Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Deborah Lee James announced a major change to Air Force strategy at the Farnborough Airshow on Tuesday. “This is the blueprint for the Air Force,” she said, “for organizing, equipping and training the Air Force.” Although she revealed some elements about the strategy’s fundamental nature, details of the plan will be released in the next four weeks.
James explained that there are bad and good factors that led to the new strategy, which she has developed in coordination with Air Force General and Chief of Staff Mark A. Welsh III. The “bad” elements include, she said, that the Air Force and the entire U.S. defense system is too rigid and processes and procedures take too long to develop and change; there are tough budgetary constraints; and costs continue to increase.
The good elements are the “enormously talented people in the Air Force,” she said, “including our industry partners; a long history of innovation; and strong partners around the world.”
What this all means, she emphasized, “is that we have to demonstrate strategic agility. We’ve got to bend or shatter the cost curve and adjust more rapidly. The traditional cost curve on weapons systems starts flat and goes up steeply. We hope to bend that down so [military programs] can become more affordable. We’ve got to get those costs under control.”
To boost the strategic agility initiative, three groups are planned. One is already running and is comprised of senior leaders from the Air Force and industry.
The second group is targeting information technology systems, with which the Air Force has had some costly and unproductive experiences. “We spent money and they failed,” James admitted.
A third group will focus on events, such as the Farnborough Airshow, and to help improve dialogue between the Air Force and its industrial partners all around the world.
James concluded by mentioning three technologies that the Air Force is interested in accelerating: hypersonics; autonomy of operations by delivering better data to airmen and directed-energy weapons.