Los Angeles - October 18, 1996
General Ronald R. Fogleman
Chief of Staff, United States Air Force
(As delivered at the Air Force Association Symposium, Los Angeles, CA, 18 Oct
Its great to be back here in Los Angeles, and have the opportunity to report
to the Air Force stockholders on the west coast.
As you know, we've just kicked-off our celebration of the Air Force's 50th
Anniversary. This commemoration honors all members of our Air Force team: active
duty, civilians, Guard and Reserve, retirees, and our partners in the aerospace
industry for helping make the United States Air Force the world's most respected
air and space force. I hope that you will join with us at some of the many
events taking place around the country as we celebrate this special occasion.
As we look back with pride, we are also preparing the Air Force for the
future. Last week at the Corona conference senior Air Force leaders met to
develop a strategic vision for the first quarter of the 21st century.
During our discussions, we addressed a wide range of issues -- from
alternative futures, emerging threats, national security objectives, Joint
Vision 2010, and air and space capabilities; to officer, enlisted, and civilian
career paths for the future. We spent a great deal of the time talking about
people, values, and the sense of community and professionalism in the Air Force
because these values will be vitally important in the force of the future.
While these meetings were vital and well intended, I recognize that all this
activity generates some anticipation and, perhaps even nervousness, both within
the Air Force Total Force Team and our partners in the aerospace industry. But,
in my view, it was crucial that we make this effort. The world has changed too
much for us to stay static and the Air Force has a responsibility to change in
order to meet the needs of the nation.
We've already made some dramatic changes from our Cold War posture. When the
Berlin Wall came down and the national security strategy changed, the Air Force
leadership responded by focusing on how we could better support the nation in
the post-Cold War environment. The result was the Air Force's strategic
architecture for the 1990's -- Global Reach-Global Power. We were the
first of the services to produce a post-Cold War vision. This document drove the
way we restructured and reorganized the Air Force, and it shaped our
It has been a good strategic vision for the Air Force and for the nation . .
. but we began building it seven years ago. We know a lot more about the
post-Cold War world now, than we did when Global Reach-Global Power was
written. In many ways its view of the world was right on target. In other ways,
it was not so good.
Recognizing this, about 18 months ago we decided it was time for us to look
into the future and develop a follow-on vision to move the Air Force into the
21st century, prepared to support the nation's priorities.
Our national security strategy of engagement and enlargement calls for our
nation to be engaged around the world with the objective of enlarging the family
of democratic nations. This strategy depends on maintaining a strong defense and
ensuring that America's military forces are ready to deter, fight, and win wars.
At the same time we are reducing the number of forward deployed forces, and
putting increased emphasis on expeditionary, mobile forces that can deploy
quickly. Airpower is well-suited to meet these requirements and offers the
nation a broad range of capabilities to support its security strategy.
At the same time, we recognize the Air Force will be part of the joint team.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs recently published Joint Vision 2010 --
his vision for joint warfighting in the future. The four operational concepts
behind this vision -- Dominant Maneuver, Precision Engagement, Full Dimensional
Protection, and Focused Logistics -- provide a way to think about joint warfare
in the future. This is a good vision; one that depends on, and highlights, the
contributions of airpower.
The Air Force is already developing many of the systems required to support
Joint Vision 2010. As we looked into the future at CORONA, we used these
operational concepts to help guide our thinking about the Air Force's strategic
This vision will support the national strategy and the Joint Vision by
recognizing the reality that in the first quarter of the 21st century, it will
become possible to find, fix or track, and target anything that moves on the
surface of the earth. This development will bring a new understanding to what
air and space forces mean for this nation and others.
Our vision is based on the premise that only air and space power provide the
nation the ability to find and hit strategic centers of gravity directly,
as well as the ability to operate at operational and tactical levels of war.
We are calling the product we developed at the CORONA conference, Into the
21st Century: A Strategic Vision for the Air Force. It sets out the basic
guidelines and principles for preparing our service for the first quarter of the
21st century. In addition, it helps us communicate -- both to the people in the
Air Force and to external groups -- how the Air Force contributes to the
nation's priorities. Secretary Widnall and I are committed to sharing what we
did at CORONA. So, let me tell you a little bit about our vision and its
underlying principles and goals.
Our strategic vision captures the global nature of the United States Air
Force. We operate in a medium that encompasses and touches 100 percent of the
earth's surface and population. This provides air and space forces with
unparalleled access and global awareness. This is not a new idea. As General
Carl Spaatz the first Air Force Chief of Staff said 50 years ago: "Air power is
global . . . in its nature and its application."
The global nature of modern air and space power also incorporates the speed
with which we project power -- the ability to respond quickly to a crisis. In
other words, it is the combination of speed, range, precision, and lethality
that makes airpower such a powerful force.
All of these characteristics make air and space power a formidable force for
the nation -- one capable of dominating enemy operations in all dimensions of
warfare -- land, sea, air, and in the future, space -- across a spectrum of time
This is not to say that that airpower will do everything. Warfare both now
and in the future will be joint warfare. But as the nation's air and space
experts, airmen must understand the totality and potential of airpower in order
to provide the United States leadership the full range of options needed to
protect and defend our nation and its interests around the world.
Our new strategic vision will also help us communicate the unique
capabilities airpower provides the nation through the ability to exploit air and
space and gain powerful advantages in time, mass, position, and awareness.
Part of the problem in the past was that while we had developed a clear
vision of what airpower could do, it was never easy to describe and analyze how
airpower "acts." In 1956, General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, offered this insightful and compelling assessment of airpower when he
said: "Airpower has become predominant . . . both as a deterrent to war, and in
the eventuality of war, as the devastating force to destroy an enemy's potential
and fatally undermining his will to wage war."
But such vision and understanding have been rare. Acknowledging the problem,
Winston Churchill remarked, "Airpower is the most difficult of all forms of
military force to measure, or even to express in precise terms."
I applaud the decision to make core competencies the focus of this symposium,
as a way to deepen our understanding of airpower.
On the academic level, the Air Force considers a core competency to be the
combination of professional knowledge, specific airpower expertise, and
technological capabilities that produce superior military outcomes. A particular
core competency may, or may not, be unique to a service. What distinguishes the
Air Force's core competencies is the speed, flexibility, and global range of our
forces along with the strategic perspective of airmen.
Said another way, core competencies are one means of expressing our unique
form of military power and understanding how the various aspects fit together.
They should help us focus on our strengths and guide us into the future.
The long range planning effort by senior Air Force leaders has convinced us
we need to make some adjustments to our core competencies and after much
discussion we arrived at the following:
Air and Space Superiority
Rapid Global Mobility
Agile Combat Support
In keeping with our nature and focus as a global force capable of employment
at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war -- and in view of the
continued integration of capabilities in space -- we've combined air and space
superiority into one core competency. This change reflects the transition to an
air and space force and the need to control the entire vertical dimension -- the
domain of air and space power.
Control over the air and space environment assures a fundamental benefit to
American forces -- preventing adversaries from interfering with our operations
and allowing our forces freedom of action. In short, air and space superiority
provide freedom from attack, and freedom to attack.
Gaining control of the air -- over both friendly and enemy territory -- has
been one of the constants of warfare in the last half of the 20th century and
will continue to be so in the future. Simply put, air and space superiority is
the key to winning wars with the fewest losses.
Accomplishing these tasks quickly and efficiently will allow us to gain air
dominance -- the ability to completely dominate an adversary's airspace. Air
dominance allows friendly forces to take away the enemy's sanctuaries and strike
his forces wherever they may be . . . the ultimate in superiority.
A core competency we've added is one we elected to call Global Attack. There
are two aspects to this core competency. The primary aspect of Global Attack is
the ability of the Air Force to find and attack targets anywhere on the globe
using the synergy generated by air and space assets to operate at the strategic
level of war.
The other aspect of Global Attack is the expeditionary nature of our force.
We have demonstrated this capability through a CONUS-based Air Expeditionary
Force (AEF). As the United States continues to reduce fixed, overseas bases, the
Air Force will use expeditionary forces to support the nation's priorities.
These will consist of a rapidly deployable force tailored to the needs of the
theater commander. Depending on the situation, that force can include both
lethal and non-lethal elements. This expeditionary capability will be key to
rapidly providing tailored air and space capabilities to the regional CINCs in
Because our forces will need to move quickly and lightly, we reaffirmed Rapid
Global Mobility as a core competency that will remain critical into the first
quarter of the 21st century.
Rapid Global Mobility provides the ability to bring forces forward for combat
operations, peacekeeping, or humanitarian efforts. As we have seen since the end
of the Cold War, we can expect our mobility forces to be on call and in use
every day . . . as far into the future as we can imagine.
We call the ability to apply selective force against specific targets to
achieve decisive effects Precision Engagement. This Air Force capability is at
the heart of the operational concept of Precision Engagement spelled out in
Joint Vision 2010 and has a long legacy for airmen. Its origins date back
to the 1930s at the Air Corps Tactical School, and it's a capability that has
grown in reality from then until the present.
For many years our vision of what precision employment could accomplish
outpaced our technological capabilities, but we have made great strides in this
area. Today, and in the future, our forces will be more precise and more
effective, at day or night, in good weather or bad, whether delivering food or
This ability will allow airpower, with its strategic perspective and ability
to attack the enemy with precision, to sharpen the usually blunt instrument of
military force for national leaders. In the 21st century, Precision Engagement
will bring together the global awareness of objectives and priorities with the
ability of air and space forces to apply overwhelming power.
To achieve success in the 21st century, we will rely more and more on our
ability to use and protect our information technology. The core competency of
Information Superiority is not the sole domain of the Air Force. Indeed, all of
the services must develop their own capabilities in this area. But as a service,
we have moved out to build impressive offensive and defensive information
As the executive agent for Battle Management/Command and Control, the Air
Force has the charter to be the integrators for the joint force. This ranges
from providing the joint force commander of the 21st century with a picture of
the entire battlespace -- that includes air, space, and surface forces -- to
facilitating real-time control and execution of air and space missions.
Among the tools we will exploit are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for
surveillance and communications missions. In the future, we'll employ them for
the suppression of enemy air defenses and see them evolve into attack vehicles.
Additionally, Information Superiority must include aggressive efforts at
defending our increasingly information intensive capabilities from enemy attack.
Air and space power also rely on a myriad of combat support activities that
occur on the ground. This vital part of what the Air Force provides the nation
is highlighted by a core competency called Agile Combat Support. The concept of
Focused Logistics in Joint Vision 2010 was derived from the pioneering
work done in the Air Force with "Lean Logistics." Agile Combat Support reaches
outside of pure logistics to include functions like security police,
engineering, and other combat support functions.
We adopted this core competency at Corona with the view of making our forces
more expeditionary in nature, so that we will continue to be the instrument of
choice when the national leaders want to engage quickly and decisively, anywhere
on the globe. We must never allow ourselves to get in the embarrassing position
of having to rely on a contractor (or other less agile forces) to put combat
forces in the field. Our force balance and force mix will be important.
These core competencies -- Air and Space Superiority, Global Attack, Rapid
Global Mobility, Precision Engagement, Information Superiority, and Agile Combat
Support -- provide one construct for thinking about air and space power. But
they are not written in stone. They will change over time to reflect advances in
technological capabilities, expertise, and varying political realities.
What must be understood and what must endure is the vision of air and space
power as the decisive force for the 21st century.
The United States Air Force is focused on providing the nation the ability to
exploit and control the air and space environment. We will continue to field the
forces that can operate in air and space with the demonstrated capability to
dominate operations in all mediums -- land, sea, air, and space. This vision
will serve the nation well as we enter the 21st century and search for new ways
to deter, fight, and win our nation's wars.
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