Goldfein Says Air Force Needs to Return to Expeditionary Roots
Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein announced a return to USAF’s “expeditionary roots,” declaring Tuesday that the service will become well-practiced at deploying small, self-sufficient units to small and austere bases. This will be a substantial rethinking of the Air and Space Expeditionary Force model that has evolved since the mid-1990s, he said. The AEF has gotten used to simply rotating people and equipment to well-established and thoroughly equipped overseas locations, but must now get used to going where there are no amenities or support capabilities, the better to keep adversaries guessing about where USAF capabilities are at any given time. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Pence to USAF: “We’re Gonna Make Sure You Have the Best Equipment on Earth”
Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the Trump administration’s commitment to defense investment and Air Force modernization in an impromptu speech at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Tuesday. He also praised the Air Force Association’s 100-year track record of advocating for USAF—even before it was properly founded as a standalone military branch—and promised the administration would keep looking out for airmen and collaborating with AFA leaders. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.
AMC Still Looking for First KC-46 Next Month
Maintainer Shortage Might be Over, But Still Work to Do to Close “Experience Gap”
The Air Force’s shortage of maintainers may be largely over as its gap closes by the end of the year, but there is still an “experience gap” that the service needs to address as new airmen learn their jobs, the head of Air Mobility Command, Gen. Maryanne Miller, said Tuesday. The Air Force in December 2016 was short 4,000 maintainers across the force, and because of increased budgets, that gap will be completely closed by this December, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Monday at the conference. While these airmen are now in uniform and learning their jobs, they still do not have the expertise of older, more seasoned airmen, Miller said. Though they are becoming more “experienced every day.” To help younger airmen improve, Miller said one of her first duties in her new position will be to go across AMC to meet with maintainers and to understand their experience upon entering service and to gather new ideas on how to improve the maintenance force. Miller will release a video in the near future directly speaking to maintainers, encouraging them to reach out with new ideas for innovation. This move is similar to a step taken by Miller’s predecessor, retired Gen. Carlton Everhart, who reached out to AMC aircrews to solicit ideas on how to improve their jobs. This led to new steps, such as a “flying only” career track where pilots can choose to stay in the cockpit throughout their time in service and avoid staff jobs. —Brian Everstine
Goldfein calls Pawlikowski USAF’s “Conscience” at Retirement
Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, head of Air Force Materiel Command until Sept. 1, formally retired from the Air Force Tuesday in a ceremony at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Before an audience of hundreds of guests and well-wishers, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said that Pawlikowski was the “cost conscience” and “people conscience” of the Air Force, having held down program costs while promoting the value and capability of the service’s civilian workforce. Pawlikowski said that her 36 years of service, which began when USAF was only just beginning to accept women in positions of authority, are proof positive that “diversity programs work.” Pawlikowski was only the third woman in USAF history to wear four stars. Nearly all of USAF’s serving four-stars, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, and several previous Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff attended the ceremony. Pawlikowski recently spoke with Air Force Magazine for a wide-ranging interview, covering everything from hypersonics to artificial intelligence to overcoming the fear of failure. Read our coverage from the October/November issue.
AMC Kicking Off C-17 Fleet Management Effort on a Small Scale
AMC: No Fix to KC-10 Slide Raft Issue
Air Mobility Command is still working through to determine the problem with the emergency exit slide rafts on its KC-10 Extender fleet, and it is limiting the passengers that the jets can carry in the meantime. In May, a KC-10 at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., experienced an emergency on the ground, and the jet’s slide rafts did not deploy, according to Military.com. AMC boss Gen. Maryanne Miller said Tuesday the Air Force is still running “through its safety process” and working to fix the problem, but there is no time line for a permanent fix yet. Currently, KC-10s are still flying refueling missions and accomplishing their mission, Miller said, but they cannot carry any extra passengers. —Brian Everstine
USAF Needs to Improve Retention to Address Pilot Shortage
The Air Force’s pilot shortage isn’t for want of new recruits, but a failure of the service to retain pilots after their service commitment is up, top USAF leaders said Tuesday. “Right now we don’t have a shortage of people who want to start pilot training,” Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, said at the Air Force Association’s 2018 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. There is a “problem retaining people after their commitment” is completed. In addition to training and retaining more pilots, the service also needs to actively increase the diversity of its ranks, Holmes said. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
More Bombers, But How Many More
AFA’s Mitchell Institute says the Air Force should retain its existing fleets of B-1 and B-2 bombers at least until it can replace them in kind with new B-21 stealth bombers, and that the service should buy at least 180 of the new aircraft. During a panel discussion on long-range strike at ASC18, Mitchell Dean Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula said it’s “not productive” for USAF to talk about retiring the B-1 and B-2 in 15 years, because such talk will dry up funding needed to modernize them in the interim. He also said that bombers’ unique capabilities in range, payload and survivability are exactly what’s needed in greater numbers for the new National Defense Strategy. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
Planning Under Pressure: How USAF Airmen Brought Mission-Mindedness to the Thai Cave Rescue
Two USAF airmen who deployed to Thailand to advise and assist with the now-famous rescue of a youth soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave told reporters their mission-planning skills helped turn the tide in the one-of-a-kind mission. On Tuesday, Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein called their efforts “an incredible story we all watched play out: American airmen leading a coalition, getting the job done.” Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.
Years After Legislative Fixes Passed, State Licensing Remains a Barrier to Military Spouse Employment
The Defense Department’s push to get states to pass laws expediting licensing procedures for military spouses who want to practice professions such as nursing or teaching in a new state has been very successful—dozens of state legislatures have passed such measures. But a study last year showed the laws weren’t being implemented, so DOD has switched to a grassroots strategy of working with licensing boards directly. Read the full story by Shaun Waterman.
Lockheed Martin VP Praises Administration Attention to Space Issues
A Lockheed Martin space executive Tuesday lauded the Trump administration’s attention to space issues, although she would not speculate on the prospect of a new Space Force. Kay Sears, vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin’s Military Space business?, told reporters the company is “encouraged” by the current focus on space and the Air Force’s budget share for space, which she said is “helping us close the gap in capability and stay ahead of the threats and deliver higher resiliency and higher-performing systems.” She called the focus on space “a good thing,” and added, “We’re encouraged by it.” At the same time, though, she would not comment on the proposed new military service. “We’re going to let the powers that be work on the organization, but it doesn’t matter what organization,” she said, “I think we are committed to delivering and executing on our programs.” —Steve Hirsch
Pentagon Official Cites New Challenges in Era of Great-Power Competition
A top Defense Department official pointed to new challenges in the current climate of renewed great-power competition on Tuesday. Assistant Defense Secretary for Logistics and Materiel Readiness Robert McMahon told the session there are many things the US will have to do differently in the new environment. Fuel delivery questions, airlift or sealift attrition, threatened supply chains, and the availability of power at any location are the sorts of challenges “that we have not dealt with or all thought through the full way,” he said. It is “our ability to be agile, not only in our capability but in our thinking, that will allow us to get there,” McMahon said. In many cases, he said, “for those of us that have been around for 30 years, we are encumbered by our tradition and the way that we’ve always thought.” —Steve Hirsch
House Dems Introduce Bill Blocking Creation of Low-Yield Nuclear Weapon
A group of House Democrats, including the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced a bill blocking the Pentagon from creating a new, low-yield nuclear weapon on Tuesday. The creation of the low-yield weapon is a focal point of the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review, released earlier this year. The weapon, which would be launched by a submarine, would create a new option for more effective deterrence, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this year. The group of Democrats, led by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) claim the new weapon would lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons and increase the risk of nuclear war. “We should not fund President Trump’s request for new low-yield nuclear weapons,” Smith said. “His proposal dangerously lowers the threshold to nuclear use and siphons money away from genuine military readiness needs. We already have a nuclear deterrent that is more than adequate to achieve our national security goals.” The bill was also signed by Reps. Ted Lieu, Calif.; John Garamendi, Calif.; Earl Blumenauer, Ore.; and Ed Markey, Mass. —Brian Everstine