Advocating Airpower

Airpower offers one of the most flexible and appropriate capabilities to cope with rising world threats, David Ochmanek, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development, said Monday during a panel discussion at AFA’s Air & Space Conference at National Harbor, Md. Long-term trends of rising powers and non-state actors with access to high technology “will require the qualities of airpower, namely speed, range, and precision, he said. Potential adversaries have been “paying attention” to the successes of US airpower and are busily modeling their own capabilities on those of the US, he said, and US systems need to be “sustained and modernized” to stay ahead. A new penetrating aircraft and standoff missiles that could give legacy aircraft more reach and punch are essential capabilities, he added. However, he said that in advocating such systems, they need to be justified in terms of their contribution to the whole of the US defense enterprise, not just any particular service’s traditional roles and missions. He noted that after taking a shellacking in a particular round of congressional hearings in the 1970s, a new Air Force analysis office was set up to explain the need for new systems. “Rule number one was that the name of the system did not appear on the first page of the paper,” Ochmanek said. USAF learned the hard way that “You don’t advocate for your service” by talking about stealth or superior technology, but by “advocating the needs of the nation and the commander.”