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Senior leaders meet to discuss, decide way ahead for force

WASHINGTON -- Senior Air Force leaders gathered for a strategic summit Aug. 27 at Bolling Air Force Base to discuss the way ahead for the Air Force as a part of the August emphasis on strategic planning. 

"The summit allows us to identify issues that need senior leader review and decide on matters affecting the entire Air Force," Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said.

The group -- including Mr. Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, assistant secretaries, major command commanders and Headquarters Air Force staff -- discussed near-term issues facing the Air Force. Decisions coming out of the summit include a new mission statement for the Air Force.

The new mission statement returns the Air Force to familiar ground. "The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win...in air, space and cyberspace."

While it borrows from the previous statement, this one is shorter, "simple and easy to understand," General Schwartz said. "This is who we are. It's what motivates us and drives us to serve."

The group also decided to halt the initiative to reorganize maintenance functions into operations groups.

Previous global wing reorganization plans included aligning fighter and combat search and rescue maintenance units with their flying squadrons, and forming materiel groups that would encompass maintenance, logistics and aerial port squadrons. Today's decision means maintenance groups will remain as is.

"This will reduce organizational turmoil as we focus on winning today's fight," General Schwartz said. He went on to say the goal is mission effective combat support and Airmen are accomplishing just that.

"Independent maintenance groups produce professionals with the highest levels of maintenance and logistics competency," he said, "and that translates to mission effectiveness."

Leaders reached consensus that the focus should be on fixing problems Airmen are having with the current uniforms before moving on to new uniforms. The staff will field near-term solutions to correct issues with the Airman Battle Uniform, All Purpose Environmental Clothing System jacket, and physical training gear.


"We will consider all other uniform initiatives after we fix the issues we have now with the uniforms we work in every day," General Schwartz said.

While the strategic summit yielded these decisions, senior leaders focused their discussion on winning today's fight and addressing the priorities laid out by the acting secretary and the chief in past weeks.

"The priorities -- reinvigorating the nuclear enterprise, prevailing in the Global War on Terror, strengthening joint warfighting capabilities, focusing on people and achieving acquisition excellence -- are advanced by the decisions reached today," Mr. Donley said.

Senior leaders received an update on nuclear enterprise matters at the event. An additional nuclear summit will be held in mid-September to discuss the nuclear enterprise roadmap. That discussion will include more dialogue on the Air Force's cyber mission.

"Cyber operations remain a critical and growing mission area," Mr. Donley said. "We will continue to develop our cyber capabilities while examining various organizational options."

Leaders also heard progress reports on other mid-term agenda items including Unmanned Aircraft Systems manning initiatives, personnel end strength and Common Battlefield Airman Training.

By the end of the year, the service expects to complete an unmanned aircraft system roadmap and a review of the acquisition enterprise. Senior leaders will meet for Corona Fall in October, where they expect to make more decisions on key subjects.

Underlying all of these issues, said Mr. Donley, is how to ensure the right mix of Airmen remain in uniform. Previous force-shaping initiatives planned for the active-duty force to eventually decrease to 316,000, but in June Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the service had been cut too deeply and called for the decrease in Air Force end-strength to stop at 330,000 people.