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Reoptimization for great power competition

Department of the Air Force senior civilian and military leaders unveiled ambitious plans Feb. 12 to reshape, refocus and reoptimize the Air Force and Space Force ensuring continued supremacy in these areas while better positioning the services to deter and, if necessary, prevail in an era of great power competition.

Taken together, the changes made public on February 12 and approved by the Secretary of the Air Force Frank KendallServing as Acting Undersecretary Kristin JonesChief of Staff of the Air Force General David Allvin and head of space operations General Chance Saltzman represent one of the most thorough recalibrations in recent history for the Air Force and Space Force.

“Today we are announcing 24 key decisions that will impact current strength and our ability to remain competitive,” Kendall said in announcing the changes and the rationale behind them. “We need these changes now; we no longer have time to reoptimize our forces to meet strategic challenges in an era of great power competition.

Although the changes include a mix of short- and long-term initiatives, senior leaders stressed the need to act quickly. “We’re out of time,” Kendall said repeatedly in urging action for change.

The changes included in the plan are grouped into four main categories – Develop People, Build Readiness, Project Power, Build Capacity – and include:

Develop people

• Consolidate force development functions under an expanded Airman Development Command to provide Airmen with a common mission-focused development and training pathway.

• Expand technical pathways for officers and create technical pathways for enlisted airmen; reintroduce warrant officers to the IT and cyber domains to maintain technical leadership in these highly perishable skills.

• Develop “mission-ready aviators” with training focused on a mix of skills necessary for operational readiness for wartime missions.

• Continue to transform leadership development and training at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Officer Training School, and ROTC to prepare new officers to effectively lead Airmen and Guardians in the context of the competition of the great powers.

• Rethink career paths to produce Guardians who meet our high-tech operational requirements.

Generate preparation

• Reorient Air Combat Command to focus on generating and presenting ready forces to combatant commanders.

• Implement large-scale exercises and mission-oriented training encompassing multiple operational plans to demonstrate and rehearse large-scale, complex military operations.

• Incorporate no-notice or limited-notice operational readiness assessments and inspections across the Air Force and Space Force to reflect tempo challenge requirements.

• Restructure key processes related to aviation spare parts and weapon systems to be data-driven and risk-informed to improve the health of weapon systems.

• Implement Space Force readiness standards that reflect operations in contested conditions rather than those in a benign environment.

• Conduct a series of nested Space Force exercises that increase in scope and complexity, are part of a broader Department of the Air Force framework, and are evaluated through a focused process. on department-level data to measure readiness.

Project power

• Structure Air Force operational wings into mission-ready “action units,” categorized as deployable combat wings, in-place combat wings, or combat generation wings. Each will have its own structure, with a redesigned Agile Combat Employment Support, or ACE, concept to ensure wings are ready 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 war readiness and base commands will focus on supporting combat wings and keeping the base functioning during 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.

• Formalize Space Force combat squadrons as action units, complete activation of the remainder of the Space Force service components, and accelerate implementation of the Space Force Generation Model.

Develop capabilities

• Establish a Department of the Air Force Integrated Capabilities Office to lead capability development and resource prioritization to drive Department of the Air Force modernization investments.

• Combine disparate efforts to create the Office of Competitive Activities to oversee and coordinate sensitive activities.

• Create a program evaluation office to promote structure and integrate a more strategic and analytical approach to resource decisions.

• Establish an 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 Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) to strengthen and elevate the Air Force’s focus on command, control, communications and asset management. fighting; Cyber; Electronic warfare; Information system ; and enterprise digital infrastructure.

• Strengthen support for nuclear forces by expanding the Nuclear Weapons Center into the Air Force Nuclear Systems Center within AFMC. This will provide comprehensive material support to the nuclear enterprise; create a 2-star general officer as program executive officer for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

• Refocus the Life Cycle Management Center within AFMC as the Air Dominance Systems Center to synchronize competitive aircraft and weapons development and product support.

• Establish an Integration Development Office within AFMC to provide technology assessments and roadmaps. He will drive the alignment and integration of mission systems across all centers and provide technical expertise to assess the feasibility of the operational concept.

• Create Space Futures Command, a new field command that develops and validates concepts, conducts experiments and wargames, and designs mission areas.

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