Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the next Chief of Staff of the Air Force, laid out his top priorities during his May confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Brown, who currently leads Pacific Air Forces, will replace Gen. David L. Goldfein as the service’s top uniformed officer, becoming the 22nd CSAF and the first black person to hold the job.
Here are six things that have his attention as he prepares for his new role.
1. Joint All-Domain Command and Control
Brown agrees that connecting the Joint Force is critical to winning future wars, and he wants to continue pursuing what Goldfein laid out as his top priority (then known as multi-domain command and control) at the Air Force Association’s 2016 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. “The United States needs an Air Force that can fly, fight, and win in the air domain as a member of the joint team. In recent years, faced with lesser adversaries, we have taken air superiority for granted, and it is easy to forget that the Joint Force loses without access to the air and the ability to deny that access to our enemies,” Brown wrote.
2. Working with Industry
The Air Force needs to get better at interacting with and incentivizing industry as it looks to find ways to be more innovative. He praised Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper, who has championed out-of-the-box thinking such as topic-specific pitch days, where the Air Force awards contracts on the spot to smaller companies that might typically struggle with navigating Pentagon bureaucracy. Brown said Roper “is leading us to think differently about our relationship with industry, especially beyond our traditional partners, and I hope to be part of that effort.”
3. Developing Airmen
We must develop a culture where commanders build confidence to make decisions in the dynamic situations expected in future fights.Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the next Chief of Staff of the Air Force
New Airmen are smart, tech savvy, and ready to learn, but USAF’s classroom model has some catching up to do. “That’s why I’m excited about the initiatives like [the] Pilot Training NEXT experiment,” an Air Education and Training Command initiative that takes advantage of emerging technology to teach Airmen the way they learn best. “It is showing us how to move from a classroom-centered to a learner-centered model of training, and I think it has far-reaching implications,” Brown said.
4. Empowering Commanders
Empowering commanders was part of Goldfein’s push to revitalize squadrons. Brown wants to continue that effort, saying its critical the Air Force protects its most valuable assets—Airmen. “We must develop a culture where commanders build confidence to make decisions in the dynamic situations expected in future fights,” he wrote in answers to the committee’s advanced policy questions. “This starts with decision- making in daily operations. Too often, decisions that could easily, and appropriately, be made at the lower level are elevated unnecessarily high. If confirmed, I will empower my commanders and leaders to make decisions at the lowest capable and competent levels.”
5. Ensuring Space Superiority
Brown acknowledged that “a great deal” of the department’s “near-term innovation and development” will be in the space domain, and he told the committee he is committed to working closely with Gen. Jay Raymond, the Space Force’s first Chief of Space Operations. “As capabilities such as hypersonics and directed energy evolve, we see the distinctions between space and air fading. I have known General Raymond for a number of years, and I know we will continue to work well together,” Brown said. “It is up to both of us to ensure our commitment to collaboration and cooperation will be replicated throughout our organizations as we stand up the Space Force staff to support him and adjust the Air Force accordingly.”
6. Establishing Flexible Logistics
The Air Force’s fiscal 2021 budget requests funds to ensure the service is capable of conducting “logistics under attack,” something USAF considers key to success in a highly contested environment. Brown wants to invest in pre-positioned logistics, something PACAF already is doing, and said he supports “initiatives focused on more agile, resilient, and survivable energy logistics—from bulk strategic supplies to deliveries at the tactical edge.” He also supports the idea of “expeditionary logistics under attack,” saying the service needs to provide “agile and survivable forward communications” to defend against an attack in cyberspace.
Brown Vows New Measures to Boost USAF Readiness
By Rachel S. Cohen
The Air Force Inspector General (IG) is conducting a sweeping review of the service’s readiness assessments and reporting, a year after a Pentagon-wide order directed the armed forces to improve the state of key fighter fleets, according to the service’s next Chief of Staff.
Air Force department leadership told the inspector general in mid-March to begin the classified review, future Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said to the Senate Armed Services Committee ahead of his May 7 confirmation hearing. The review’s findings will shape the service’s path forward as it looks for more comprehensive metrics for whether it can spring into action.
In 2018, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis challenged the services to ensure that 80 percent of their F-16, F/A-18, F-22, and F-35 fleets could fly on any given day by the end of fiscal 2019. No Air Force fighter platforms hit the mark.
“The F-16 mission-capable rate reached a high of 75 percent in June 2019, the F-22 mission-capable rate achieved a high of 68 percent in April 2019, and the F-35 mission capability rate climbed to a high of 74 percent in September 2019,” Brown wrote.
He added that overall readiness increased 16 percent from April 2018 to February 2020. In that same time, the 200 or so unnamed “pacing units,” required for the first 30 days of a war plan, improved readiness by 35 percent.
DOD opted not to continue the 80 percent goal in fiscal 2020. Instead, the Air Force is returning to letting commanders in charge of combat and mobility forces decide whether their aircraft are up to par. They are using a new strategic sustainment framework aimed at shrinking supply chain costs over the long run, shifting how aircraft are repaired, adopting predictive maintenance practices, and more.
“The Air Force has made improvements in the readiness of its units. However, the continued high demand for Air Force capabilities continues to impact recovery,” Brown wrote. “If confirmed, I will continue the effort [Chief of Staff] Gen. [David] Goldfein has put on readiness recovery with a focus on recruiting, training, and retaining high-quality Airmen, driving down the average age of our aircraft fleets through modernization, and working with our combatant commanders on balancing current operations tempo with time for our Airmen to train for full-spectrum combat operations.”
He added that the Air Force has yet to see the full extent of how the coronavirus pandemic will negatively affect readiness, saying it’s unclear how long it will take to recover from lost training time.
Last year, Goldfein argued there are better ways to measure readiness than tracking mission-capable rates. He pointed to the amount of time it takes to get people and aircraft ready to deploy, and how many elements of the force are ready to go at once.
Training, flying-hour funding, range improvements, sustainment, and time in the air are more holistic metrics of whether the Air Force can execute its missions, Goldfein said.
The Heritage Foundation recently suggested that lawmakers should include a provision in the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill to “re-establish standing operational readiness inspection teams trained to evaluate the ability of units to rapidly mobilize, generate, and fly combat sorties.”
“These teams should be formed immediately to assess wing combat readiness on a recurring two-year cycle,” the conservative think tank said. “Individual squadron-readiness assessments throughout the Air Force are now conducted by the unit’s squadron commanders themselves, based on the additive metrics of aircraft mission-capable rates, aircrew and maintenance personnel qualifications, spare parts, and other readiness factors. While those metrics certainly measure what units possess, they in no way convey how ready those squadrons are to fight—and few commanders are willing to step beyond those metrics to declare that their own squadrons are not ready for a peer-level conflict.”
Put another way: “A Formula One racing group may possess the personnel, cars, parts, and pieces required to be a team, but that in no way means that this ‘team’ could effectively compete against another that has repeatedly executed the building block subtasks and then tested them all together on a track for time,” Heritage wrote.
But Brown believes legislation to create independent inspection teams would be premature.
Commanders are getting new software to log their unit’s capability and readiness, in line with a FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act requirement, Brown said. He also cited a “readiness pathfinder initiative” to gather and analyze more data to better prepare for combat.
“Over the last year, many IG measures have been implemented to further enhance the rigor and accuracy of our readiness assessments and reporting, and these measures are starting to produce the intended results,” he wrote.