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General Schwartz discusses change in the U.S. Air Force

WASHINGTON -- The world has changed and the United States Air Force must change too, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Oct. 12 at the National Press Club here.

General Schwartz made the point that political leaders have been dealing with the effects of globalization since the 1970s, but that the circumstances and conditions that globalization engenders continually change.

What the United States faces today, he said, is different than anything the nation has confronted in the past.

"The rub is, of course, that we can only estimate the nature of the future threats, the capabilities of potential adversaries or the topography of future operating environments," General Schwartz said. "We are not afforded, and never will be, complete certitude about such things."

The economic environment also influences the choices leaders must make and the paths the nation -- and the Air Force -- must follow. Trillion-dollar deficits will limit what the service can buy.

"We cannot commit substantial financial investments to prepare for an infinite variety of contingencies," he said. "We must be more flexible across a wide, but far from infinite range of contingencies, and (be) more versatile and efficient in everything we undertake."

The Air Force must balance today's needs with tomorrow's challenges, he said, adding that his service must be more agile and faster than in the past. That is nothing new to the Air Force, he added, as it is the nature of operations in air and space to be quick.

General Schwartz said the Air Force also must be more efficient.

"An important strategy is to reduce overhead operating costs, create more savings and shift them directly to force structure and modernization, and to warfighting needs," he said.

Being more efficient also requires a new way of working with others, General Schwartz said. The general said he and Adm. Gary Roughhead, the chief of naval operations, are fully committed to a new partnership called "Air-Sea Battle." The partnership, General Schwartz said, will enable the Navy and the Air Force to project power in new ways.

First, the Navy and Air Force will work together institutionally, General Schwartz said. A second way to work together, he said, calls for agreement on how Navy and Air Force systems will integrate and operate together.

"A third way of cooperating is materially with interoperability among current systems and integrated acquisition strategies for future joint capabilities," General Schwartz said. All this, he said, will amplify the services' effectiveness.

The U.S. Air Force defends the skies over the United States and allied countries and over friendly forces wherever they may be based, the general said. Precision strike worldwide, tanker and airlift support, satellite connectivity and early warning, he added, are all part of the Air Force's core mission. And, Airmen are helping to rebuild war-torn areas, conducting convoy operations, manning outposts and other non-traditional jobs, the general said.

Yet, "control of air and space; holding at risk practically any target on the Earth's surface; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; airlift and the command and control of air and space capabilities, again, will remain our most fundamental and enduring core contributions," General Schwartz said.