The Honorable Michael W. Wynne
Secretary of the Air Force
Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2006
September 25, 2006
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Secretary Wynne: First of all, I appreciate the great partnership with the Air Force Association which without we couldn’t have these great events, and we would not have near as great an Air Force as we do. So Don, thank you. My partner, General Buzz Moseley, could not do it without him. He is a warrior and leader. Rod McKinley—chief master sergeant of the Air Force—great partner. My commanders, most of whom are sitting right here, it is a fantastic partnership that you have in the United States Air Force. The Air Force is gaining air speed and altitude, and we are making hard decisions, making tough calls, but we intend to have and retain the greatest Air Force in the world when we’re done. Now that’s the short version.
Now I’m going to start on the long march. And those of you who leave, I will not be upset. Half-way through I intend to have a test, I used to be an instructor. I have overcome some of my lifeguard tendencies, but I’d like to start by saying that today is a great day to be associated with the United States Air Force.
This morning you saw a video clip that gives you a small glimpse of the types of amazing things our Air Force warriors are doing today. General Moseley, distinguished guests, fellow airmen, men and women of the joint team, and all of you who support the world’s greatest Air Force, good afternoon. I especially, though, want to thank Don Peterson not only for that kind introduction, but for your unwavering support as the Air Force Association’s Executive Director. I’d also like to thank General Moseley who is not often together with me, as he pointed out, but we do pass in the night and we have the same motivations, we have the same vectors, and we are in a tight formation though it appears to be in a bank as we strive to put our Air Force on a track that is onward and upward. Together, we are moving our Air Force forward and I just couldn’t be more pleased to serve with you, sir.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, I had the chance to look around, see some of the exhibitions on display. I am ever impressed with the quality of the exhibitions just as I’ve continued to marvel at the Air Force Association’s contributions to our Air Force year in and year out. Our industry team has made us a formidable force, but it is the men and women of the Air Force that take that equipment and through their bravery, their courage, and their valor, convert it into a very formidable force in the world. This is a wonderful opportunity to be among friends and supporters as I convey to you how our Air Force will, in fact, stay the course and yet mind the future. First, I do want to recognize how this organization is helping us accomplish our goals and objectives. Your tremendous support of our men and women in blue cannot be overstated. Your tireless efforts to inform our partners in Congress on every front including engaging in the argument for aircraft retirement, for recapitalization, and support of our families cannot come at a more crucial time. Our Air Force leadership team recognizes we have a duty that we owe to our future airmen. That same duty that was fulfilled in making us the greatest Air Force in the world. We need to maintain, sustain, and improve our Air Force as our top priority to make sure the war fighters of the future are as well-equipped, are as well-trained, and are as ready to defend America as our airmen are today. With this as our focus, we have undertaken bold actions to ensure that we fulfill this duty.
Today we face many challenges, most concerning is our aging air and space fleet, which costs more and more money to operate and maintain -- further compounded by the demanding requirements of wartime operations. This is not to understate the performance of our airmen, maintainers, and sustainers who consistently yield theater operational availability and have done so magnificently since the mid-90s. They are, without a doubt, the underlying strength of our Air Force. Look back to 1973 when our satellites and aircraft life spans were averaging under 10 years of age, and we just didn’t know how good that was. Today, both are exceeding their expected operational life span, with average aircraft age exceeding 23 years. The challenge of recapitalization is on us. As General Moseley said one time offhandedly, “The pilot that has yet to fly the KC-135, the last KC-135, has not been born yet.” And then he stopped, and he thought about it, and he said, “In fact, his mother has not been born yet.” Fortunately the Air Force Association’s daily contact with all the Congressional offices from the Congressional education program to sponsoring Air Force conferences, to the breakfast we’re going to have tomorrow, continues to have an important and profound impact on our force. You have proven to be our indispensable wingmen, so thank you very, very much.
Today we are staying the course as the world’s premier air, space, and cyber force—all while being in our 15th year of the Long War. From the initial movement of passengers into Southwest Asia, and preparation for Desert Storm to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and every crisis in between, we have been there. Compound these demands with the transformational impact of several key strategic reviews; the results of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review), and numerous other studies, have effectively reduced our buying power, and thus mandated that we conduct operations more efficiently—that we find innovative ways to improve how we manage our resources. The most publicized initiative has been the reduction of 40,000 full-time equivalents across the active, Reserve, Guard, and civilian force. I assure you these reductions are designed to maximize the efficiencies on a mission-first basis, and will reduce the ever-increasing burden on the war fighters, enhance reachback activities, maximize the efficiencies, and address the ever-rising costs of personnel costs as well as healthcare, and their correlated impact on operations and maintenance.
In our operations and maintenance accounts, we are faced with accelerated growth during the rising cost of fuel, and increasing upkeep of aircraft with decreasing military utility. We are at war, and our operations tempo cannot be decreased. Every 90 seconds around the world, a mobility aircraft takes off with precious cargo. Every day, our total force is sitting alert or flying a mission in almost every time zone around the world in combat rescue, strike, strategic situation awareness, probing missions, or Operation Noble Eagle. We know the mission; we must simply do it smarter.
Of the several initiatives that are in place to gain control over the (inaudible) cost; first, the Air Force is pressing forward expanding the use of alternative fuels and accelerating the conversion of our bases and facilities to become less dependent on traditional energy sources. Your Air Force is going green, and not just in support operations, we are leaning forward and we are winning prizes from the Department of Energy for our innovation and technology.
Secondly, we continue to press for legislative relief for mandated retirement restrictions. It is imperative that we eliminate those aircraft from our rolls so that our funds can be better spent on newer and more capable systems. Ultimately, this will shape our force for the future and maintain our war-fighting heritage. Finally Air Force Smart Operations 21 is the guiding principle behind our quest to reduce waste and maximize efficiencies. It’ll also bring us innovations throughout all of our processes. AFSO 21 will encourage creativity within the force and leverage our talents to both reduce waste, and maximize our operational capability and availability throughout the total force. By examining how we do business from a total force approach, we are in fact finding ways to better use our people and to better use our resources.
For example, we see the benefits of a totally fully integrated active guard and reserve force. Total Force integration generates efficiencies through shared resources and reduces duplication. In addition to total force integration, we will stay the course and implement those programs that are currently in development. At the staff level we are already seeing some results from these major movements. By operationalizing the A-staff structure and the permanent warfighting headquarters within the air component commands, we are now more effectively providing the combatant commanders with warfighting capabilities. Postured this way, the Air Force can effectively plan and execute its air, space, and cyberspace mission to directly support the joint force commander. In our pursuit of relief from legislative restrictions on retirement, we have had some successes, but are still not where we want to be. As it stands now, we can retire about two-thirds of what we requested for Fiscal Year 07. We must do better. I have told the Congress we worked so hard on that tri-fold I may just reprint it again, if they don’t mind. I think everyone here will agree with me that our airmen deserve the best equipment we can possibly provide them. I ask for your continued focus and support as I engage again on this front.
In our global reach portfolio, you will see continued support for the C-130J, and for finishing the C-17 multiyear buy, and here we can thank the Congress for considering the impact of operations on recapitalization. We see this as a very positive first step. We are committed to demonstrating the successful C-5 modernization, and to procuring the KC-X while partnering with the Army on the Joint Cargo Aircraft and enhancing precision airdrop programs. We need to better integrate the innovation of precision airdrop, and maybe avoid the need for some of the aircraft landings, where and if possible. As a part of our global vigilance initiative we are pushing for a greater number of Predators and Global Hawk orbits to enhance our ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance)capabilities for our combatant commanders. Our space programs form the backbone of global vigilance. On every front in Afghanistan, in Iraq, at home, and some places we can’t mention, space systems enable our success. Whether it’s ground troops relaying information via SATCOM, aircrews planning strikes or rescue missions with GPS-enabled beacons, or analysts developing target sets based on intelligence collections, space systems are a vital enabler for the joint team.
In the realm of global strike, we are pushing for the F-22 multiyear as a way to husband our resources. We are also fully committed to the F-35 Joint Strike program. We need to ensure that the President retains a fifth generation fighter option in this uncertain world. This is highlighted by our investment in special forces and our support for the advanced gunship. But we’re not just investing in hardware, we’re investing in initiatives being developed in our science & technology labs.
Thanks to the hard work being done in this area, our domains of air, space, and cyberspace will continue to thrive and facilitate mission success. Just last week, Dr. Ronald M. Sega, Under Secretary of the Air Force, had the privilege of flying in a B-52 with two of its engines operating on synthetic fuel. These types of initiatives, both on the supply side and on the demand side, may show us a future not dependent on foreign sources of oil. I want to demonstrate to the American people that the Air Force can gain the technology edge and offer them options that they might not otherwise have. We are being closely followed by the airline industry as you can imagine. We would like to get to stable prices for our fuel source. In 2005, we bought over 1 million megawatt hours of green power—enough to power 70,000 homes for a year. And we won’t stop looking for ways to purchase more green power in the future. Our research labs are also heavily involved in aircraft design. The Air Force Research Lab is investigating the use of carbon fiber for aircraft use resulting in a stronger, perhaps lighter, and we hope of course, less costly aircraft; but with greater range and endurance. If successful, these programs may lead to put less demand on international sources for rare metals. NASA is providing test data from the X-43A to enhance our understanding of hypersonic flight dynamics to be used in the Air Force’s own hypersonic, hydrocarbon-fueled flight program, the X-51. Our collaborative research with NASA on high-altitude, long endurance technology will result in lighter-weight, gust-tolerant wing design. These are all technologies which I want the Air Force to lean forward and bring to American technology advances to keep us well in front of all the technologies in the world.
For those of you who are not aware, General Moseley and I recently signed a letter calling for the development of a cyberspace command. In the near future we hope to have the necessary resources and personnel in place to truly capitalize on this emerging domain. Already we believe that we have 10,000, upwards of 30,000 airmen currently engaged in cyberspace, and so we are eager to find the better ways to organize and the better ways to train. It’s the first step in bringing discipline into this exciting new domain. These are all examples of how we deliver capabilities to the warfighter and strive to maintain our disciplined approach to cost and schedule in our systems acquisition programs. Be assured this is what staying the course is all about.
Now I’d like to change a little bit and talk to you about how we are minding the future, because equally important is asking ourselves where we are headed. We must strive to control the design of future warfare—warfare that will take place in a shrinking information-centric world, where international partnering is the norm, and interdependence defines how we fight. Every sensor will be a shooter, and every shooter will be a sensor, linked across all domains and across the joint and the coalition team. To do this, I have developed seven goals to complement those established by the Secretary of Defense. You will find them distributed throughout this hall. To realize this future, we must focus not only on our organization, but on the development of the individual airman, which is why the first goal, fostering mutual respect and integrity, recognizes that commitment fully. Our core values must be the foundation of all that we do, underpinning every airman’s actions. As an expeditionary force, we find ourselves increasingly deployed as ambassador airmen to foreign lands and dependent upon host nations’ support. The Air Force continues to build on the foundations of interdependence as a member of the joint and combined arms team—where our mutual respect for each other’s capabilities is absolutely essential to success. Today, more than ever, we fight as one component of the joint and combined team. We depend on others to succeed and they on us.
Minding the future includes the need to strengthen our air, space, and cyberspace capabilities for the joint and combined team. This goal includes strengthening partnerships with ground and naval forces, defining interdependent warfare, and leveraging capabilities on the ground, on the sea, and across airspace and cyberspace. This interdependence arises from the needs to change habits of thought in our commanders to include what I refer to as spherical situational awareness—increasing the responsibility of the Air Force to provide situation awareness and set the strategic and tactical conditions that will assure victory. The interconnections between the unit level warriors from all services and coalition partners and across all domains goes well beyond joint—it is the next step of the evolutionary process of future warfare. With interdependence, air, space, cyber, and sea power all combine to prevent air attacks on ground forces and logistics lines. Interdependence means Army and ground fighters passing intelligence to Air Force controllers who call loitering airpower for strikes. The same information flow applies in reverse. Today, we can pass the intelligence real time to air and surface as well. Most of our fighter aircraft and our unmanned aerial vehicles contract the foe and pass streaming video or enable the use of visible laser pointers directly to ground fighters visible on their night vision goggles -- an extraordinary breakthrough.
This leads to a point I’d like to emphasize—the absolute necessity to build our fleet of 5th generation fighters. In today’s security environment, the Air Force must continue to secure free access to the world’s globalized nations. The threat which continues to change and grow with the proliferation of fourth-plus generation aircraft and double-digit surface area missiles can limit and prevent our free access to these world trouble spots. It is imperative that we continue to locate, identify, and be able to target our enemies anywhere on the globe at a moment’s notice. We cannot even consider ceding air dominance to any other nation. The F-22 and F-35 provide the combatant commanders a synergistic capability that will ensure air dominance over the battlefield and global strike capability for decades to come. The F-22 Raptor is an air dominance fighter designed with additional speed and air-to-air capability. The F-35 Lightning II is a diversified air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter bringing targeting flexibility and increased range and increased persistence. A combination of these cutting-edge stealth aircraft and their enhanced capability will further enable netcentric operations, ISR, that are all critical to the joint interdependent fight.
Looking at our space capabilities, minding the future means using mature technologies to field capabilities sooner. With a four-stage acquisition philosophy, our space programs are on track for a bright future. These four interactive stages are science, technology, technology development, systems development, and systems production—provide a new way of looking at the process we have used for decades. We will use a mix of integrated systems, orbiting platforms, manned and unmanned vehicles, surface nodes, and other systems all integrated together so they share data and cue one another. In the near-space regimes, we are studying two types of platforms: free-floating balloons with nonrecoverable and recoverable payloads, and movable platforms. In the upper-space regime, we are pursuing systems that provide responsive warfighting effects from upper atmosphere with endurance over the battlespace—augmenting but not supplanting orbital space airbreathing systems. As you can see, we have to look beyond the separate systems to the overall architecture, and ensure integration not only within and across space, but between air and space. Between space and ground, space and cyberspace, and beyond when we need it.
The integration of these complex systems is a huge systems engineering challenge. Fortunately, our systems engineers will find it much easier to field good systems if they are based on proven mature technology rather than trying to develop overly ambitious solutions. Program managers will better estimate the cost and schedule if we know the technology works, we can have much more confidence in estimates of how much the overall system will cost, how it will operate, and how long it will take to produce. The four stages of the acquisition process should allow us to discover new technologies during the S&T stage (Science and Technology), prove their efficacy, and technology development, mature them in systems development, and then integrate them into the operational system in the final stage of system production. And just as air and space represents specific domains of Air Force operations, cyberspace represents another domain in the electromagnetic spectrum, providing the associated maneuver space for potential operations.
Cyberspace provides the capability to conduct combat on a global scale, simultaneously on a virtually infinite number of fronts. Without cyberspace dominance, operations today and in the future based on netcentricity run the risk of being degraded over all of the warfighting domains; like employing kinetic assets when non-kinetic cyber alternatives could do it faster, and potentially lessen the risk of collateral damage. We have the opportunity to leverage our technological advantage not only to protect our own capabilities in the other domains, but to also expand our ability to attain and retain superiority and dominance in cyberspace. This domain offers many unique opportunities and highlights a new and inviolate principle. Without cyber dominance, operations in all the other domains are in fact placed at risk. Providing persistent situation awareness is a goal which demands pushing the limits of technology for the joint warfighter. Persistent situation awareness comes from the integrated application of sensors, intelligence collection, exploitation, fusion, analysis, and production. Dissemination systems and other air, space, and cyber systems, as well. It is the habit of taking a comprehensive and spherical view, at once vertical and horizontal, real time and predictive, penetrating and yet defended, in the cyber realm.
The interdependent fight calls for exquisite situation awareness; the goal must be to integrate the latest technology to deliver spherical situation awareness to every warrior on the battlefield. And by the way, spherical situation awareness applies as well to logistics to maintenance to operational readiness and availability making sure we truly understand what the capabilities of our force structure are and don’t misstate it or misspeak it to the combatant commander.
Minding the future means we must do best to pursue the goal of joint and battle-ready trained airmen with a greater focus on expeditionary operations. From the very first day of training, we can ensure all airmen possess broader combat skills required by the joint team. Extending basic military training and including new focus areas, such as law of armed conflict and emergency medical training, will ensure that we are giving our airmen the proper tools for today’s commitments. Our Rover system for example not only works with Air Force aircraft but on almost all platforms on the joint team’s portfolio and provides an entirely new level of awareness for our ground forces. We have many airmen serving in non-traditional roles as a part of the joint team—a trend that appears to be able to persist in the future because our airmen bring to the fight the kind of innovation that is both unique and complementary. From airmen serving outside the wire performing air-based defense, to serving in contingency response groups that are the first in to establish Air Force airfield operations, our airmen see a future in which they must be prepared to operate across the full spectrum of operations. Just a few weeks ago in Baghdad, an F-15E used its targeting pod to track four men digging holes to plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs). That F-15 handed the mission off to an F-16, which then reported the insurgents’ movement to the joint tactical air controller. The JTAC passed that onto the soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division who not only discovered the IEDs and wrapped them up, but also wrapped up the command team.
Our airmen must be prepared to take their skill sets and apply them in ways they never thought possible. They must continue to develop not only critical thinking but also the technical, regional, cross-cultural, and language skills necessary to build international partnerships essential to global stability. Our country is partnered with other nations to not only eliminate the terrorist threat, but to promote peace and prosperity. We are instrumental to securing access to that part of the world and enabling the global economy to continue its upward growth. We respond to natural disasters and humanitarian crises anywhere in the world. You will see your Air Force bringing aid to those who need it. Just one look at the places where our airmen are deployed will give you an idea of where our future holds. We have airmen flying exercises with MiGs in Romania, teaching aeromedical evacuation in Columbia, providing humanitarian civic assistance in the East African countries. In order to ensure our future coalition partners understand how to leverage our full range of capabilities, we have just stood up the coalition and irregular warfare center of excellence at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. This center will give our foreign and potential coalition partners a one-stop shop for all integration issues with the Air Force.
Minding the future also means we need to strengthen our recruiting efforts to attract the very best and brightest airmen. We need to attract and recruit the nation’s top science, math, and engineering talent through initiatives such as the Defense Department’s Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation—the SMART scholarship program, and the National Defense Education program. We are making progress—nearly 70 percent of high school seniors earning Air Force scholarships this past year earned them in technical fields, but we cannot be satisfied with the status quo. We must explore our options through similar efforts because these future airmen are part of our future. The reality of today’s expeditionary culture and battle readiness posture demand a focus on the lives of our airmen.
Part of minding the future for our airmen means a continuous improvement in the total force quality of life. Throughout our Air Force communities, efforts to strengthen family wellness centers, increase education opportunities, and improve housing help our airmen focus and be better prepared for the joint war fight. Air Force Smart Operations 21 will improve the quality of life through the Personnel Services Delivery Initiative, which will make personal information forums and request for action available to all airmen on the Air Force Portal. Even our deployed airmen will be able to manage their careers, their school plans, and their finances as long as they have access to the Internet. These quality of life goals will be tracked by metrics at the base level. Through smarter financial business operations, bases will track the timeliness of travel voucher payments and the speed at which military pay problems are resolved. But these improved financial metrics extend beyond the warfighter. As stewards of taxpayer resources we must ensure all members of the Air Force execute efficient business-like operations.
Minding the future means we must pursue a goal of open, transparent business practices and attain a clean audit. We are in the process of implementing a strategy that will enable us to access and exchange information within our Air Force, as well as with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staffs to improve our transparency efforts. This affects all information areas, whether financial, operational, intelligence, personnel, logistics, or medical. These transparency efforts will improve our information management, much like Air Force Smart Operations 21 is improving our processes. Finally, the Air Force Information Reliability and Integration Plan for achieving a clean audit will be the key to realizing financial transparency. It is integrated into the DOD-level financial improvement and audit readiness plan, a living document that is dynamic to the ever-changing needs of the Air Force and the Department of Defense business transformation.
The final goal that brings it all together, we’ve talked long and hard about, is the continuation of Air Force Smart Operations 21, fostering smart operations across our total force to include our civilian workforce. Through organizational and process efficiency we not only free up resources for recapitalization, but also deliver more effective and more efficient warfighting capabilities. This is not a program of limited duration, but a change in the culture of our Air Force. It is about a visible commitment to sustaining our competitive advantages in air and space and cyberspace. We must collectively work to eliminate waste in our processes and improve efficiencies to fight this Long War. This has been quite a journey, from staying the course to minding the future, where the horizon is filled with limitless possibilities. This is all about creating knowledgeable airmen through education and training, providing them the right tools and equipment, and then trusting them to do what’s necessary to get the mission done.
It is important to remember we cannot do it alone. I once again ask each of you and our friends here at the Air Force Association for your continued support in helping us achieve the seven goals I have just described. As you can see, your Air Force is fully engaged around the globe, contributing to a growing mission, with amazing airmen that continue to inspire me with their courage, innovation, and dedication. Our NCO corps deserves special mention here. They are the focal point for pushing all of us to new heights, while preparing our junior airmen for a very different future. They also drive our goals and initiatives while retaining responsibility for safety, security, and maintenance despite higher opstempo. I encourage you to engage with them, and tell them how thankful we all are for all that they do. Work with us to provide them the best toolkit for the future, and continue to tell this Air Force story so all will appreciate the sacrifices of these young men and women. We owe them and our future airmen no less.
Then, as we continue to fly and fight in air and space and cyberspace, delivering sovereign options on behalf of our nation and its global interests, I recall the words of Benjamin Franklin, “They that are on their guard and appear ready to receive their adversaries are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, the secure, and the negligent.” Thank you for having me here today. All of you make me incredibly proud to be the 21st Secretary of our United States Air Force. Thank you for what you do for our Air Force—may God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.
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