Brown Talks Force Structure, NGAD Records, and the Looming CR

 In U.S. Air Force, Defense, Air, Space, Forces & Capabilities

Subtracting the Space Force from the “The Air Force We Need” cal­cu­lus still demands a ser­vice of 300-plus combat squadrons, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said Sept. 22. He also sug­gest­ed the records set by the pro­to­type Next Generation Air Dominance system, revealed last week, have more to do with speed of pro­to­typ­ing than phys­i­cal per­for­mance.

Brown, in an online Defense One dis­cus­sion, repeat­ed the service’s mes­sage that USAF is “not big enough to do every­thing we’ve been asked to do,” under the National Defense Strategy. The require­ment for 386 combat squadrons, which the ser­vice laid out in 2018 in response to a Congressional request, pre-dated the cre­ation of the Space Force.

Brown said it’s not so much the number of squadrons that’s impor­tant, but the capa­bil­i­ty they pro­vide.

“Even if you don’t get to the full number of squadrons, it’s the capa­bil­i­ty that mat­ters to me,” he said.

Getting Congress to go along with USAF’s plan to divest sig­nif­i­cant legacy capa­bil­i­ty in exchange for invest­ment in new sys­tems will be a “chal­lenge,” mainly because of how heav­i­ly clas­si­fied those new pro­grams are.

“We have more clas­si­fied pro­grams than the other ser­vices,” Brown observed. “We can tell you what we want to retire, but we have a hard time explain­ing what we want to invest in in the future.” The engage­ment plan, he said, is to “give some more clas­si­fied briefs to Congress,” and pro­vide mem­bers with unclas­si­fied talk­ing points that “they can use in public forums” and “share with their con­stituents.” The key will be to con­vince the Congress and other stake­hold­ers to “look at the broad­er plan,” think more strate­gi­cal­ly, and “remem­ber … we’re all in this togeth­er.”

Brown doesn’t expect to get every­thing he’s asking for, but the dis­cus­sion is impor­tant, he said.

“We need to artic­u­late that risk, maybe a little bit better than we have in the past, and give them a more com­plete pic­ture” of “what we’re going to retire, and what that brings in the future. That’s an area we’ve got to improve upon as an Air Force,” he said.

NGAD: Breaking Records

Air Force acqui­si­tion chief Will Roper revealed at AFA’s vir­tu­al Air, Space & Cyber con­fer­ence last week that the ser­vice has already flown a Next Generation Air Dominance demon­stra­tor air­craft, and it has broken “lots of records.” Asked to clar­i­fy if those records are in the area of pro­gram speed or phys­i­cal per­for­mance, Brown said he would not “talk about that aspect.”

However, “I’ll just tell you that we’re able to do things dif­fer­ent­ly and a bit faster than we have in the past,” he said. The NGAD pro­gram is “less about what we build, it’s how we build it,” and the goal is to “get it into the hands of the warfight­er much faster, and this is a way that we can do that.”

Asked if he thinks the Air Force can afford Roper’s approach to buying new air­craft, which requires flip­ping the major­i­ty of spend­ing from sus­tain­ment to design and pro­cure­ment, Brown said yes, but USAF will have to change its busi­ness model to make it work.

“You want the cost of own­er­ship to be rough­ly the same, but change the flow of that money, so maybe more up front,” Brown said. Using the Roper model will “accel­er­ate change,” Brown said, by making the sys­tems the Air Force does field more adap­tive and more abreast of rapid­ly-chang­ing tech­nol­o­gy. “It’s a dif­fer­ent thought process,” he said.

“I want to … make sure we work indus­try,” he said, acknowl­edg­ing that com­pa­nies “have share­hold­ers they have to worry about,” while Brown has to sat­is­fy nation­al secu­ri­ty needs. The Air Force must “do this better so [indus­try has] a busi­ness model that’s sus­tain­able.”

The Looming CR

Accelerating change is Brown’s top pri­or­i­ty as Chief, but that’s not pos­si­ble if the ser­vice is forced to oper­ate under anoth­er con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion.

“It’s going to take us a bit longer to do some of this because you won’t be able to do some of the new starts,” he said. The only silver lining is that USAF is “really good” at plan­ning, and has expe­ri­ence with a number of CRs.

“We will look at … how the facts and assump­tions change over time. And we just want to have con­stant dialog with con­gres­sion­al mem­bers and lead­ers here in the depart­ment, on how we best pos­ture our­selves when the CR comes about, and then once we get a budget.”

Brown also said there are “pos­si­bil­i­ties” to use the B‑21 in the air dom­i­nance role, as a launch­er of attri­ta­ble sys­tems, but in the con­text that “I don’t want to … con­strain our­selves to the think­ing we had in the past. I’m open to new and fresh ideas about how we use the capa­bil­i­ties, this being one of them.”

Air Force Magazine source|articles

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