USAF Announces 24 “Key Decisions” in Great Power Competition with Russia and China

What to Know:

The United States Air Force has announced 24 “key decisions” designed to “to prepare the service for strategic power challenges from competitors like China and Russia.” The decisions have been organized into four main groups: “Develop People,” “Generate Readiness,” “Project Power,” and lastly “Develop Capabilities.”

For those who appreciate a TLDR, there is one at the bottom.

 

Develop People:

  • Consolidate force development functions under an expanded Airman Development Command to provide Airmen a common, mission-focused development and training path.
  • Expand technical tracks for officers and create technical tracks for enlisted Airmen; reintroduce warrant officers in IT and Cyber fields to maintain technical leadership in these highly perishable skills.
      • This would be the first time the Air Force has had warrant officer positions since 1959.
      • According to an Air University memo obtained by the Air Force Times, the Air Force’s ultimate goal is to create a training pipeline that can produce 200 junior warrant officers and up to 50 senior warrant officers a year.
      • Decision comes as the USAF continues to have recruitment and retainment issues in its cyber roles.
  • Develop “Mission Ready Airmen” with training focused on a mix of skills needed for wartime operational mission readiness.
  • Continue to transform leadership development and training at [Air Force Academy], [Officer Training School] and ROTC to prepare new officers to effectively lead Airmen and Guardians in the context of Great Power Competition.
  • (Space Force) Redesign career paths to produce Guardians that meet our high-tech operational demands.

 

Generate Readiness:

  • Reorient Air Combat Command to focus on generating and presenting ready forces to combatant commanders.
      • The Air Combat Command is the primary force provider of combat airpower to America’s warfighting commands, which operates all fighter, reconnaissance, battle-management, and electronic-combat aircraft. It also provides command, control, communications and intelligence systems, and conducts global information operations.
  • Implement large scale exercises and mission-focused training encompassing multiple OPLANS to demonstrate and rehearse for complex, large-scale military operations.
      • “We’re going to reorient ourselves to more large-scale exercises rather than a smaller scale that have been a product of the last two to three decades,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin said, adding “Large-scale means multiple weapons systems, multiple capabilities, coming together in a combat-simulated environment and showing our ability to execute the mission that’s going to be expected of us in the high-end conflict.”
  • Incorporate no-notice/limited-notice operational readiness assessments and inspec- tions in the Air Force and Space Force to reflect pacing challenge requirements.
      • Government Accountability Office has reported issues with airframes across the United States military failing to reach their annual readiness goals.
  • Restructure key processes related to aviation spares and weapons systems to be data-driven and risk-informed to improve weapon systems health.
  • (Space Force) Implement Space Force readiness standards that reflect operations under contested conditions rather than those of a benign environment.
  • (Space Force) Conduct a series of nested exercises in Space Force that increase in scope and complexity, fit within a broader DAF-level framework, and are assessed through a Service-level, data-driven process to measure readiness.

 

Project Power:

  • Structure Air Force Operational Wings as mission ready “units of action” categorized as Deployable Combat Wings, In-Place Combat Wings or Combat Generation Wings. Each will have its own structure, with a redesigned concept of support for ACE, to ensure the wings are prepared to execute their missions with assigned Airmen and units.
  • Establish the relationship between Combat Wings and Base Command. Combat Wings will focus on mission level warfighting readiness and Base Commands will focus on supporting Combat Wings and operating the base in competition, crisis and conflict.
  • Elevate AFCYBER to a standalone Service Component Command, reflecting the importance of the cyber mission to the Joint Force and across the Department of the Air Force.
  • (Space Force) Formalize Space Force Combat Squadrons as Units of Action, complete activation of the remainder of Space Force Service Components and accelerate implementation of the Space Force Generation model.

 

Develop Capabilities:

  • (Department) Create a Department of the Air Force Integrated Capabilities Office to lead capability development and resource prioritization to drive DAF modernization investments. Combine disparate efforts to create the Office of Competitive Activities to oversee and coordinate sensitive activities.
  • (Department) Create a Program Assessment and Evaluation Office to establish structure and incorporate a more analytically based approach to resourcing decisions.
  • (Department) Establish Integrated Capabilities Command to develop competitive operational concepts, integrated requirements, and prioritized modernization plans to align with force design.
  • Create a new Information Dominance Systems Center within AFMC to strengthen and elevate the Air Force’s focus on Command, Control, Communications, and Battle Management; Cyber; Electronic Warfare; Information Systems; and Enterprise Digital Infrastructure.
  • Strengthen the support to nuclear forces by expanding the Nuclear Weapons Center to become the Air Force Nuclear Systems Center within AFMC. This will provide comprehensive materiel support to the nuclear enterprise; establish a 2-star General Officer as the Program Executive Officer for Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles.
  • Refocus the Life Cycle Management Center within AFMC as the Air Dominance Systems Center to synchronize aircraft and weapons competitive development and product support.
  • Establish an Integration Development Office within AFMC to provide technology assessments and roadmaps. It will drive alignment and integration of mission systems across centers and provide technical expertise to assess operational concept feasibility.
  • (Space Force) Create Space Futures Command as a Field Command to develop and validate concepts, conduct experimentation and wargames, and perform mission area design.

 

Takeaways:

  • The USAF has signaled a heavy emphasis on building up its cyber capabilities, from standing up the Air Force Cyber Command, expanding technical tracks for officers and enlisted personnel, as well as reintroducing the warrant officer position with a focus in information technology and cyber fields.
  • Emphasis on operational preparedness in context to conflict with near-peer adversaries. This will be done through large scale and complex exercises, assessments and inspections of forces, and maintenance of current systems.
  • Creation of an Integrated Capabilities Command to develop competitive operational concepts, integrated requirements, and prioritized modernization plans aligned with force design.
  • Establishment of a new Information Dominance Systems Center within the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) to strengthen focus on Command, Control, Communications, and Battle Management; Cyber; Electronic Warfare; Information Systems; and Enterprise Digital Infrastructure.
  • Creation of Space Futures Command as a Field Command within the Space Force to develop and validate concepts, conduct experimentation and wargames, and perform mission area design
  • Strengthening support for nuclear forces by expanding the Nuclear Weapons Center to become the Air Force Nuclear Systems Center within AFMC, with a designated Program Executive Officer for Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles.

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