Air Force Chief Signals Major Cultural Shift Within The Service

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Defense Daily
February 12, 2009
By Marina Malenic
The U.S. Air Force will embrace a collaborative and supportive role in the types of low-level ground wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, the service's chief of staff said yesterday in an internal policy address that signaled a major shift in the way the branch does business.
"We will not hold onto the old ways of doing things simply because that's the way we're comfortable or it's the way they've always been done," said Gen. Norton Schwartz.
The general emphasized the need for military leaders to adjust quickly to the unexpected. Speaking to an audience made up primarily of special operations forces from all the military branches, Schwartz told them that the Air Force "will shape our training and our developmental meet the challenges that we face."
Schwartz took command last year after his predecessor, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, was forced to resign over a string of nuclear-related mishaps that led to the start of a major Air Force overhaul. During Moseley's tenure, the service had also been accused by the Pentagon's civilian leadership of remaining aloof from the needs of the current wars. The Air Force was seen as being preoccupied with purchasing expensive equipment that was of little use to soldiers engaged in a low-level ground conflict.
"For a while, there were those in my service who though that there were some things that diminished us," Schwartz said. "It wasn't our job, and somehow we'd rather be doing other things.
"We're not there any more," he said. "This is about being there. This is about serving."
For example, Schwartz said that the terminology of "in lieu of" assignments that sent many airmen into the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would no longer be used.
"My view was always, it's not in lieu of anything," said Schwartz. "Why do we use a term that is inherently pejorative to describe doing worthy wartime work?"
Schwartz challenged all the military branches to "bring our best thinking to bear on this new, hybrid form of conflict." He said innovation is possible despite, and possibly even because of, shrinking budgets.
"We in the Air Force will not let austerity and fiscal constraints limit our thinking about innovation," he said. "History teaches us that some of the most revolutionary innovations have been born of austerity."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced yesterday that Schwartz met the same day with his Army counterpart, Gen. George Casey, and 35 other general officers from both services to discuss the interdependency and interoperability of their two branches. The "Warfighter Talks" were first held in 1965, according to a Pentagon spokesman, and discussions this time around included command and control of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and improving liaison personnel exchanges between the services.
The Air Force will host similar talks with Navy leaders in March and Marine Corps leaders in April, according to an Air Force spokesman.
Asked yesterday about the debate between the Army and Air Force over ownership of tactical UAS, Schwartz said he doesn't see "much of a debate."
"These kinds of theological discussions are really not helpful," he said. "What this is really about is, regardless of what uniform people are [wearing] the data getting to who needs it?
"All this other stuff is sort of a black hole for energy," he added. "So we're not playing in that game any more."
Schwartz also stressed the need for his service to collaborate with and support the other services, U.S. civilian agencies and allied forces.
"I have seen that achievements in conventional challenges are the work of brilliance," he said. "But achievements in future challenges will be the work of collaborative genius."
The general did not, however, comment on how the movement away from conventional challenges would affect the need for conventional capabilities such as fighter jets. The Obama administration is set to hand down a major decision on additional F-22 Raptor purchases on March 1.
"The bottom line is that the United States Air Force is all in," Schwartz said. "Wherever it is, whatever's needed and whatever it takes."