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Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testified on acquisition reform before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 7, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Air Force photo by SSgt. Rusty Frank.

Wilson Says USAF Moving Forward on Acquisition Reforms

The Air Force is reforming acquisition practices within the service through a focus on experimentation, asserting service authority over major programs, and taking advantage of accelerated hiring processes, Secretary Heather Wilson told Congress Thursday. But challenges remain. Software development, she told the Senate Armed Services Committee, is one area where “we’re frankly not very good at buying stuff,” Wilson said. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.

O’Shaughnessy Calls for Updated Technology, Concepts in the Pacific

China is a peer-competitor focused on limiting our ability to project power and weaken US alliances in the Pacific, said Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy. In evaluating the US response to this burgeoning challenge, O’Shaughnessy was direct: “The operating environment is going to be incredibly challenging. We now find ourselves surrounded by a set of circumstances that we thought would take far longer to develop. We must update our respective technologies and associated concepts accordingly,” he said at a recent West Coast Aerospace Forum, hosted by AFA’s Mitchell Institute, RAND’s Project Air Force, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Aerospace Corporation. Given pressures driven by sequestration and wartime demands over the past two decades, the general remarked that, “It is going to take a while to recapitalize our Air Force, so we must learn to fight with what we have.” O’Shaughnessy highlighted the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) construct—a concept already in practice across PACAF that enhances flexibility and resilience in projecting power across a distributed set of facilities, versus mega bases in the region that will likely prove quite vulnerable to attack. He emphasized that the military advantage of the United States has never been a given, it is something that is challenged every day and needs to be fought for and protected. (For more coverage of the forum, see also: Information Will be King in Future Warfare.)

Operating in a World Where Contract Stability is Lacking

New entrants to the defense industry recently spoke of the challenges involved with launching a new venture in a world where contract stability is lacking. Draken International, which plays the role of adversary air at the USAF Weapons School and whose sortie tempo ranks as one of the busiest at Nellis AFB, Nev., has been operating off contract extensions for more than two years. This yields less than ideal conditions for retaining top talent and making long term plans, said John “Slick” Baum, Draken’s vice president of training, tactics, and security, at the West Coast Aerospace Forum. “The DOD cannot afford to underutilize commercial partners. Especially those with excess capacity in critical need areas, such as pilot training,” said Baum. Read the full report by Doug Birkey.

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Experimentation is Lord in DOD Acquisition

A new spirit of experimentation is being foregrounded in the Department of Defense, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics Ellen Lord told Congress Thursday. AT&L is using “pilot programs” to drastically reduce procurement timelines, seeking ways to replicate rapid acquisition successes across the department, and experimenting with the model for its new organizational structure. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.

By, With, and Through Africa

The Pentagon’s top policy official said on Thursday “there is no purely military solution to the terrorism threat in Africa.” Speaking before the House Foreign Relations Committee, acting under secretary of defense for policy David Trachtenberg said the Department of Defense “is committed to promoting whole-of-government solutions.” US military strategy on the continent has received new scrutiny since four US special operations members were killed in an ambush on Oct. 4 in Tongo Tongo, Niger. Trachtenberg said the DOD investigation into the ambush is “ongoing,” and “we must therefore wait for the investigation to be completed … before we can have the full picture of what happened.” As in other counterterrorism operations, Trachtenberg said the US strategy in Africa is to work with partners to achieve shared goals. “In the simplest terms, DOD seeks to work by, with, and through our partners in Africa to find African solutions to African problems,” he told the committee. Key US partners on the continent include the African Union and the G-5 Sahel Joint Task Force, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

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—The Air Force will include five enlisted pilots in a new training program to determine their ability to fly modern combat aircraft. The enlisted pilots will join 15 officers taking solo flights in T-6 trainers in a trial designed to inform Air Education and Training Command boss Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast on the future possibility of enlisted combat pilots: Air Force Times.

—The Trump administration has asked a federal court to issue a stay, delaying the order compelling the Department of Defense to begin allowing transgender recruits to serve on Jan. 1, 2018: Politico.

—The Air Force has completed its delivery of 24 refurbished F-16s to the Indonesian air force. The aircraft, which are Block-25 C and D variants, had been retired from USAF and Air National Guard service and were housed at Ogden Air Logistics Complex, Utah: Hill AFB release.

—New airman battle uniforms designed for pregnant members have arrived in the Air Force. The new uniforms were designed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Air Force Uniform Office: Air Force Times.