ORLANDO, Fla. (AFNS) --
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz emphasized the service's need for a strong total force ready for the future during remarks to Airmen and defense industry officials here Feb. 23.
Schwartz was the first speaker at the Air Force Association's 2012 Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition, during which the general emphasized that the Air Force must maintain readiness despite the toll of recent operations.
"With this in mind, we face a readiness conundrum: the Air Force will get smaller due to reduced budgets, but we also will become more valued due to the requirements of the current and anticipated security environment, as described by the new Defense Strategic Guidance," Schwartz said.
The Air Force is committed to aligning its future priorities with the new defense strategy, even though it will require some difficult decisions in the years ahead given the austere fiscal environment, Schwartz said.
The strategy emphasizes Air Force capabilities of deterring and defeating aggression, projecting power in anti-access and area-denial environments, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, conducting space and cyber operations, and maintaining the preponderance of the Nation's nuclear deterrent, he said.
One of the ways the Air Force will leverage its unique capabilities to support the new strategy is through the Air-Sea Battle concept, Schwartz said, which addresses the need for the United States to maintain the ability to project power in areas where burgeoning threats could impede access and freedom to operate.
"As innovative Airmen, we are committed to working with our Navy, Marine Corps and Army teammates to develop highly integrated and tightly coordinated operations, and to conceive cross-domain approaches--for example, using cyber methodologies to defeat airborne threats, or using aircraft to defeat threats on and under the sea," Schwartz said.
To execute the new defense strategy the Air Force must maintain readiness not just on paper but in reality, and ensure a future viable force, he said.
"Having a smaller force can not mean that it must be a lesser force," Schwartz said. "It will be a smaller, but still a very capable, agile, and responsive force."
Given the limited resource environment, the Air Force will focus on multi-role systems and look to divest aging platforms that are less capable, Schwartz said.
Along these lines, the Air Force will prioritize the multi-role F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, as well as the KC-46A, Long Range Strike, remotely piloted aircraft and several space systems, as top acquisition priorities for the future force, Schwartz added.
The general said the Air Force must also ensure it maintains the proper active-to-reserve component ratio, pointing out that the reserve component represented 25 percent of the total force end strength in 1990 but today represents 35 percent.
"These numbers, in relation to requirements, represent the reality that the active component has been cut to the point at which capacity cannot be reduced further without harmful effects to the benefits that I just mentioned: readiness, increased capacity, and ability to surge and rotate at a sustainable tempo," Schwartz said.
There are also some functions for which the entire total force relies on the active component to address predominantly, Schwartz said, pointing to recruiting, training, experiencing, and equipping of the future force.
"So in order to sustain future total force capabilities and effectiveness, we must restore and maintain an appropriate active-reserve balance that is consistent with current realities and likely future trends," he said.
Total force Airmen will continue to play an important national security role, especially as U.S. defense strategy pivots to the Asia-Pacific region, Schwartz said.
"And regardless of the eventual balance between land-based and sea-based forces, we all know that what covers one-hundred percent of both land and sea is air and space," the general said.
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