Saturday, September 12, 2009

Air Force Chief calls for unity, collaboration between Guard, Active Duty

U.S. Air Force Joint Chief Gen. Norton A. Schwartz addresses National Guard delegates from 54 states and territories during the National Guard Association of the United States conference in Nashville, TN, Sept. 12. Schwartz called for collaboration and adaptation as the Air Force moves forward on its future ‘total force’ strategic plan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, National Guard Bureau Public Affairs)

Citing evolving missions and shrinking budgets, the Joint Chief of the Air Force called for the Air National Guard and active duty forces to work closer together in a spirit of collaboration, but called for flexibility and an ability to adapt.

“The skill-set of National Guard members is critical to sustaining worldwide partnerships,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, during his speech at the 131st annual National Guard Association of the United States in Nasville, TN, Sept. 12.

“We stand to succeed across all areas of our total force mission,” Schwartz said. “But we face numerous challenges.”

Schwartz said the total Air Force structure is evolving, and with it, so too are the demands being placed upon the force by the U.S. government.

“We need to adapt to this change,” he said.

Schwartz said the Air Force’s most pressing priority is the acquisition of new tanker aircraft. The general echoed Air Force Secretary Mike Donley’s speech at the NGAUS convention the day before, citing a robust request for proposal, which is due out to contractors later in 2009, with a final contract awarded in late 2010.

“You all have a considerable investment in the new tanker,” Schwartz told the audience who responded with applause.

“The second priority is our fighter aircraft,” he said.

He said it would be a “major mistake as a nation” to spend money on upgrading the existing Air Force inventory, and “prematurely walk away from the F-35.”

“Why would I want to dissipate a limited pool of resources on a 4.5 generation fighter, when I can purchase a fifth generation platform?” Schwartz asked the audience.

While Schwartz believes the F-22 Raptor is “over-spec’d” for the Air Force’s Air Sovereignty Alert mission, he hopes to bring a combination of F-22, F-35, legacy aircraft (including upgraded F-15 and F-16 fighters), and unmanned aircraft, also known as UAVs, to the ASA mission.

Schwartz said that while distribution of any new platform concurrently between the active duty Air Force and Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units is important, the changing role of the Air Force means not all units will retain their present missions—be they a flying mission or otherwise.

“We must recognize that the total Air Force is evolving,” he said. “We need to adapt, but adaptation also applies to a concurrent and proportional roll-out in terms of F-35 procurement.”

Schwartz said in the future not every fighter unit will retain their flying mission. Units may migrate to an unmanned flying mission, or even a non-flying mission.

“We need to be equally prepared to do those missions too,” he said. “And in those cases, I think together we can kick ass.”

The third priority for the Air Force is its long-range strike capability, Schwartz said. According to the general, the Secretary of Defense terminated the next generation long-range bomber program because he wasn’t convinced the strategy was clearly defined.

“I think our country needs a penetrating air capability,” he said. “We cannot depend exclusively on ‘fire and forget’ ballistic missiles.”

“And as you know,” he continued, citing the B-2 bomber mission at Whiteman AFB in Missouri, “(The Air Force) has a significant partnership in long-range strike capability with the Guard and Reserve.”

The general reminded the group of recent ceremonies commemorating the eighth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, calling them “a sobering reminder of the unfamiliar political and military landscape Americans now faces.”

“Now more than ever, we must be vigilant in our efforts to provide for the common defense of our nation,” Schwartz told the audience.

The 131st annual NGAUS conference concludes on Sept. 13.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
National Guard Bureau Public Affairs

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