

We’ve got a lot on our plate. We are fortunate to have an Airman of Buzz Moseley’s experience and ability as Chief during this time.

Today, I would like to tell you a little about how today’s missions are going -- about the three “wars” we are fighting: One against a very determined enemy, against Mother Nature, and a third, against ourselves. They are the global war on terror, disaster relief operations and our efforts to reform our acquisition processes.  I want to give you a glimpse at what we have planned for the future -- a subject General Moseley will talk about at greater length later in the week, when he takes you from our Air Force heritage to our future as an air and space force.

  • We face a continuing commitment to the Global War on Terrorism, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but around the globe.

That comes as no surprise to America’s Airmen. Our Airmen has been in combat for the past 15 years – first in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and, continuing over Iraq with Northern and Southern Watch and, then in the skies over Bosnia and Kosovo. Then Sept. 11 came and the skies over our own lands and now, Afghanistan and Iraq. Those 15 years have helped us adapt our force to meet the threats of the 21st century -- not just those of terrorism and insurgencies, but also the risk of a more conventional adversary. We must also retain a hedge against the unexpected.

Those years have shaped us into the expeditionary force we are today, giving us the opportunity to practice, refine, and try again until we got the AEF process right – a process that will continue to evolve as we gain more experience. And helping us learn to better integrate our Total Force, merging active-duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Airmen into a single, seamless and transparent whole.

In fact, our entire approach to the Guard and Reserve has evolved. After World War II and throughout the Cold War, we viewed the Guard and Reserve as a strategic reserve for a total war. But that’s not how we’ve been using them in recent years.

Instead of a strategic reserve, they’ve been a source of Airmen and equipment to augment the active force for ongoing contingencies. A surge force that allows us to quickly ramp up the scope of our operations rather than a backfill after combat has begun.

We’re still refining both the AEF and our Total Force concept increasing the AEF rotation period to 20 months and extending our deployments to 120 days to give theater commanders more continuity with our rotational forces. Improving stability for the theater commander and importantly,  increasing predictability for Air Force families and opening up new missions for our Guard and Reserve in space and information operations and flying unmanned aerial vehicles.

The end result of those years of effort was the demonstration of air and space dominance we saw in Afghanistan and in Iraq.  We continue to be an Air Force at war around the globe, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our support for the Global War on Terror has been so dependable and successful, to the general public, it's been almost invisible. Iraq and Afghanistan are seen by the public as basically Army and Marine operations, now that major combat is over. But you know and the Airmen around the world know that the Air Force is playing a vital key role to the success of those efforts.

They’re not just boring holes in the sky. We remain directly involved in the fight every day with efforts that range from traditional missions like airlift and close air support --that is, if you can call engaging insurgents in Iraq with Hellfire missiles from a Predator UAV piloted from Nellis Air Force Base (Nev.) traditional -- to innovative new uses of our current equipment and manpower.

The insurgents are smart. They continue to adapt their tactics in an attempt to stay ahead of Coalition and Iraqi security forces. The ingenuity, hard work and creativity of our Airmen enable us to stay ahead of them. Match up our creativity with the latest technology and we have the powerful fighting force that our Airmen bring to bear in those theaters.

Let me give you a couple of quick examples. Our F-16s are deadly, high tech predators designed to pick up targets out on the ground and attack them. They're not designed to be surveillance platforms, but many Air National Guard F-16s carry the LITENING II targeting pod. They use this sensor to target their weapons.

But the same sensor can also be used to track insurgents as they attempt to hide from our ground patrols, even following a single man as he moves. And that’s just what they are doing – and guiding their Army and Marine partners on the ground over the radio. In some cases, they spotlight insurgents with their laser designators, which, while invisible to the insurgents, are clear as day to Soldiers and Marines on the ground.  

One Army lieutenant colonel tells of apprehending four insurgents hidden in dense reeds. Without the Air Force’s help, it would have taken a battalion to hunt them down. Instead, it took two Soldiers and two Airmen -- one Battlefield Airman and one fighter pilot equipped with the latest technology.

In another case, an Air Force JSTARS radar aircraft spotted a huge explosion at an oil pipeline. The JSTARS was designed to track large tank and armored vehicle formations, but this time, it had spotted a single SUV leaving a nearby home and driving to the pipeline prior to the charges going off, then leaving just before the bomb exploded. Armed with that information, Iraqi and Coalition security forces swooped in within hours and arrested an insurgent who is still wondering how we knew.

Airmen have been key to moving supplies throughout Iraq. As attacks on our convoys increased, we stepped up our intra-theater airlift operations reducing casualties on the ground. We increased our C-130 and C-17 sorties into our scattered bases and compounds in order to reduce the need for ground convoys. In several cases those ground convoys are being run by Airmen, not Soldiers.

Over 1,000 Airmen from the transportation, security forces, and medical fields have been trained to provide convoy security. In fact, we have 2,500 Airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan filling Army billets as drivers, security and communications personnel, fuel technicians, and a variety of medical, logistics, intelligence, civil engineering, and base operating support jobs. That is the joint force in action. Each of those Airmen frees up a Soldier to fill Army-specific billets.

Airmen, the Total Force, are engaged around the world. We have nearly 30,000 Airmen deployed worldwide,  including 4,000 Air National Guardsmen and over 2,000 members of the Air Force Reserve. We have 310 aircraft deployed flying over 60 missions a day in Afghanistan and nearly 180 a day over Iraq. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – we actually have over 200,000 active-duty Airmen supporting the combatant commander every day.

The nearly 30,000 that are deployed plus the many more who support from overseas bases or directly from the United States, flying UAVs from Nellis AFB, gathering critical ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) for the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the field. Flying satellites from Schriever AFB, Colo., providing the network of communications, precision navigation and timing, warning, and ISR on which the entire joint force depends. They are providing strategic airlift and air refueling around the globe, the critical enabler for our joint expeditionary forces; and flying combat missions directly from the continental United States, as the B-2 has often done, taking the fight to our adversaries directly from home; or flying combat patrols over our own cities as part of Operation Noble Eagle.

And 200,000 Airmen is just the active force – when you add in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, you get an even larger number of Airmen supporting operations around the world for our combatant commanders. We are a Total Force. None of us -- active, Guard Reserve or civilian – could do our job were it not for our partners across the entire force.  

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Weyland of the Washington Air National Guard is a great case in point. A great Airman hero.

Earlier this year Sergeant Weyland was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan in 2004. Sergeant Weyland is one of our battlefield Airmen. At the time, he was working with a team from the 3rd Special Forces Group when they were ambushed by rebel militia. Sergeant Weyland came under heavy fire -- one bullet ricocheted off his belt buckle.  Another ricocheted off the tip of his knife at his hip and several more disabled the heavy grenade launcher that he was using before one finally hit him.

Through all of that, he continued to fight, continued to direct close air support and treated his own wounds and those of two other Soldiers. The Soldiers on that team didn’t care whether they had a Guardsman, a Reservist or an active-duty Airman. What was important to them and what was important to the United States was that they had an Airman there by their side, bringing the power of the U. S. Air Force to bear on their foes.

Our Guard and Reserve Airmen are as deeply involved in operations at home as they are in the field, gaining new missions in space and information operations. In space, for example, we now have six Air National Guard units. Their missions run from warning of ballistic missile attacks with Space Warning Squadrons in Colorado and Alaska to launch range operations in Florida and flying the Milstar communications satellite from California.

These are not traditional Guard responsibilities as we've come to know them. Space ops often requires 24/7 operations, 365 days a year, and it is a growth area — and an important part of our air and space power for our future.

At the same time, our Guard and Reserve are modernizing along with the active forces. For example, Guardsmen from the 192nd Fighter Wing from Richmond, Va. are being integrated into Langley’s 1st Fighter Wing to fly and maintain the F/A-22. And we are putting Guardsmen in the initial cadre of experts we are training to bring the new planes into service – that's a far cry from the hand-me-downs they often got decades ago.

Along with combat operations in the global war on terror we remain involved in another sort of war – a war to save lives threatened by natural disaster.

Last May we observed the 55th anniversary of the lifting of the Soviet blockade on Berlin. The incredible achievements of the Berlin Airlift set a standard for humanitarian relief and stand as one of the great chapters in the history of our Air Force and set a standard of excellence for today’s Airmen to meet.

When the devastating tsunami struck in southeast Asia, our Total Force responded as part of the DOD team, bringing lifesaving supplies and personnel to the aid of hundreds of thousands of people trapped.  Over about a month and a half, we flew over 1,300 sorties and delivering almost 18 million pounds of food, supplies and equipment and provided transportation to 8,000 rescue workers to the stricken area. All together, America’s military services brought in 13,000 rescue workers and over 25 million pounds of supplies.

Here at home, we remain deeply involved in relief operations across the South – Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama -- in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While the severity of the damage shocked us all, your armed forces were ready and were on the move from the earliest movements.  

Before Katrina had hit hard, the USS Bataan had moved out to sea, ready to go where it was most needed. By Sunday (Aug. 28), military officers were already arriving to coordinate our efforts with local officials. By Tuesday (Aug. 30), Lieutenant General Honore (that "John Wayne dude" as the mayor of New Orleans referred to him) and his task force had arrived to support relief operations and by Wednesday (Aug. 31), we had reached a high of 150 military helicopters in the air.

Today, there are 18,000 active-duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines working alongside 45,000 National Guardsmen working to save lives and relieve suffering alongside emergency services personnel from all over our country, including nearly 8,000 active, Guard, and Reserve Airmen.

Our expeditionary nature makes us quick to respond, and your Air Force – our Total Force– was a critical part of that joint effort.

Our contingency response groups designed to open new airfields in hostile territory anywhere on the globe have reopened the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. We have reopened Keesler AFB, Miss., for relief operations as well. Despite massive flooding and extensive damage, Keesler’s Airmen had the field up and running in less than a day – Airmen who in many cases, if not most cases, had lost their homes themselves.

We sent 35 combat search and rescue helicopters to New Orleans to search for trapped survivors. Airmen who were trained to find and rescue downed pilots were working over the skies of New Orleans rescuing trapped survivors. Our pararescuemen and other Airmen have been working day and night to find the remaining survivors and evacuate them to safety. The Air Force has conducted over 5,000 rescues so far.

Our medical personnel have set up field hospitals along the Gulf Coast and treated over 6,000 patients. While our aeromedical evacuation Airmen evacuated the most seriously injured to hospitals outside the disaster zone – transporting over 2,600 injured Americans.

Our expeditionary medics reached the scene in short order with small modular medical teams, treating and evacuating the most seriously wounded; clearing the New Orleans airfield for operations; and setting the stage for the larger efforts that followed behind them. And our airlifters brought in more than 11 million pounds of supplies and equipment during those critical early days. And to this day have evacuated more than 27,000 people to safety.

These are our finest, America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, using skills they learned for the battlefield to aid their Americans here at home.

And while we face these challenges at home and abroad, we as an Air Force also face a serious internal struggle. Shortcomings in the way we define and execute our acquisition programs, along with shameful actions by one of our own, have left us more determined than ever to reform our acquisition processes, working to regain the confidence of the American people.

All too often the Air Force has suffered from development costs and schedule overruns, which have in turn led to fielding delays, lower production quantities, and even reduced capability.

In the 1960s and 1970s we took the F-15 from the first operational requirements to initial operational capability in just seven years. The F-16 took only four years. The F-117 stealth fighter took nine years. Today, we project that the F/A-22 will take 14 years to make the same trip.

As weapons systems become more and more complex, we must change the way we do business to improve our acquisition performance, recognizing that some of our problems came from earlier attempts to streamline acquisition by buying major systems commercially. Doing so, rather than using the traditional acquisition process, meant we could get systems to the field faster, but it also reduced our oversight of the commercial acquisition, its progress, and its costs. We are fixing that. We are reducing the number of commercial purchases and working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to update procedures for buying commercial items. But our biggest challenge is instilling greater discipline into the traditional acquisition process.

To do that, we need must attack the root causes of poor program execution: unstable expanding requirements, lack of test community buy-in, inadequate systems engineering, unstable and unpredictable funding, and faulty cost estimates  By getting a handle on each of these challenges and improving discipline throughout the process, we will restore stability and credibility to our acquisitions.

The men and women of the Air Force acquisition corps are outstanding professionals, dedicated to providing an effective acquisition process with appropriate checks and balances that provide transparency and the full value to the taxpayer for every dollar spent. That’s critical – because in the end, all three of our struggles depend on one thing – the skill, dedication, and integrity of our Airmen. Their devotion to our core values – Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do.

The Integrity involved in checking a target for potential collateral damage, or in rejecting a contract bid that has been obviously low-balled. The Service Before Self of Airmen who willingly place themselves in harm's way to fight our nation’s wars and who send their families to safety while they in the field to help the survivors of a natural disaster. And the Excellence that permeates everything they do – from flying satellites and watching for insurgents to dropping bombs on those who would do us harm or dropping food for those in need.

I am certain that these Airmen and the core values they hold dear will continue to serve us well in the days ahead.

For while fighting today’s wars, we must continue to prepare for tomorrow’s as well. The airpower pioneer, Italian General Ghiulio Douhet, once said:  “Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after they occur."

We must prepare ourselves for a range of future conflicts, not just for a repeat of the wars we fight today. A future where the only thing we know for certain is that the fight will be joint, involving all four services acting interdependently and it will be combined, fighting alongside allied forces. That need has been the driving force behind our BRAC proposals. This is a crucial crossroads for our Air Force.

The Air Force is transforming from an Industrial Age force to an Information Age force and from a Cold War force to an expeditionary force. All while adjusting to emerging missions in a changed security environment.

The BRAC Commission agreed with most of our proposals, closing or significantly realigning 80 percent of the bases we chose to close, and helping us optimize nearly 60 percent of our Reserve and Guard flying squadrons.

These are changes that will go a long way toward resetting our forces and infrastructure to face the threats of the 21st century and enhance our Total Force concept.

This uncertain future remains the baseline concern behind our inputs into the Quadrennial Defense Review as well. And while the QDR is still being worked, I am certain that when the results are released, we will see a future military force structure designed to face the multiple threats the coming decades will bring.

No matter what the outcome of the QDR, some aspects of our preparations remain constant. We will focus on two areas: our core competencies – our means of producing battlefield effects and on developing of Airmen, the men and women who bring those effects to life

These core competencies: rapid global mobility, information superiority, agile combat support, precision engagement, global attack, and air and space superiority encompass everything we do. Our efforts at modernization and recapitalization are focused on improving our abilities and our core competencies. Many are linked, like the Joint Warfighting Space initiative which is designed to make space systems more responsive and available to the theater commander, and the on-going Tanker Analysis of Alternatives, which touches on both rapid global mobility and global attack. Some have additional capabilities in other areas like missiles on a Predator UAV – global attack on a platform designed for information superiority. Or using the F/A-22’s on-board sensors to feed ISR data back to intelligence analysts using a system designed for global attack and air and space superiority to meet information superiority needs.

The individual tools are superb, but the real benefit comes from their integration and that is where we must focus our efforts. But all these great ideas and new systems are worthless without one thing – the men and women that operate them. A $100 million aircraft is not an asset; in fact, it's a liability, unless it is in the hands of well-trained Airmen. Developing Airmen who are ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century is even more important than having the right systems and infrastructure.  Our greatest asset – our most powerful weapon – is our Airmen.

We must develop our people to the limits of their ability, getting them the right training and experience to grow the leaders, both officer and NCO, we will need for the future.  Training that focuses on three critical areas: character, knowledge and readiness.  Character to reinforce our core values, values that are critical to everything we do and values that tie all Airmen together in bonds of trust and respect.

Knowledge -- to provide our Airmen with both depth and breadth -- depth to make them experts with their weapons systems and breadth so that they can understand the context in which they employ them. And together, depth and breadth allows for innovation, the ability to find new ways to employ existing systems to accomplish new missions.

Finally, readiness to maintain ourselves as the world’s premier expeditionary force -- ready to respond on a moment’s notice to conduct major military operations around the globe; defend our nation’s cities and towns; ready to respond to disasters and catastrophes around the world or just down the highway; and ready to face an uncertain future and an unpredictable foe.

For we do face an uncertain world with threats ranging from terrorists and insurgents to rising near-peer competitors. If the last 15 years of conflict have taught us anything, it's that our nation will need air and space power to overcome those threats.

We are fighting hard today, both at home and abroad, and we must ensure that we are ready to fight tomorrow’s wars as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, you asked me here today to report on the state of your Air Force, and as you can see we face many challenges. Our Airmen are up to those challenges. But my report on your Air Force is your Air Force is strong.  It's strong because of the men and women, the Airmen – active, Guard, Reserve and civilians – that make up this great service that we call our Air Force.

Thank you for allowing me to be here today. It is a great honor for me to serve as your Acting Secretary of the Air Force. And, I look forward to working with you to accomplish these great missions that we hold out in front of us for the United States of America.  

Thank you very much.

 


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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