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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.