Joining you at this AFA Aerospace Luncheon is both a personal pleasure and a great privilege. This occasion has a very special importance for me because I have devoted a fair share of my lifetime to the principles you are now advancing through all the activities of your organization.
This luncheon also provides an opportunity for me to report to you on the activities of the Air Force over the past year.
I propose to do this by discussing the accomplishments of our people and of our operational6 forces. These are the two essential elements that are required to carry out the Air Force mission of today.
The first of these is people.
We have in the Air Force today some 850,000 men and women in uniform, and our requirements will continue at about this same level for as far ahead as we can see.
These people are a group of highly skilled and extreme1y capable individuals. They are professionals by any standards. They are managing the world’s largest business and manning some of the world’s most technically advanced equipment. I believe you will agree they are doing a commendable job.
Here are some of the steps we have taken this year to achieve further improvement in our personnel skills. By gaining authority to almost double the Air Force Academy student body we are now in a position to increase eventually the number of annual graduates from 550 to 960—about thirty-one percent of our annual requirement for Regular officers.
This year in the technical training field we graduated 431,000 personnel.
We also trained about 1,700 pilots and 1,000 navigators.
And during the past year more than 3,600 officers and airmen earned college degrees through our various educational programs.
Despite the challenges and rewards offered by an Air Force career, we find too many of our people leaving the Air Force because of what they regard as greater advantages in civilian life. The extensive training cost associated with this personnel turnover is wasteful of the nation’s resources, and, what is more important, it reduces our combat effectiveness. So it is no wonder that we are concerned about this turnover and want to attract and retain in the Air Force the high caliber of people that we require for our aerospace operations.
I think to do this we must provide our people with two important things—deserved recognition and adequate compensation. There are other factors that affect personnel retention, but these two—recognition and compensation—I consider of paramount importance.
As concerns recognition, we have to consider the basic public attitude toward our military people—toward the sacrifices they are being called upon to make and the hazards they have to accept in the day-to-day course of their duties. Important also is the public attitude toward the integrity and the motivation of the military professional.
In my thirty-five years of service I have seen the mood of our country run hot and cold on each of these points. There have been expressions of lavish praise and respect during periods of major conflict—followed by a general feeling of indifference or even ridicule during periods of relative calm.
On this score the citizens of this country should note that our military people are fighting and dying today in opposing small-scale aggression, just as they were during periods of major conflict.
Those who are not in combat are also making sacrifices. Our aircrew personnel are averaging more than eighty hours per work week. Our people in other operational assignments, in support areas and staff positions are meeting comparable schedules.
This look at duty hours tells only part of the story. The kind of work our people are doing is even more important. This work requires a high order of skill, stamina, training, and experience.
I am confident that a wider appreciation of these points is needed to accord the military profession its proper place as a highly respected element of our society—not just in time of war—but throughout the long periods of cold-war deterrent operations to maintain our current position.
With respect to adequate compensation I am encouraged by favorable congressional action on the last two military pay bills. That action indicates to me that Congress shares our views—both on just compensation for services rendered and on the importance of pay as a career incentive.
I am gratified to hear that many in Congress favor an even greater pay increase. The President, in turn, has ordered a sweeping review of military pay and allowances. These factors are of key importance.
Military pay has not yet reached the level established for comparable skills in industry. Even in government, recent Civil Service pay increases have been more numerous and greater in amount than have military increases. Now, I am in favor of adequate compensation for the Civil Service, but I am certainly keenly aware that comparable increases have not been granted military personnel even though they are called on to make the greater sacrifices and face the greater dangers.
I know well that the Air Force Association, through its highly effective programs, has greatly assisted in improving our Air Force career incentives. We certainly are all grateful for your efforts.
Now, let me turn to the second element for discussion—the achievements of our operational forces.
Our aim is to provide combat-ready forces that can prevail at any level across the spectrum of conflict. Today these forces are being maintained at the highest peak of efficiency, ready to respond to any assigned mission in defense of the nation’s interests.
Now on guard in our strategic forces are approximately 1,100 operational manned bombers and more than 800 operational ICBMs, with fifty percent of our bombers and a substantially greater percentage of our missiles on alert to get off well within our allocated warning time.
The modernization and improvement of this force are continual. By completing a major structural modification of the B-52, we are increasing its ability to penetrate and prolonging its useful life.
The Strategic Air Command recently conducted a series of operational exercises which again tested the capabilities of its B-52 and B-47 long-range jet bomber fleet to deliver conventional ordnance. The B-47 and B-52 crews dropped a wide range of conventional weapons using a variety of delivery techniques and tactics.
Another significant achievement has been the success of the single-manager tanker force in refueling not only strategic ‘bombers, but Tactical Air Command aircraft during exercises, deployment, redeployment, and training. In Exercise Desert Strike alone, SAC KC-135s performed 1,581 refuelings of TAC aircraft. Altogether, 4,200 KC-135 sorties were flown during the past year in support of Tactical Air Command missions and, in fact, we have successfully completed air-refueling capability tests with Navy and Marine fighters.
Our strategic forces represent a formidable package of striking power. They are at peak effectiveness as they have been for a number of years. I foresee no more rapid gains in efficiency. We have in one sense reached the top of the curve and are flattening out. Of course we can always make improvements, but you can’t make big ones every year. And the Strategic Air Command long since reached its peak and has maintained that peak without any valleys ever since. As for SAC’s success, I need only point out that there has been no general war since 1945 and no limited war since Korea. Rather, the Communists have been forced to carry out their aggression through covert means and the so-called “wars of liberation.” In future years the nation will continue to require the irreplaceable margin of strength, flexibility, and confidence in our strategic forces that we currently possess.
Turning now to aerospace defense forces, you should note that they provide an essential element of our strategic deterrence. A strong defense can provide warning for the launch of our retaliatory force and can take a toll of attacking enemy weapon carriers, thereby saving American lives and property.
At present our continental aerospace defense is strong in the area of early warning and command and control. As a trip wire against surprise attack by bombers or missiles, our Distant Early Warning Line and Ballistic Missile Early Warning System are operating with a high order of reliability.
Our missile warning capability was considerably improved this year with the integration of the third BMEWS site, located in the United Kingdom.
The capability for surveillance and tracking of space objects has also improved through the addition of the new phased array radar, faster data processing, and new computer programs.
We have manned interceptors and Bomarc missiles on continuous alert—and so do the Canadians for their part of the North American Air Defense Command. We installed in our first-line interceptors new intercept radar and infrared search-and-track equipment. These aircraft, together with the Army’s Nike and Hawk missiles and certain naval elements, provide a credible continental defense against the manned bomber threat.
In our tactical forces we have more than 1,700 fighters, 200 reconnaissance aircraft, and almost 450 transports.
In Europe and in the Pacific these tactical forces come under the control of the Unified Commanders, and in the United States our tactical forces operate under the Commander in Chief of the Strike Command, Gen. Paul Adams.
Over-all, I am pleased with the quality of our tactical forces. Introduction this year of the F-4C into the inventory is increasing our air superiority, close support, and interdiction capabilities. Already we have several operational squadrons of F-4Cs. The first flight of the next tactical fighter, the variable-wing F-111, will take place this winter.
New tactical conventional ordnance is available that is many times more effective than that which was used only a few years ago. New tactical nuclear weapons provide a wide range of options for our national authorities to consider.
In the area of reconnaissance, the RF-4C is entering the Tactical Air Command inventory this month. It is a day-night, all-weather aircraft. The RF-101, which is the backbone of our present tactical reconnaissance force, is currently being fitted out with new sensors and night-reconnaissance equipment. This modernization will enable the RF-101 to operate in any environment.
We are all working diligently to improve our air-ground teamwork. Last November we established the Tactical Air Warfare Center to find new ways to work with the ground forces. Exercise Desert Strike, conducted this past spring in California and Arizona and Nevada, involved approximately one million men of the Army and Air Force. We are now in the midst of Exercise Indian River, again involving extensive Army and Air Forces. These exercises will further refine our air-ground concepts.
I believe that our tactical forces are in the best shape they have ever been to carry out the difficult and hazardous tasks they are required to perform on a day-to-day basis in every part of the world—and I mean every part of the world. Our single-seat fighters now, as a matter of routine, are flying both oceans continually.
I do not want to complete my remarks on tactical capability without mentioning the work that is being done by our counterinsurgency forces. Shortly after I became Chief of Staff I had to begin dealing with the airpower implications of counterinsurgency operations in South Vietnam. We had not given much thought to this kind of warfare in the past or to the best way of using airpower in fighting it.
In the summer of 1961, we sent our combat advisers to South Vietnam so that we could learn more about counterinsurgency and at the same time teach the Vietnamese aircrews how to use airpower against the Viet Cong.
That program, on a stepped-up scale, is continuing. Our combat advisers, now on the scene, are assisting the Vietnamese in fighting the war and are keeping us posted on the lessons being learned.
Aided by information they provide, we are moving ahead with the further development of counterinsurgency doctrine and equipment to improve our air operations in this kind of conflict wherever it may occur. Today we are also conducting counterinsurgency training not only in South Vietnam but also in Latin America, Europe, and Africa.
In the airlift area, the Air Force provides the principal support to the Military Air Transport Service. MATS now has more than 600 aircraft, which makes it thirty-three percent larger than the three largest US airlines combined.
After many years of struggling, we have finally begun to develop the sort of airlift capability that I think is necessary. And we can now more effectively support our nation’s objectives during periods of major crisis and in opposing limited aggressions. Last year’s Exercise Big Lift, as well as the day-to-day airlift conducted in support of military operations all over the world, are examples of the type dividend produced by this capability. We are continuing to receive the turboprop C-130, an aircraft which all the services like. The new C-141 aircraft will begin to enter the inventory next year. The addition of this aircraft will eventually triple the MATS airlift capability.
Behind our regular operational forces are our dedicated and capable Ready Reserves. Though they are “in reserve” in one sense, they are in another sense very much an “integral part” of the active-duty force in today’s Air Force.
Our goal for the Air Reserve Forces is nothing less than a “Ready Now” element, fully capable of carrying out a wartime operational mission. To arrive at this goal, we have assigned operational tasks to our Reserve units, as opposed to merely having them perform training exercises for the sake of proficiency. Our Reserve Forces transport units, for example, haul actual MATS cargo. Last year they airlifted twelve million pounds overseas.
To strengthen our air defenses, sixty aircraft of the Air National Guard are constantly on runway alert under active Air Force control.
No one is merely boring holes in the sky.
To be able to augment the Regular forces by calling on Reserve units is essential in this day of frequent and unpredictable Communist-inspired crises.
The present “Ready Now” Reserve status has been reached as the result of steady progress since the end of the Korean conflict. Let me give you an example of that progress. In 1961, at the height of the Berlin crisis, we sent the 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing of the Air National Guard to Europe. They crossed the Atlantic in an island-hopping operation, stopping several times to refuel. Their total deployment time was five days. Last month in Exercise Ready Go this same unit made the same deployment in nine hours and fifteen minutes. The difference was airborne refueling, a technique the 117th had mastered since the Berlin crisis.
I’m sure the members of the Air Force Association share with me the pride I take in the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve.
In my comments today I have tried to underscore the importance of attracting and retaining high-caliber people to man our modern aerospace forces—and have discussed our improvements in weapon systems and operational techniques which will add to our combat potential.
By maintaining superior forces to implement our deterrent strategy across the full spectrum of conflict, we can foreclose the enemy’s initiative by putting him in a position where he has no profitable options for aggressive action. I believe that state of affairs should not only be achieved, but preserved as the present-day method of maintaining the peace that we all desire.