U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, often point out that while each service is independent, the U.S. Air and U.S. Space Forces are designed to work seamlessly and side-by-side to enhance the capabilities of each in protecting the nation’s security and interests.
That rhetorical truism was literally brought to life March 3 when Brown and Raymond took part together — shoulder to shoulder, in fact — in a cordial “fireside chat” before a large and influential audience of Airmen, Guardians, industry and elected officials at the Air Force Association’s Warfare Symposium.
In a 45-minute session moderated by former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper, both Brown and Raymond offered frank assessments of their service’s current status, the challenges each service faces, how each is building and changing for the future and, importantly, how the Air and Space Forces complement each other in those efforts.
“The transition has gone very, very well,” Brown said about how separating space two years ago into a new and independent service has progressed. “It’s about mutual support and having each other’s back. The thing Jay and I spoke about a lot in terms of development was the balance of how much do we hug each other close and how much do we spread out and grow? We are so intertwined; we are dependent on each other not just from a base operating support construct, but also operationally. We could not do what we do as joint force without the Air Force and the Space Force.”
“We’re one team as the Secretary [Frank Kendall] has said from day one. And we are one team, but I think we’re a better team with two, independent services. I think the strength we all bring now, where Gen. Brown can focus on the air domain and my team can focus on the space domain, make us an even stronger Department,” Raymond said.
While the Air and Space Forces are technically separate, with different and distinct missions and responsibilities, Brown and Raymond noted they also have similar and, in some ways, parallel objectives. Both the Air Force and Space Force are foundational to America’s national security, they said, and as the highest ranking military officers of each, they said it was their obligation to provide Airmen and Guardians the tools they need to succeed.
While there was debate about the need for a separate service devoted to space before Space Force was born in December 2019, that debate has been settled.
In the past three years alone, Raymond said the number of items the U.S. must track in space has spiked from 22,000 to more than 40,000. Likewise, the number of satellites that must be tightly monitored has risen from 1,500 to 5,000.
Even more important, according to Raymond, space has moved from a benign environment to a recognized warfighting domain. That change has occurred at the same time that space’s importance to military operations with global positioning, communications and virtually every other aspect of joint operations has emerged as well.
“Our adversaries now have the advantages [in space] we’ve always enjoyed. It’s a different domain that required a different approach,” Raymond said. That explains why the Space Force was created, and since its birth, he said, the service has been “purpose built from the ground up. We couldn’t have done that without support from the Air Force. It’s been a very powerful partnership,” Raymond said.
Both Brown and Raymond emphasized the need for each service to move fast, to innovate and modernize.
Brown said meeting those goals was the catalyst for authoring “Accelerate Change or Lose,” the philosophy driving his thinking and decision-making. That document is accompanied by a series of “action orders” that detail how those concepts are to be made real.
While both Brown and Raymond have taken steps internally to remove barriers, reduce bureaucracy and increase efficiencies, they pointed out external factors that affect how they succeed or fail. Foremost is the federal budget process that in recent years has failed to produce a new budget tailored to meet specific, real-time needs.
Instead of a new budget the federal government has operated under a series of continuing resolutions, or CRs, which recycle the previous year’s spending plan to provide additional time to complete work on a new budget.
Operating under long-term CRs “is absolutely devastating to us,” Raymond said, because it hampers new programs, modernization and the ability to target money to programs and policies where it’s most needed.
The current CR expires March 11, more than halfway through the fiscal year, which began October 1, 2021.
Budgets are important, both leaders said, because the nature of conflict and the capabilities of adversaries such as China and Russia are changing. Brown said the Air Force needs to adapt by using such tactics as agile basing, known in the Air Force as Agile Combat Employment, or ACE. The idea is augmenting large, fixed bases with smaller, more mobile and nimble bases that make it more difficult for adversaries to find and target them.
“We’ve gotten used to going someplace where everything is all set up and already there. In the future, we’re going to go places where we haven’t gone to before,” Brown said. He added “[ACE] is a capability, but it’s also a mindset of our multi-capable Airmen; the ability to go into a base you haven’t gone to before, set it up and tear it down, but also the ability to stretch our Airmen and allow them to use all their skills and talent.”
Brown and Raymond also emphasized the importance and value of allies and partners in much the same way Kendall did in his remarks to the Symposium an hour before the fireside chat.
Despite the challenges and threats, Brown and Raymond said they remain optimistic because of one overriding factor — the quality of Airmen and Guardians.
“They are incredible,” Raymond said about the Space Force’s Guardians. “They are collaborative, they’re connected, they want to serve. They are bold, they’ve got ideas and it requires a different kind of leadership style.”
Brown sees the same attributes in Airmen.
“I really do think about this generation and the aspect of how connected they are, how much they want their leadership to know them and care, and they really want to contribute. We have to make sure we get out of the way and let them contribute. That, to me, is the exciting part. And if we, as leaders, don’t get it right, they aren’t going to stick with us. We need to really think about that,” he said.
Article authored by Charles Pope, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs