The Air Force has made tough choices
and some prudent trade-offs to balance the service across the
spectrum of capabilities needed for the future, Air Force leaders
said. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of
Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz discussed the service's efforts to
balance between today's operations and tomorrow's needs. The two
spoke to a group of reporters in the Pentagon, Thursday.
The service is working to balance the missions from irregular
warfare on one end of the spectrum of conflict to nuclear deterrent
operations on the other.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates agreed with an Air Force
recommendation to retire early 250 older aircraft, to allow the
service to reprogram money to other areas. "[The decision] allows
us to take some additional strategic risk over the next six to
seven years, which we think, given the threat environment and the
current strategic interests, is a good time to take this risk,"
The service will reinvest the money into modifying the remaining
aircraft, improving munitions and moving manpower into new
high-demand requirements. These requirements include unmanned
aerial vehicles, the nuclear enterprise and in intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance.
"At the same time, we also focused on the future of the tactical
air force structure and on fifth generation solutions," Donley
said. "Our interest is in getting on with the Joint Strike Fighter
The service ultimately will buy more than 1,700 of these
aircraft. The fiscal 2010 budget request looks to increase testing
of the aircraft and buying 30.
The Air Force also intends to go ahead with F-22 modifications,
budgeting more than $1 billion for it in fiscal 2010, Donley said.
"We think this is a good package for the Air Force and that it
makes good strategic sense," he said.
The secretary also highlighted the Air Force acquisition
improvement plan, which began after the General Accountability
Office found the service erred in its contract for the new
The first component of the plan is to strengthen and improve the
acquisition workforce. The Air Force is to hire about 2,000
employees over the next year; provide additional training to all
acquisition personnel; and beef up systems engineering and cost
A second area of emphasis is to pay more attention to
requirements and to ensure Air Force officials understand the
technology risks involved in meeting operator demands for more
A third area for improvement is financial stability, and a
fourth is a stronger source selection process. "This is where we
make the final procurement decisions and the Air Force has already
started retraining personnel for this highly visible portion of the
acquisition," Donley said.
The final area reviews the Air Force organizational structure.
[ANN Thanks the American Forces Press Service]