As the Air Force prepares for new challenges and opportunities of the coming decades, it faces sobering 21st-century realities: global centers of power have become more distributed and the terrorism threat more dispersed. Most importantly, the emerging environment is demonstrating a trend that could prove to be the defining one of current times: the accelerating pace of change.
Thus, the Air Force’s ability to continue to adapt and respond faster than the potential adversaries is the greatest challenge it faces during the next 30 years.
To meet the challenge, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III have developed a strategic framework that will guide Air Force planning and resourcing over the next several decades. The framework has three main elements: a long-term future look that provides the vectors and imperatives necessary to guide planning activities, a 20-year resource-informed plan, and a 10-year balanced budget, based on fiscal projections.
The first document of the trilogy, “America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future,” is the cornerstone guidance for a unified path to the future. The document emphasizes the need for strategy-driven resource decisions. But more important is the courage to make bold change, because Airmen must think and do things differently to thrive in the 21st century.
In an era defined by rapid change, the institution that can keep pace in its processes, thinking, and actions will be the one best poised for success in deterring conflict, and winning should a fight be required. This is what “A Call to the Future” refers to as strategic agility.
Agility combines the attributes of flexibility and adaptability to leverage speed. The rate at which the Air Force develops capabilities needs to increase to match the pace of change and the opportunities to incorporate new technologies and improve existing systems.
James explained further that, “In addition to strategic agility, our nation demands an Air Force capable of harnessing diverse ideas and perspectives. Diversity, total force integration, and building internal and external partnerships provide the nation with the Air Force it expects, deserves, and needs.”
The most important responsibility of a military service is to provide decision makers with viable solutions for the challenges of tomorrow and, true to Air Force heritage, it will meet that challenge. The Air Force will continue to deliver enduring, responsive airpower for national security through both the strength of Airmen and the responsive and effective application of global vigilance, global reach, and global power for America.
As Welsh stated earlier in 2014, “The five core missions of the Air Force are not going to change. These missions are what the combatant commanders and the nation expect us to provide, but the way we think about how they are provided has to change. The Air Force must have the strategic agility required to successfully respond to the complex challenges that will confront our nation.”