U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr, made his first major pronouncement on Monday, declaring the need for the service to speed up and be more effective in its collaboration with Congress, military, industry and allied partners.
Brown bluntly confronted the risks and threats from “peer competitors” such as Russia and China, and the reality of the new strategic environment we are in.
During the media roundtable where Brown presented his eight-page strategic approach, ‘Accelerate, Change or Lose,’ he declared, “We can’t predict the future, but we can definitely shape the future.” The document itself showcases the need for change; foreshadowing what needs to happen and how it can occur.
“So I think we have a window of opportunity to accelerate some of those changes. And personally, I’d rather drive than ride. I’d rather try to help shape what’s going on versus sitting back observing and being impacted by what’s going on. We must rise to the occasion,” said Brown.
Many of the actions and the emerging culture that Brown outlines in this strategic approach has been underway for awhile. It was largely driven by the demands of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
The foremost action in this strategy is to push the concept of fully integrated joint warfighting.
“We must focus on the joint warfighting concept, enabled by Joint All-Domain Command and Control and rapidly move forward with digital, low cost, high tech, warfighting capacities,” the document states.
The need for the Air Force to successfully transform itself to confront peer powers remains. It also must adopt a command and control structure that includes air, land, sea, cyber and space as well as seamless connections with other services and allies.
In this strategic approach, Brown embraces a cultural shift that “requires greater integration across the services to deny competitors an exploitable seam between the high-ground domains and the cyberspace that connects and enables effects across them all. As Airmen, we must think differently about what it means to fly, fight and win,” said Brown.
The desire to innovate and problem solve is required as leaders focus on streamlining bureaucracy. This strategic approach also requires candid assessment, accountability and introspection within the ranks.
“While we have made progress, our Airmen need us to integrate and accelerate the changes necessary to explore new operational concepts and bring more rapidly the capabilities that will help them in the future fights,” states the document.
Airmen that are called into the future fight ahead must be “multi-capable and adaptable team builders, as well as innovative and courageous problem-solvers, and demonstrate value in the diversity of thought, ingenuity and initiative,” said the document.
“Our Air Force must accelerate change to control and exploit the air domain to the standard the nation expects and requires from us. If we don’t change – if we fail to adapt – we risk losing the certainty with which we have defended our national interests for decades,” Brown warns in the document.CSAF_22_Strategic_Approach_Accelerate_Change_or_Lose_31_Aug_2020
The eight-page document continues, “Tomorrow’s Airmen are more likely to fight in highly contested environments, and must be prepared to fight through combat attrition rates and risks to the nation that are more akin to the World War II era than the uncontested environment to which we have since become accustomed. The forces and operational concepts we need must be different. Our approach to deterrence must adapt to the changes in the security environment.”
“Only through collaboration within and throughout will we succeed. The Air Force must work differently with other Department of Defense stakeholders, Congress and both traditional and emerging industry partners to streamline processes and incentivize intelligent risk-taking. Most importantly, we must empower our incredible Airmen to solve any problem. We must place value in multi-capable and adaptable team builders, and courageous problem solvers that demonstrate value in diversity of thought, ingenuity and initiative.”
Brown is direct regarding force structure, changing budgets and facing any internal impediments to change.
“We must acknowledge the realities of the fiscal environment to ensure that the U.S. Air Force is gaining the most value and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. To be successful, the U.S. Air Force must continue its future design work and accelerate the evolution and application of its operational concepts and force structure to optimize its contribution to Joint All Domain Operations,” he said in the document.
Although there are many challenges to face, Brown is confident that the barriers can be overcome.
“Today’s U.S. Air Force, and its assumed dominance, was shaped by highly innovative and courageous Airmen throughout our storied history,” the Strategic Approach says.
“Seeing the need for change, they forged new technologically-advanced force structures and developed novel operational concepts that paved the way for the many successes we have achieved. We can do it again.”