Department of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the lesson the Air Force and Space Force should take away from the sudden collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan is that divisions in that government and nation were responsible.
Within the Department of the Air Force, he said, surveys show conclusively that the Air and Space Forces are not providing opportunities for all their people fairly. He pledged to embrace diversity and to act to improve the department’s performance in issues related to diversity. He also expressed alarm that one third of all USAF women have reported sexual harassment, and he promised to address the issue with urgency.
“My intent is to actively address each of these issues,” Kendall said. “There are some programs already ongoing in each of these areas. The Department has not ignored them by any means, but I believe we can do better.”
With regard to sexual assault and harassment, “We will be implementing the Independent Review Commission’s recommendations and any statutory guidance regarding separate reporting and prosecution channels that comes out of the Congress this fall. I intend for the Department of the Air Force to be ready to implement that guidance immediately once it becomes law.”
Kendall praised the efforts of Airmen to evacuate both military and civilian personnel from Afghanistan, chalking it up as one of the unique capabilities of the Air Force to accomplish such a feat. However, he said the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban offers a lesson “that we, as Americans, and we as Airmen and Guardians, should not miss.”
That lesson—“painfully clear”—is that the Afghan government and military “were not ‘one team’ engaged in ‘one fight.’ Even when faced with an existential threat to their freedom, they could not overcome their internal divisions and unite against a common enemy. As a direct result, the people of Afghanistan have lost their freedom.” The Department of the Air Force, the U.S. military, and the nation need to recognize the need to act in unison to address common threats, he said.
He also pledged a closer working relationship with industry members and to exploit the expertise resident in the academic and nontraditional industrial communities to address the threats faced by the DAF.
“There is not a moment to lose,” Kendall asserted.