AFA Warfare Symposium 2022
Photo Caption & Credits

Q&A: Two Chiefs, One Fight

March 23, 2022

The keynote addresses from the Air Force and Space Force chiefs are highlights of AFA’s major conferences, and the 2022 AFA Warfare Symposium was no exception. But this year’s event featured a unique twist: Air Force Chief Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond shared the stage in a conversation moderated by one of their forerunners, Gen. John P. Jumper, who was the 17th Air Force Chief from 2001-2005. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Find the full video and a complete transcript at  

Gen. Jumper: This is the 75th anniversary of the Air Force. Some of us of a certain age were there when the Air Force were born—I was 2 at the time. And then I celebrated my 75th personal anniversary when the Space Force was born. So I’ve watched it all. C.Q., talk a little bit about the 75th anniversary of the Air Force. 

Brown: It’s a big deal, as you might imagine, and it’s not just the Air Force, but the department, and what we’re able to do together. It’s exciting, I would say, as the ‘older sibling,’ to work with someone I’ve known for a number of years … “one team, one fight,” but also two separate services. … Over time, you know, our culture will be embedded in theirs. But there are some things we’re going to learn from the Space Force, as well.  

Jumper: Well, ‘little brother?’  

Raymond: “First of all, I’ve been an Airman for 35 and a half years, and I’ve been a Guardian for two, and I celebrate the Air Force’s birthday, as well. We’re one team, as the Secretary said. …. But I think we are better … having two independent services. 

Jumper: How do we think about this global environment and what we’re doing to sort of stay ahead?”

Raymond: It’s a global, dynamic—probably the most dynamic and complex security environment in three generations. … Three years ago, I would have told you we were tracking about 22,000 objects. Today, we’re tracking close to 50,000 objects in space. Three years ago, I would have told you we were tracking 1,500 satellites. Today, we’re tracking almost 5,000 satellites. In fact, about two hours ago, we just launched another 47 out of Cape Canaveral, supporting a SpaceX launch. In fact, that one company, SpaceX, in the last two years, has launched more satellites than we were tracking [just three years ago]. And then if you look at those capabilities, and you look at what China and Russia have done—I’ll focus on China—and have integrated those capabilities into a warfighting architecture, [such] that if deterrence were to fail, we are now going to be up against an adversary that has the same advantages that we’ve enjoyed. … Couple that with the spectrum of threats that we’re seeing from low-end, reversible jamming to high-end kinetic destruction, and it’s a different domain. … It requires a different approach.  

Jumper: In Kosovo, I recall everybody celebrating these chat nets that we had among our platforms, and they were celebrating doing things at the speed of typing. And I said, ‘No, no, we’ve got to do this to the speed of light.’ And here we are now. We have this opportunity. What are the most urgent priorities for each of you right now? 

As Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Charles Brown Jr. called USAF the “elder sibling” to USSF, while Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond laughed at being called the “little brother.” Mike Tsukamoto/staff

Brown: One of the things that the Secretary kind of highlighted was bureaucracy—the ability for us to make decisions faster. My goals are really laid out in the Action Orders. And, you know, just this last month, I actually updated the Action Orders because “Accelerate Change … or Lose” is really the enduring part of what I’m focused on. And the reason why I did the modifications is because … facts and assumptions always change. And so it’s really, you know, how do we take care of our Airmen? Things like a static closeout date on our OPRs [officer performance reports]. It’s the aspect of how we work resilience for our Airmen and our families. It’s working through the bureaucracy; it’s introducing the staff to the staff. What I mean by that is how do we collaborate better? It’s how we deepen our understanding of the PRC. … In an Action Order on design implementation, it is doing exactly what we did last year, being on the same page with our senior leaders and communicating off of one page. And that’s an aspect that not only will happen as that [fiscal] ’23 budget comes out, but as we start to build ’24. … Because we’re on a path to transition to the future. … Those are my goals, you know, those are short term, but they’re also long term, as well. 

Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond during a panel discussion at the AFA Warfare Symposium. Mike Tsukamoto/staff

Raymond: I applaud C.Q.’s ‘Accelerate Change … or Lose’ vision. We see that the same way. It’s a little different for us, though. … We’ve been given an opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper. And so we’re trying to build it differently from the ground up. There are probably a couple thousand people in this room. If you added another one of these rooms, that’s the entire Space Force. We’re really small. I’m not worried as much about bureaucracy in that we have a really small bureaucracy in the Space Force. My challenge, our challenge, is do we have enough mass to be able to operate in the broader Department of Defense bureaucracy and to be effective?   

For us, the first year was largely about inventing the service. And the second year was all about integrating it into the broader department. We’ve got all the major pieces in place. Now, it’s really continuing to deliver and capitalizing on what we’ve built. The big focus area for us this year, and for the next decade, is shifting our space architecture to a new, more resilient architecture by the design of the force. The capabilities that we have in space are exquisite. They’re small in numbers, and they’re not easily defendable. Our joint and coalition [obligations are to deliver] the space capabilities that we provide. Those can’t be [viewed] as a given anymore. And so we’re going to continue to provide those capabilities, and do so in a way that’s more resilient, so we can assure that and they can’t take be taken for granted. 

Jumper: We created the Space Force out of the Air Force … beginning with our Air Force missions and Air Force Airmen but also the other services and addressing space capabilities in the other agencies, as well. How has that transition gone, as far as separating the missions and how we’ve addressed the people issues?  

Raymond: Today, we’ve got just shy of 7,000 Active-duty Guardians. We’ll grow by the end of this year to about 8,400. …. It’s interesting: About a third of those will have never served an Active-duty day in the Air Force. … One of my former bosses used to talk about the art and science of professional development, and that when you have a service that’s really, really large, the science kind of takes over, the machine takes over, because it has to. When you have a service our size, you can do things differently. And so we’ve built a strategy that allows us to have a little bit more art … because we can. And we want to take advantage of that luxury to really, really make a difference in our Guardians’ and their families’ lives. 

Brown: The one thing that Jay and I talked about, as he came into this position, was the balance of how much do we, you know, hug each other close and how much do we let them, you know, kind of spread out and grow. … They’re actually able to go do some things at a smaller scale. It’s a forcing function for us as an Air Force, because there are some things we can learn. You know, if you’ve got a toddler, if he’s running around at 2 years old, you’ve got to chase them. … We are so intertwined, we are so dependent on each other, not just from a base operating/support construct, but operationally. We cannot do what we do as a joint force without the Air Force and the Space Force. Not to disparage the other services, but the relationship we have makes a lot of things happen around the world for our allies and partners.  

Jumper: I think that’s an advantage of being in the Department of the Air Force. It gives you this natural closeness. How about the other services, Jay? How’s that gone trying to integrate with the missions and the people of the other services? 

Raymond: That’s been one of the benefits of having an independent service. I can now go directly to those other services. We’ve gotten done a lot of analytical work with the Navy. We just signed an MOU with the Army on tactical-level ISR. I think it’s one of the things that Congress highlighted when they were debating whether to pass the law on an independent service. There were a few things that they highlighted: … One was the ability to integrate. There were 60-something people in the Department of Defense that could say ‘No,’ and nobody could say ‘Yes.’ So today, the [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] … has designated the Space Force as the lead integrator for joint space requirements. That’s a huge deal. … The Secretary of Defense will delegate to the Space Force the force design work, so no longer do you have 60 different people trying to come up with things. Our goal is to drive that unity of effort across the department and then get everybody rowing in the same direction, and then tee that up for the Secretary of the Air Force and DOD’s governance structure to make the decision. And then we can move out at speed and reduce duplication, reduce costs. 

Jumper: I think probably every service chief for the past couple of decades has had to deal with a continuing resolution [CR] or sequestration or government shutdown or some other bump in the road in the budgetary process. And it is really an impediment to progress. What are the risks of not having an approved budget? 

Brown: I just want the whole audience to repeat after me: ‘CRs are bad.’ They’re frustrating. We had to testify before the House Appropriations Committee in January to look at the potential for a yearlong CR. And we talked about buying power and the like, and that’s why I asked my staff to actually pull something together for me. And the fact is, over the past decade, we’ve only passed one budget on time. If you add up all the time we’ve been in CRs, it’s been over three years. So basically 30 percent of the last [decade]. … If we were in a race with somebody, we just spotted him three years! We can’t keep doing this. …  

It impacts our ability to fight, impacts our ability to do foundational-type things, to do our foundational pieces, to take care of our Airmen, families, infrastructure, how we work with the combatant commands, the Guard and Reserve. It drives up risk in execution, because we’ll build a good plan, but then we can’t execute it because of the CR. And then it impacts our industrial base and our ability to commit to moving things forward. … We’ve got to quit doing this to ourselves.  

Raymond emphasized the positives of having a small service and the ability to do things di erently, and commended Brown’s vision for “Accelerate Change … or Lose. Mike Tsukamoto/staff

Raymond: CRs are bad and a yearlong CR is unprecedented. … We’ve gotten good at bad behavior. We’ve gotten good at pushing contracts to the end of the year. We’ve gotten good at doing things that we had to do because we didn’t have the resources to do it or a law that allowed us to do it. … A yearlong CR for the Space Force is a $2 billion hit to the top line. … It impacts our modernization. It impacts our pivot to a resilient architecture. It impacts our readiness. It impacts our being able to develop training capabilities and testing capabilities, and it impacts our Guardians and their families because we rely very heavily on the Air Force for those types of programs. … And it impacts our ability to continue to establish the service. We’ve identified missions that are going to transfer from the Army and the Navy into the Space Force. … All the people have volunteered. I’ve been on the road here recently visiting them and overseas and in CONUS. They’re eager to come. But we can’t bring them in until the law is passed. … A yearlong CR would be absolutely devastating to us. [March 10, Congress passed the omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2022, sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature.]

Jumper: How would you describe the current state of the industrial base? 

Raymond: I think in the space domain, we’ve learned a lot about the industrial base, especially under the pandemic. It forced us to understand it better. …[A recent report on the space industry] talked about how it is tactically strong but strategically fragile. … There are opportunities to expand this industrial base to get more … innovative players into it, which is what we want to do. And we think there are opportunities here … for a national-level vision on an industrial base. … 

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., at the AFA Warfare Symposium. Mike Tsukamoto/staff

Brown: I think we’ve gotten … so efficient in certain areas, whether it’s the industrial base in the commercial sector … [or] our depots, that we … may not be effective in the future. If we had to surge, we’d be challenged. I get worried about the age of our fleet, and you look at diminishing manufacturing sources, where the company that actually built this particular [system] doesn’t exist anymore. You have to start from scratch. … We haven’t put as much into R&D or the aspect of STEM education. … I’ve had a chance to meet with a number of smaller companies—with venture capitalists—and they’re patriotic, and they want to work with us, but we can’t make it so hard. … You know, the ‘valley of death?’ …  There’s a lot of innovation on one side of the valley, a lot of interest on the other side, [and] we just can’t get the two of those to meet. … It’s the aspect of being able to use the operational imperatives—put operators with the technical experts with acquisition professionals with industry. … It’s all about collaboration to buoy these things forward.  

Jumper: There are many initiatives underway that make our force more agile, more survivable. Would you talk about how the Air and Space Force are thinking about these fundamental shifts in the way we go to war? 

Brown: We’ve gone to the same places for the past 20, well, actually 30 years, for the Air Force in the Middle East. And we’ve gotten used to going someplace where everything’s all set and ready to go. You don’t have to set anything up; it’s already there. In the future, we’re going to go places we haven’t gone to before, particularly if you think about the Indo-Pacific. … This is where the operational imperatives come in. … The other thing that I think about as we move forward from a wartime perspective is  … agile combat employment. There’s a capability, but it’s also the mindset of our multi­capable Airmen: The ability to not only go into a base that you haven’t gone to before, set things up, tear it down, and move around, but it’s the ability to stretch our Airmen and allow them to use all their skills and talent. … When we changed our doctrine to mission command and talked about centralized command, distributed control, decentralized execution: It’s the aspect of being able to work small teams and trusting our Airmen to be able to do things. … The conflict in the future is going to be much different than what we’ve been doing in the Middle East. We’ve got to really change ourselves.   

Raymond: As you become more agile and more dispersed, you also have to be able to bring data from space down and get that into the hands of the folks that need that information. And so the work that we’re doing to develop tactical-level ISR requirements for the department and then figure out how best with our Intelligence Community and partners to satisfy those requirements and then task and distribute data to the joint force is going to be critical. 

Jumper: This idea of being truly expeditionary  is fascinating for some of us old guys, who at the front end of creating the Air Expeditionary Force, got trapped into this static situation. But what we also learned in that period was that part of our core competencies need to include security outside the fence—engineering, maintenance, and sortie generation. So how do you look at this development of these competencies?  

Brown: When we talk about multi-capable Airmen, it’s one part of the doctrine. It’s the mindset to allow them to trust themselves that they can do these things. … I want a mindset of Airmen that actually think differently and challenge the status quo of how we might operate. … I just need to be able to understand what it is they’re trying to get done so that I can support them. … And then, technology is much different. You know, …  I didn’t have an email address when I came into the Air Force. I think that my first email address was when I was a captain, which tells you things have changed. So we’ve got to change too. … We need to redefine ‘expeditionary’—what we did during the AEF construct to where we’re going to go today.”

Jumper: We never really achieved the agility we were striving for because the conditions were different. We’ve got to get there now. 

Brown: Exactly. 

Jumper: Talk about this current generation of Guardians and Airmen and what we have in the force today. 

Raymond: They’re incredible. I mean, they’re way smarter than I am. And my college roommate’s here somewhere, and he’ll vouch for that. They’re collaborative; they’re connected. They want to serve. They are bold. They’ve got ideas. And it requires a different leadership style. It requires less AFIs and ‘Here’s how we’re going to do business,’ and [being] more open to choices. … Chief Towberman, our chief master sergeant of the Space Force, has really been working this hard. We’ve developed a human capital plan with what we call the ‘Guardian Ideal’ that gets after this. …  

Brown: I think about this generation as they come in and the aspect of how connected they are, how much they want their leadership to know them and care. … And we got to make sure we get out of their way to allow them to contribute. … You think about the tools we provide them. We want to make sure that they don’t have to step back into the ’80s when they come to work each day. 

Moderator Gen. John Jumper (Ret.) joined Brown and Raymond in condemning seemingly endless continuing resolutions instead of passing funding bills in a timely fashion. Staff Sgt. Elora McCutcheon

Jumper: How do you look at the risks and the challenges for sustaining Air Force readiness at the level that we need it to be confident in our missions? 

Brown: It’s a challenge, because the United States Air Force is very popular. And I joke about this, but I feel like a chew toy between combatant commanders, where they’re pulling and asking for more and more Air Force capability to go to different places. Because the United States Air Force is the one service that can get there faster than anybody else except for the Space Force—17,500 miles an hour, we can’t go quite that fast—but we can get there and do things in hours and days that may take others weeks and months to do. So we make it look too easy.  

… The other part for the Air Force is we’ve got to be a little more bold. We’ve got to speak up for ourselves and show what the impact is. And that’s something I don’t know that we’ve done very well. … We’ve got to do a better job of talking about what happens to our readiness if we continue to use our capabilities at the rate we do and we don’t modernize. You’ve got to look at it from a broader perspective. And I think if you look at current events today, with Russia and Ukraine, and our pacing challenge, we’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. And we’ve got to really think about how we preserve some of that readiness [and] at the same time assure deterrence.

Raymond: I had the opportunity to be a combatant commander and a service chief at the same time. And what you see different between a combatant commander and a service chief is a combatant commander has a very near-term focus, one to three years, and service chiefs look to the future. And so I had the opportunity to disagree with myself in my two hats. And the cool thing is, I won. I really can’t tell you which hat I won in, but I always won. General Brown has highlighted that in a way that I think has helped inform the joint force and will help us build the readiness that we need for future issues we have to face.

Jumper: I think we’re watching sort of a recasting of how we view alliances in the current situation in Europe. Can each of you just say a word about our alliances and the importance of our alliance partners going into the future? 

Brown: We’ve got to think differently about how we do our formula, tell ourselves how we do co-development of capabilities, how we share information. Those are the things that are going to break down some of the barriers. The things that we have to do with our allies, we’ve got to make some things more actionable. You can look at today’s current events of how NATO has really come together for a crisis. But we can’t wait for a crisis. We’ve got to be doing these things on a day-to-day basis.  

Raymond: [With space], typically the partnerships over history have been in the civil space side with NASA. We haven’t had the international partnerships on the national security space side to the level that we need. We need them in a big way [now,] with the domain becoming a warfighting domain. … What used to be largely one-way data-sharing partnerships are now two-way partnerships. We operate together; we train together; we wargame together; we operate capabilities together. And if we get this force design right, where we build this new design for our space capabilities, we think there’s greater opportunity for allied partnerships and those capabilities, as well. So it’s extremely, extremely important, and we’re very grateful to our partners for being there with us.