WASHINGTON: Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz joined 13 other generals during a panel discussion Sept. 16 at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition held at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.
“This is the group of leaders that strives every day to be worthy of the brilliance and excellence of our Airmen,” General Schwartz said in kicking off the forum.
Each general offered an opening remark addressing their two main challenges on the five-to-ten year horizon, answered questions from audience members, and closed the forum by addressing the theoretical question, “If you had one more dollar to spend, what would you do with it?”
Many of the generals focused on recapitalization and Airmen development in the midst of a “resource constrained environment.”
“[Special Operations Command] has what it needs to do what we’re doing now,” said Lt. Gen. Donald C. Wurster, Air Force Special Operations Command commander. But the AFSOC commander also reminded the audience that many of the airframes his command flies entered service in the 1960s. He stressed that special operations missions rely heavily on the reliability of equipment, and that his major command would benefit from more CV-22 Ospreys or some other vertical lift platform.
Generals Donald J. Hoffman, Air Force Materiel Command commander; Arthur J. Lichte, Air Mobility Command commander; and Duncan J. McNabb, U.S. Transportation Command commander, all indicated their commitment to move forward with a new tanker program.
“I think you can all guess where my next–and any dollar–would go,” said General Lichte. “Tankers, tankers, tankers!”
Without a new tanker airframe, the service’s KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extenders are shouldering the load. “With our tankers operating in a new steady state that was once a surge, the combatant commanders can be confident that we will always get them the forces and supplies they need to win,” said General McNabb. “We will always get through.”
The training and equipping of Airmen was also in sharp focus for many of the panel members.
Gen. William M. Fraser III, Air Combat Command commander, said it is clear to him after just a short time in the job that one of his main priorities will be to take a hard look at unmanned aerial system personnel issues, including how to ensure Airmen have appropriate opportunities for career progression.
The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve face unique, yet complimentary challenges to those of the active force.
Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of Air Force Reserve specifically indicated he would spend any new money for the Air Force Reserve’s seasoning training program, which speeds upgrade from 3 to 5-level for enlisted reservists as they perform temporary, active-duty tours.
General Stenner is committed to providing “tier-one readiness” as a partner with the active-duty component, which drives his commitment to seasoning training. “I used to have 85 percent prior service Airmen,” said the general. “Now it’s 65 percent.”
Gen. Roger A. Brady, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, believes the best approach is to operate as if today’s funding level will be the norm.
“We need to train, mentor and teach our young people to live in the present and make do with what they’ve got,” General Brady said. “We have to get people out of the habit of thinking that they can’t solve a problem if there isn’t money attached to it.”
The diversity of perspectives, needs and issues they raised spotlighted the complexity of the Air Force.
In concluding, the chief of staff of the Air Force indicated his sense that the Air Force mandate for moving ahead is clear.
“As we go forward, it is absolutely important that…we live in the present, but also put an eye on where we want to be, and who we want to be,” said General Schwartz. “And we are going to make those two charges resonate for our Airmen.
The panel discussion also featured Gens. C. Robert Kehler Air Force Space Command commander; Stephen R. Lorenz,, Air Education and Training Command commander; Craig R. McKinley, National Guard Bureau chief; Gary L. North, Pacific Air Forces commander; Lt. Gens. Frank G. Klotz, Air Force Global Strike Command commander; and Harry M. Wyatt III, Air National Guard director.