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Air Force works to meet QDR challenges

by Tech. Sgt. David A. Jablonski
Air Force Print News

01/28/2005 - WASHINGTON -- Air Force strategic capabilities are already working to meet the challenges outlined in the Quadrennial Defense Review, officials said.

Every four years Department of Defense officials conduct a thorough review, as requested by Congress, to ensure that each service has the right mix of people, skill-sets and capabilities to meet current and future challenges to national security. The next report is due to Congress in January 2006.

The tradition of air and space dominance in the Air Force contributes to the current and future success of all the services, said Maj. Gen. Ronald J. Bath, director of strategic planning.

“We make the whole team better,” he said. “The Air Force provides distinct capabilities that the joint force requires to meet threats across the four persistent and emerging challenges posed by the QDR.”

The secretary of defense has outlined four persistent and emerging challenges the services must plan for to meet current and future threats. Those challenges, broken into four quadrants, are traditional, irregular, catastrophic and disruptive.

-- The traditional quadrant represents challenges posed by nations employing capabilities used in well-known forms of military conflict.

-- Irregular challenges consist of those unconventional acts by nonstates and are characterized by terrorism or insurgency.

-- Catastrophic challenges differ from irregular in that they include the use of weapons of mass destruction.

-- The fourth defense quadrant, disruptive, features challenges from competitors using break-through technological capabilities.

“Some of the things we invest in for one quadrant can be used in another,” General Bath said. “For example, we have space and air-breathing (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) that is used 100 percent in the traditional quadrant.

“I can also say that 100 percent of that is also used in irregular warfighting, and in the catastrophic realm to combat someone using weapons of mass destruction to attack the United States, and also in the disruptive realm”

During the review, Air Force officials will explain how they intend to leverage the three strategic capabilities of persistent C4ISR, global mobility and rapid strike to ensure joint air, space and cyber-space dominance, strengthen joint warfighting capabilities, and build the future total force while minimizing risk to our nation, the general said.

“The Air Force has always been looking forward to meet changing times,” he said. “We are building the future total force while fighting the war of today.”

Although technical advances in capabilities allow the Air Force to transform its structure and organization to meet those challenges, there is another, more important dimension -- people, he said.

“The one thing that allows us to succeed in all four areas of the QDR framework is our people,” General Bath said.

“It’s the way our people think -- their flexibility and creativity -- and how it’s applied in our unique Air Force culture to make traditional weapon systems perform new missions.”

One example is the use of the ultimate legacy system, the B-52 Stratofortress. The eight-engine aircraft has been flown by generations of pilots using time-tested techniques. Now, aircrews can direct precision-guided munitions to targets that are identified by sergeants on horseback using the latest navigational aides. It now takes only one munition to do what it took hundreds to do not very long ago.

“It’s our organizational culture that empowers our people to think and step out of the norm and institute change,” General Bath said. “We’ve empowered people to do those things.”

Those creative people will help plan for the Air Force of 2025 through program decisions made in 2005. And they will benefit the joint team, he said.

Over the next 20 years, the Air Force will commit more than half of its budget to joint enablers, while spending less on conventional combat forces and infrastructure, said Dr. Christopher J. Bowie, deputy director of strategic planning.

That trend already shows promise.

“In Operation Iraqi Freedom, we used half the force in half the time to do 10 times the work we did in Operation Desert Storm,” Dr. Bowie said.

And that is the sort of good stewardship of resources that will lead to success as the Air Force aims to meet the challenges of the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review.