By Master Sgt. Paul Dean , Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
/ Published August 15, 2009
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- After a year in the job, the Air Force chief of staff said he is still impressed with the contributions of Airmen of every specialty, stateside and overseas.
"It's still stunning to see what our Airmen are doing," Gen. Norton Schwartz said. "There is work to do. There are challenges to face. But fundamentally, this is a healthy organization, and it's one the American people have trust in."
That trust, the general said, is well-placed.
"America's Airmen are sharp, motivated and busy," he said.
His first year was a busy one for the Air Force, with the successful launch of five satellites, ensuring homeland security with more than 3,000 Air Sovereignty Alert missions, the development of Acquisition Improvement Plan and new policies and people to ensure the best possible care for wounded warriors.
Reflecting on the significant accomplishments of the past year, the general noted the perseverance of Airmen and their families in support of ongoing operations overseas.
In support of the ongoing war on terrorism, Air Force officials increased the number of combat air patrols by unmanned aircraft to 37, up almost 30 percent from only 12 months ago. They also fielded and deployed the MC-12 "Project Liberty", started institutionalizing new capabilities for irregular warfare and broke numerous mobility records, including 78 airdrops in a single month (February), and 3.92 million pounds of cargo moved in a single day.
The general noted that today there are nearly 40,000 Airmen deployed around the world, more than on his first day of work a year ago.
Approximately 30,000 of those Airmen are deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility, including more than 4,000 serving in Joint Expeditionary Taskings such as security forces, convoy operations and explosive ordnance disposal.
"Our joint and coalition partners recognize and appreciate what the Air Force brings to the fight. They value our Airmen, they value what they do, whether they are in traditional roles or non-traditional ones," said General Schwartz. "We have been very aggressive in making sure that our joint partners know the United States Air Force is 'all in.'"
And this "all in" includes not only Airmen, but also their support networks.
"We've been at this now for a number of years, which translates into multiple tours downrange," said General Schwartz. "And the truth is that families are as much engaged in this activity as are the military members. The service members' contribution is key, but the backdrop for many of us is a supportive family that allows us to do the important work we do."
The general's first year in office also was marked with the activation of two new Air Force organizations this month: Air Force Global Strike Command and 24th Air Force. The activations reflect the successful culmination of year-long efforts to advance the nuclear mission and formally recognize cyber as a mission domain.
"Global Strike Command represents our conviction for the nuclear mission," he said.
The new command, activated Aug. 7 at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., brings together nuclear missile capability and nuclear-capable bombers under a single commander. It is the latest, and largest, reorganization designed to consolidate previously distributed functions of the Air Force's nuclear enterprise.
General Schwartz is confident this targeted solution also will drive positive change throughout the Air Force.
The very nature of a nuclear capability requires compliance in managing all aspects of the program.
"Global Strike Command emphasizes precision, reliability and compliance," said General Schwartz. "I believe this 'culture of compliance' will migrate out of Global Strike Command into our other organizations, and in fact, that it will elevate performance across our Air Force."
General Schwartz stated that another milestone for the Air Force is the stand up of the 24th Air Force, scheduled for activation Aug. 18. Twenty-Fourth Air Force will be the Service's cyber numbered Air Force, and will serve as the Air Force component to U.S. Cyber Command later this year.
"Cyberspace is a domain like air and space and we must be adept at operating in it," General Schwartz said. "We must be able to defend or networks and operate through an attack. It requires warfighting skill, and warfighter's discipline."
The general continues to ramp up emphasis on cyber operations because Air Force networks are increasingly "command and control venues."
"Cyber operations must be fully integrated with the air and space capabilities the Air Force provides," he said. "It is not something separate. And 24th Air Force will allow us to do that effectively."
Looking toward the next year, in the immediate sight picture is tackling the Air Force's aging fleet issue, and fielding the KC-X is a top priority for the Department of Defense.
In addressing the future of the tanker program, General Schwartz said that he thinks the Air Force has regrouped, identified root causes and is pressing toward the release of a draft request for proposal by this fall, an action in line with the direction of the secretary of Defense.
He added that the solution set for fleet modernization can be found in the acquisition career field. The general stressed that no acquisition effort should proceed with mere superficial solutions. Key components include proper manning, the best training, the best leadership, the right experiences and the right stability for our acquisition workforce.
"That will result in an acquisition program that will go forward and deliver new tankers; or a program that will deliver a new, long-range reconnaissance and strike capability; or a program that would provide for personnel recovery and combat search and rescue," General Schwartz said. "All of these things that we know are needed depend on a superb acquisition workforce. That's the long ball."
Moving the ball down the field on the many challenges facing the Air Force has been the goal. And one year into his tenure, General Schwartz is thankful to the Air Force family for enabling that to happen.
"The fundamentals were all solid on the day Suzie and I arrived," General Schwartz said. "We are very proud of the accomplishments the entire Air Force team -- our Total Force of active, Reserve and National Guard Airmen, civilians, contractors -- and recognize the sacrifices by our Air Force families as well. As we look ahead, my focus is to continue to examine and implement ways to better meet our mission and the changing needs and expectations of our Armed Forces family."
Airmen and their families will be more formally recognized as the Air Force enters what Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and General Schwartz have designated "The Year of the Air Force Family," which is now underway and will run through July 2010.