The Air Force depends on information dominance to fulfill its core mission, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Tuesday, and “our military’s technological superiority is being challenged in ways that we’ve never experienced before.” In her opening remarks at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s TechNet Air 2016 event, she said revamping Air Force’s cyber and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities were two of her top priorities in 2016 to meet those challenges. She proposed shifting cyber resources from network upkeep to defense and offense, noting the vast majority of the $4 billion and 67,000 airmen the Air Force dedicates to cyber is used to operate networks. In Fiscal 2017, $672 million is allocated to advance both defensive and offensive initiatives, she noted. “Offensive capability allows us to achieve significant military effects without putting airmen’s lives at risk, while limiting the cost, the size, and the footprint of our force package,” she said. Improved training that focuses on strategy rather than upkeep, new efforts to attract and retain skilled people, and a quicker acquisition process are also needed to improve cyber and ISR capabilities, she said. “We can’t afford to acquire all capabilities at the same speed,” she said, “because we end up giving our airmen yesterday’s technology delivered three years from now.” (James transcript.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.