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The Atlantic Council of the United States

The Future of the United States Air Force:
Prospects for Partnerships and International Cooperation

Frederick Kempe,
President and CEO,
The Atlantic Council

Barry Pavel,
Director of the International Security Program and
Director-Designate of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council

General Norton Schwartz,
Chief of Staff,
United States Air Force

Washington, D.C.

Date: Monday, April 9, 2012

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

FREDERICK KEMPE: Hello, I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. And thank you very much for coming today for this important session featuring General Norton Schwartz, the chief of staff of the United States Air Force, as he delivers one of his final public addresses to the policy community in his current role. Our subject today is at the heart of the Atlantic Council’s mission to revitalize U.S. efforts with allies and partners to address emerging global challenges.

The general’s wisdom grows out of a long and stellar service to this nation, which has included time as commander of the Special Operations Command, Pacific, as well as commander of the U.S. Transportation Command. His strong record of service will certainly provide us with a deeper understanding of the issues facing the Air Force, the United States military more broadly as well in the coming decades.

But what’s important to me particularly today is that, as the title of our session suggests, international partnerships are paramount to navigating the increasingly complex security climate in the 21st century. You don’t just have to look at Libya; you have to look at almost any contingency going forward to know that partnerships not only have been key but will become even more key as defense budgets come down, and the U.S. and our allies better need to leverage and manage our partnerships.

And there is no doubt that the U.S. Air Force is going to play and is playing a pivotal role in developing and deepening those partnerships. The Air Force places a high priority on building multilateral defense capabilities. For example, in March it completed exercise(s) in Singapore and Ghana with regional partners. Partnership capacity building, as I said, is going to become more important.

In February the council hosted Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense Ash Carter for remarks here on pivotal partnerships and prospects for multilateral defense in the age of austerity. It was a timely moment; a little bit distracting for his comments, perhaps, that it came just a couple of days after the administration’s budget release and a month after the unveiling of the defense guidance indicating the now widely discussed pivot to Asia. This strategic look east comes at a time of constricted defense budget, which is likely to place a greater emphasis on air and naval power. And since air power is going to play an ever more important role, we’re thankful to have the general here.

This event is part of our commander series – it’s been one of the most popular things we’ve done over the last few years – which brings together high-level military leaders from both sides of the Atlantic and actually globally to discuss their perspectives on challenges and opportunities facing the U.S., its allies and its friends. I want to particularly thank Saab North America, Dan-Åke Enstedt, the president of Saab North America, and Ambassador Henrik Liljegren for having the vision to back this, support this and partner with us on this important initiative.

It’s been high-level, General. The series hosted Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, the commander of the NATO military mission in Libya, who discussed Operation Unified Protector and how to improve communication and cooperation between NATO and non-NATO countries. Last December the council welcomed General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his first major public discussion as chairman, moderated by David Ignatius of The Washington Post. He discussed ways the U.S. could bolster existing alliances while forging new partnerships as a response to defense budget cuts in U.S. and Europe.

He also sang. It was a – it was – (chuckles) – well, General Schwartz, I did do a little bit of research, and I found out that you were in a choir during your time at the Air Force Academy. But I promise you that for General Dempsey this was a voluntary matter, and we will never compel any of our guests to sing in public ever again. (Chuckles.)

MR. : (Inaudible) – that was because it was a means to avoid – (off mic).

MR. KEMPE: (Chuckles.) He did try to get people with the cameras in the back to turn off their cameras. And C-SPAN said – on air, live – I can’t do that; we’re live. And he sang anyway. But that’s another day and another story.

Nonetheless, today we’re honored to hear an address from General Schwartz as part of this series to articulate the challenges for the U.S. Air Force and the potential for global partnerships in the 21st century. The director of our international security program, which will be relaunched – relaunched, it will be redubbed the Scowcroft – Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security in September. And Barry Pavel will moderate the Q and A.

A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, command pilot by trade, General Schwartz was – has served since 1973, logging more than 4,400 flying hours in a variety of aircraft including C-130. In addition to his time as a crew member in the airlift evacuation in Saigon in 1975, he was also chief of staff to the Joint Special Operations Task Force for northern Iraq in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storms (sic; Storm). His remarkable leadership continued as he served as deputy commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command in Florida and later as director of the joint staff here in Washington.

As many of you know or may know, General Schwartz was asked to lead the Air Force out of crisis after two nuclear incidents revealed major problems in the Air Force’s stewardship of its nuclear mission. So this is someone who knows how to fly missions but also knows how to navigate other crucial and sensitive times of turmoil through leadership. Since assuming his current post in 2008, he’s been responsible for the organization, training and equipping of 680,000 – somewhat larger than the Atlantic Council staff – 680,000 active-duty guard, reserve and civilian forces serving the United States and overseas.

So looking back over the past four years, I’m struck by the dynamic changes you have encountered in the U.S. and abroad, from domestic budgetary concerns ushering a period of defense austerity to Arab Awakening, Operation Unified Protector – the demands are not getting fewer. So we’re very much looking forward to hearing you sort this all out for us. Thank you very much. Please head to the podium. (Applause.)

GENERAL NORTON A. SCHWARTZ: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. And Fred, thanks very much for the kind introduction and the opportunity to speak before this audience on what really is a very pleasant Washington spring evening. And I’m pleased to be here representing the men and women of your United States Air Force.

Skip, how are you? It’s good to see you. You can answer questions with me here in a little bit. (Laughter.)

Each and every day our airmen and their families serve the nation nobly I think. And each and every day certainly I have the distinct honor of serving alongside them as they attain worthy accomplishments in their daily professional efforts. Your Air Force and the armed forces have completed yet another busy year. And despite many uncertainties, airmen and our joint teammates look forward to what I am certain will be another very important year.

We continue to monitor events of geostrategic importance, from a potential weakening of the brutal regime in Syria to a North Korean leader with as-yet-undetermined intentions to an entrenched Iranian regime with a penchant toward erratic behavior. And all the while we will contend with ongoing budget pressures, particularly if sequestration pursuant to the Budget Control Act is triggered.

If one aggregates these geostrategic and fiscal circumstances and their effects with our efforts to work out details on the broader defense strategic guidance that was unveiled earlier this year and on the president’s budget request that was released last month, one can easily see that we’ve got our work cut out for us in the weeks and months ahead.

One can be confident, however, that the men and women of the U.S. armed forces – as always dedicated to service and ready to perform – that they’ll be there should the nation call. And with the forgoing as a brief scene-setter, it becomes very evident that we’ll need an efficient – we’ll need to be efficient while we strive to ensure effectiveness across a wide range of potential contingencies.

And in such a circumstance, we must re-evaluate and reprioritize our national security interests and objectives, and accordingly take an inventory of the ways and means at our disposal, both current and those that we anticipate – Howie (sp), how are you? Good to see you as well. Too many friends in the audience; please forgive me – toward attainment of those interests and objectives, all within budgetary constraints.

And after many months of a comprehensive Defense Department-wide evolution, this is exactly what the defense strategic guidance provides. One of the ways in which we can achieve much-needed efficiencies as we ensure maximum effectiveness and preparedness is to continue teaming with global partners with whom we share like interests and can act in common cause.

As budgetary pressures continue to increase, it is a near certainty that we will not be able to maintain an all-encompassing portfolio or certainly excess capacity. Instead we are trading some capacity for sustained quality. And to that end we are managing our personnel and materiel and associated training and sustainment requirements to avoid a hollowed-out force, and instead are striving to ensure maximized readiness within resource constraints.

And we are structuring our total force across the active and reserve components to be able to implement the new defense strategy. And after a long procurement drought beginning in the 1990s, we are prioritizing our acquisition investments to ensure a modernized future force that is sustainable over the longer term. Part of this broader strategy is to seek whenever possible productive global partnerships, to compensate for tailored and in many case decreased capacity, by pooling capabilities toward collective effects.

The new defense strategic guidance describes this geostrategic recalibration that will inform how we view and pursue our global partnerships, both the existing and developing. We are looking to rebalance our resources, as you heard earlier, toward the Indo- and Asia-Pacific, where we anticipate that many strategic, economic and diplomatic opportunities will become even more vital to our core national interests. And we certainly will sustain our hard-earned foothold in and around the broader Middle East and South Asia, which remains the primary locus of violent extremism.

And we will tailor our commitments in Europe, strengthening through smart partnerships the longstanding trans-Atlantic alliance that in the 20th century prevented a cold war from becoming hot and which, as we continue into the 21st, will remain a key partnership in ensuring stability in a dynamic and uncertain world.

The U.S. Air Force and the armed forces of the United States currently take – undertake global partnership efforts at the broadest possible level to bolster mutual linkages, particularly military to military; harmonize outlooks on global and regional peace and stability; mutually enhance respective and collective broad-spectrum military capabilities; increase overall capacity and ultimately increase the likelihood of achieving mutual security goals. These strategic linkages are established and developed through specific activities and arrangements, generally with different levels of effort and comprehensiveness depending on the maturity of the particular relationship.

The level of effort for some activities, however, can be constant across a range of developing and developed relationships. And these include combined professional development, where – wherein various U.S. Air Force courses and programs educate and train nearly 12,000 members of partner air forces annually; development and utilization of U.S. security cooperation airmen around the world helping our partners develop indigenous capability; and multinational and bilateral exercises with more than 60 nations each year toward mutual benefits and enhanced interoperability in real-world coalition efforts; bilateral and multilateral engagement at all levels, from senior service leadership to unit-level working groups; and initiatives to strengthen preventive medical care and humanitarian and disaster relief capabilities and the capacity of our partner forces.

Other activities that tend to be more complex, particularly those that involve sharing of sensitive technologies or information, will vary greatly in terms of effort and comprehensiveness, relating directly to the level of the partner’s need and the quality of its security practices. Arrangements such as information sharing and technology transfers and disclosures are handled on a case-by-case basis, largely depending on the subject, technical support, the end user and the proposed end use, as well as their ability to balance potential risks to information and technology security with the potential benefits to interoperability and enhanced partnerships.

Irrespective of this complexity, all of these activities work together to establish new relationships and to strengthen and deepen existing ones. So for example, when we invite airmen from partner air forces to attend our undergraduate academy or our command and staff (or/air ?) war colleges, or when we send our airmen abroad to undertake similar activities with foreign partners, we mutually receive huge dividends over the longer term, establishing relationships that typically last decades.

When airmen, say from Bulgaria and Hungary and Sweden and Poland, during a period of several years each attend the Air War College and formed lasting relationships with each other and with their U.S. counterparts, and then went on to become heads of their respective services, we gained a distinct advantage in efforts such as forming the 12-nation C-17 consortium in Europe known as the Strategic Airlift Capability. The July 2009 activation of its operating unit known as the Heavy Airlift Wing was an auspicious beginning to this capability.

Two months later the Heavy Airlift Wing executed its first mission to Afghanistan and then proceeded to deliver more than 2 million pounds of war reserve material in the six – in six months of supporting the coalition mission there. During that surge the Heavy Airlift Wing also responded with life-saving and life-sustaining humanitarian aid to Haiti, landing in Port-au-Prince seven days after that devastating earthquake. All told, in its first year of operation the wing amassed more than 4,000 flying hours, transported 14,000 tons of cargo and over 6,000 passengers to six continents.

This C-17 consortium will continue to benefit its 11 European partner nations by providing a shared capability with modest underwriting and without having to either contract airlift on a case-by-case basis, which is clearly more costly, or to procure their own aircraft, for which they may not have a requirement commensurate with the purchase price. Moreover, this capability saves the United States as a member nation nearly $130,000 for each C-17 leg that our Air Force does not have to fly across the Atlantic. But perhaps more importantly, the Strategic Airlift Capability has benefited more than its member nations. Just ask the recipients of humanitarian and disaster relief supplies in Haiti or in Japan, our coalition warfighters during the 2009 Afghanistan surge.

Similar to our education and training efforts, we commit ourselves heavily to exercises that enhance our interoperability with partner air forces and other military forces. Exercises like Red Flag in Alaska boost our effectiveness and tactical air combat, helping to ensure our readiness to perform in real-world operations like Odyssey Dawn or Unified Protector, the U.N.-directed no – enforcement of the “no-fly” zone in Libya last March.

Our operational success there can be attributed also to our strong and long-standing relationship with the Gulf Coalition Council air forces and also to our cooperation in joint training and exercises that the Gulf Air Warfare Center in the United Arab Emirates. In the Libya operation, the contributions of the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar were particularly noteworthy.

And in the Asia-Pacific, our active participation in exercises like Cobra Gold will be increasingly important across a wide range of military cooperation and interoperation. As the preeminent regional military exercise, Cobra Gold, which is hosted annually by Thailand for the – I think the last three decades, and which last year included Japan, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia as participants, will continue to enhance multinational air-to-air engagements, staff coordination, humanitarian and civic assistance and field exercise training events.

Again, for those endeavors that involve more intricate requirements and arrangements, our level of effort must be tailored according to the level of development of the particular foreign partner. But where we formalize assurances for safeguarding sensitive information and technologies and where we can manage the potential associated risk, these arrangements can lead to very productive partnerships wherein we can leverage science and technology investments and achieve economies of scale to reduce cost for all of the involved parties.

A fitting example of this is our effort with Australia on the Wideband Global satellites communication system, which provides us an order of magnitude increase in high data rate, global communications over that which was provided by the 1970s and 1980s-era legacy system.
In addition to the U.S. Armed Forces, other users such as the White House Communications Agency, the Department of State and international partners depend on this capability to provide a wide range of needs from command and control to voice and video communications.

With our Australian partner’s investment in the sixth spacecraft of this constellation representing a significant cost-sharing opportunity and measure with the United States, the entire Wideband Global system will increase its capability to benefit us and other participants, including Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand. And this sixth satellite will afford Australia 100 percent of its wideband communications requirements.

It is important to emphasize that the productive and mutually beneficial relationships that the U.S. Air Force sustains do not always have to involve technology or weapons systems. Recall that I began this global partnership discussion with a vignette about four partner Air Force students at the Air War College. Many of these interactions, in fact, begin even in an earlier timeframe with lieutenants and captains who train and operate together today and therefore will be better prepared to lead broader multinational efforts as colonels and the generals of tomorrow. A similar sort of individual relationship building occurs in our enlisted ranks as well with training and exercises and education and personnel exchanges.

It should be very clear, therefore, that we place a high premium on individual relationships, which often are just as important as aircraft, spacecraft and weapons system interoperability or high-tech effects. Our airmen often train their counterparts on important aviation-related activities, mundane activities perhaps, such as preventive aircraft maintenance, airfield management and security and enhanced logistics, all to maximize the utility of precious assets, particularly in times of escalating operations and maintenance costs amidst declining defense purchasing power.

In Nigeria, for example, we recently secured a foreign military sales arrangement to provide military working dogs and associated support – all toward increased security. And Nigeria also is a partner to whom in 2009 we provided not advanced hardware or weapons systems, but rather depot level maintenance at a facility in Lisbon, Portugal to overhaul engines and propellers and refurbish cockpits and avionics of their C-130 aircraft. The U.S. State Department then provided funds to help keep the aircraft properly maintained after depot maintenance. And our airmen provided extensive training and education to enhance the Nigerians – our Nigerian counterpart’s sustainment capability and the airworthiness of these newly overhauled aircraft.

This is but one noteworthy example of a U.S. interagency effort to benefit an international partner and to secure benefits for the United States as well, in this case, a strengthened partnership and a potential hub in Western Africa. Rest assured, there are many, many other similar examples. And this is also, by the way, another example of gaining benefits from carefully cultivated, decades-long relationships, in this case, with a Nigerian air chief who graduated from the Air Command and Staff College some 30 years ago.

In short, although – through activities such expanded dialogue, combined training and exercises and practical cooperation, we stand to deepen and broaden our strategic partnerships, making them even more comprehensive and mutually valuable. Grounded in common interests, these partnerships in turn bring people and entire nations closer together, helping to bolster security ties, increase capacities and focus future cooperative efforts that rally around newfound collective capabilities.

In a time of continued fiscal austerity, these efforts will be even more crucial for their potential to improve efficiency, contain costs and consolidate capabilities toward mutually beneficial effects, because under current economic circumstances, it is less likely that we will become a truly full service, all-inclusive, A to Z, completely autonomous air forces – any of us, frankly. Rather as we have done in the new defense strategic guidance, even we are prioritizing according to our current trend indicators, anticipated demand signals, compressed budgets and the most likely of future contingencies.

I’d like to thank you for your attention this evening, for your kind invitation tonight. And I’d be happy to take any questions that you might have. Thanks very much. (Applause.)


BARRY PAVEL: Thank you so much for your remarks and particularly for their focus on the really important topic that we address on a daily basis here, which is international partnerships and how we can better leverage allies and partners to deal with a broad range of demands that I thought you articulated so well, ranging from Iran and Syria currently to North Korea and undoubtedly others that will surprise us.

I wanted to draw the audience’s attention to how much you push the envelope of partnerships and perhaps more than any chief of a military service that I – that I’ve seen. There was a – you gave testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee recently on the 2013 budget. And I think that’s something that no previous Air Force chief of staff ever did. You actually advocated for a U.S. Navy program when you – in response to a question from Senator Levin, you talked about the importance of the Navy procuring the Virginia-class attack submarine and how critical it is for the joint concept that you developed with the chief of naval operations, Jonathan Greenert, called Air-Sea Battle and you published this concept – very important and I think unprecedented advocacy of another service’s program. I hope you’re invited back to Air Force alumni get-togethers as a result of it.

But you also published something about international partnerships like when you published a joint op-ed in Jane’s Defence Weekly at the end of March, where you and the chief of staff of the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom and the chief of staff of the French Air Force published a joint editorial called, “Libyan air ops showcase French, U.K., U.K. partnership.” And I just wanted to read two quotes, and then I’ll ask you the question.

The first quote was very important at a geopolitical level, where you said, “Our air forces help secure common national geopolitical interests that stretch from North Africa through the Middle East and into the Indian Ocean,” which I thought was a pretty bold statement. Certainly the U.S. – that stretches us a bit – but also the French and the U.K. I think that’s a very important statement for perhaps where future air forces together may be operating on a routine basis.

And then secondly, I thought – and then – and perhaps more interesting was you mentioned that our operational effectiveness, quote, “will require improved command and control processes and infrastructure, information sharing and developing an increased level of interdependence that leads to even greater cooperation in the future.” And this word “interdependence” is something that the U.S. military is not – has not been comfortable with – at least in my career – where we look for treaty relationships, we look for signing on the dotted line, but it’s not often we cede some of our sovereignty to work for interdependencies with international partners.

And I was wondering sort of – you’ve really pushed the envelope, but undoubtedly there were some things that you’d like to get done that aren’t quite there yet. But where do you see this going? How can we do better? The defense strategic guidance was very helpful in sort of setting the table, but we now need to push the envelope even further. I was wondering what you might comment on about that.

GEN. SCHWARTZ: Well, I think fundamentally that this trilateral relationship is something that Stephen Dalton and John Paul Paloméros and I have worked now for four years. And John Paul moves on next month. Stephen will be the senior of the trilateral. And it is an indication – and I think this did in fact play out in Libya – where efforts we had undertaken to work together to improve our ability to interact and interoperate, you know, was extremely helpful in shared targeting, for example, something very pragmatic that was necessary.

And you know, in addition, the French provided a platform for our tankers. And the U.K., of course, assisted in a multitude of ways as well. And we were – I think perhaps the best example that I can recall of the three air forces working well together and then wrapping our arms around others who joined us as well – certainly the Italians, Canadians, the Danes, the Norwegians, the Jordanians, you know, the Emiratis, the Qataris and so on. So – but it was the trilateral that was the core. And I think this is representative of what the future will hold.

When we were talking about interdependence, it simply suggests that none of us are likely to have all of the wherewithal to do missions that we can contemplate, but together we can accomplish so much more. And that’s the fundamental aspect of this. And again, I think it’s something that all three of us hope continues with our successors and many times removed.

MR. PAVEL: I’ll ask one more question and then I’ll look to the – to the audience. So the defense strategic guidance talked about the shift to the Asia-Pacific. And here at the Atlantic Council we are working with the National Intelligence Council on their long-range global trends report looking out to 2030, where we foresee a massive shift of economic, and with it political power, to Asia, which obviously is – represents some of the thinking that’s driving the Obama administration’s shift to Asia. So I was wondering if we’re shifting to Asia, what might your successor – who might your successor be writing op-eds with? Are there particularly close relationships that we should be leveraging even more as we move?

GEN. SCHWARTZ: Well, clearly there are decades-long relationships with the Coco Jitai (ph), the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force; clearly decades of cooperation with the ROKAF, the Republic of Korea Air Force. There are long-term relationships both – and sort of resurgent relationships with the Indonesian air force, the Malaysian air force, certainly a first-tier relationship with the Australians. So you know, it’s not – our interaction in the Asia-Pacific is certainly not new. But the imperative for it is reflected in the defense strategic guidance. And it’s clear that the U.K. and the French have interests in the region as well. And so, you know, the fact that we obviously participated in the mission in the Mediterranean here in the last year certainly doesn’t foreclose a future part in this, future cooperation for other missions that might unfold elsewhere.

MR. : Thank you.
We had a question in the second row.
GEN. SCHWARTZ: (Inaudible) – how are you, sir?
Q: (Off mic) – General Schwartz.
GEN. SCHWARTZ: Oh, I’m sorry.
Q: Very good to see you again.
GEN. SCHWARTZ: I’m glad this is not on the other side of a dais.
Q: Right. (Laughs.) Well, I’m Mike Costi (ph), and I retired from the – from the Senate. Many people are happy to know that, so – (chuckles). But a question: Global partnering, of course, is such a critical, critical element going forward, no doubt about that. And many of the global partners are represented here today. Prior to your arrival, had a chance to talk to a couple of them, and they echoed what you’re saying. And they also raised the issue of equipment going forward, particularly next-generation aircraft. And I sensed that there was a little less aggravation, concern from them on what this is going to look like, because I think the attitude now is that the Joint Strike Fighter and all – it’s pretty well understood that we need this and it’s going to happen and it’s going to be a few more bumps in the road. But I wonder if you would just address that aspect of global partnering and what we might say to our global partners on that question.
GEN. SCHWARTZ: Well, I guess I would begin by saying that there are many aspects of equipping in this country that are difficult. The arrangements – and of course, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates attempted to address this to some degree in a major initiative two years ago. But the Foreign Military Sales statutes and so on and so forth and the division of labor amongst the departments and the executive branch, as well as the jurisdictions on Capitol Hill, are complex and certainly make it more challenging for us to equip others quickly, rapidly, expeditiously and to get decisions on releasability and export control and so on. So I think that one of the challenges for, you know, our leadership both on Capitol Hill and in the administrations to come will be to try to streamline the export control initiatives that we currently abide by in order to facilitate equipping the partners with equipment that will assure interoperability for 30 years or more, including the Joint Strike Fighter or remotely piloted aircraft or other such equipment that has the promise of again bringing nations together, certainly sustaining relationships at the military-to-military level. I think that is one of the areas where there’s still productive work left to do in terms of improving our export-control regime and its administration.
MR. PAVEL: Yes, the gentleman in the back.
Q: Hi, General Schwartz. Colin Clark, AOL Defense.
GEN. SCHWARTZ: (Inaudible) – how are you?
Q: You’ve given us a number of examples of efficiencies that already are under way. Can you give us a couple of areas where you’re looking ahead and where you might be able to garner more efficiencies?
GEN. SCHWARTZ: I – you know, I think the answer to your question, Colin, is that there are potential partners there where additional efforts will yield benefits like you suggest. In the Asia-Pacific, I mentioned several: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, for example. These are – these are air forces with which we have had a less comprehensive relationship over the years, compared to others in the region. I think that there’s certainly opportunity again for us to share procurement efforts that ease the financial burden for our respective nations. JSF is a case in point. WGS, as I mentioned, is another. Certainly there will be other opportunities to do that. And so, again, this is an important thing, and it – and it depends on assuring ourselves that the partners have adequate security practices in place where there might be either proprietary technology or security considerations, and that those partners again have the capacity to sustain the equipment that we might provide for their use. And one of the things that occurred as a result of the Budget Control Act – and this is regrettable, but it is – you know, it is what it is – was that we as an air force had intended to bring into our inventory a class of aircraft that were more suitable for less sophisticated air forces. Not every air force can afford or is able to operate an F-16 effectively. Not every air force can afford or operate a C-17 effectively. And so in the not-too-distant past we had intended to bring in a small number of boats, light-lift and light-strike aircraft in order to enable us to interact with developing air forces with equipment that they would be more likely to assimilate quickly and operate effectively and affordably. Regrettably, those two programs have fallen by the wayside as a result of the 487 billion (dollars) that the department had to find in its 10-year program.
MR. PAVEL: I have a question in the back.
Q: Hi, General. Kevin Baron from National Journal. On the budget, go right to it: Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in the last couple of weeks have said that the generals, the brass like yourself, have not – either do not truly support the budget request or, as Mitch McConnell said, he thought there is clearly dissension in the Pentagon – his words. Can you respond to both of those claims? Do you truly support your budget request? And do you sense dissension in the Pentagon that’s not being heard perhaps on Capitol Hill?
GEN. SCHWARTZ: Yes and no. Look, they passed the bill. I find it interesting that, you know, the Congress of the United States gave us the parameters and we responded to it. What would you have us do? You know, do I wish that the topline were different? Sure. You know, I wish that Christmas would come every day. But the reality is the country has trillion-dollar deficits to deal with – that’s part of it, and that we – that our strategic situation is changing. We’re no longer in Iraq. Our footprint is likely to decline in Afghanistan over time. We’ve had this strategic shift that we’ve talked about that’s – that was outlined in the – in the defense strategic guidance. So you know, we collectively – it was a team effort – put together the FY ’13 program. The adults did this. And so I’m not sure to whom the individuals you mentioned are talking, but I can tell you with certainty it isn’t the Joint Chiefs.
Q: (Name inaudible) – NHK Japan Broadcasting. After the Air-Sea Battle Office started last year, can you tell us the progress of what’s been going on since then?
GEN. SCHWARTZ: Sure. I – you know, there are three dimensions of Air-Sea Battle that are important. And the – and the office, in addition to being a gatekeeper, really is the vehicle through which the first part of Air-Sea Battle was accomplished, and that is normalizing collaboration between the maritime – at least initially the maritime services and the Air Force. And now there’s an Army presence as well.
But rather than occasional or ad hoc collaboration on a specific capability, the question was whether we – and this – by the way, we need to give credit to Gary Roughead, with whom this really began, and John Greener subsequently – that we need to normalize this level of collaboration, and that’s what the Air-Sea Battle Office, among other things, was intended to accomplish. And then at the operational level was assuring that we – this was not about new stuff. This was about making the best possible use of stuff that we already operate in order to assure America’s ability to project power and to attain freedom of action in areas where potential adversaries might try to constrain that freedom of action with ballistic missiles, with advanced integrated air defenses, with long-range radars, with electronic warfare capabilities – any number of things. And the notion of that collaboration – I will give you an example of a couple months ago. We ran a test where a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from a submarine, was retargeted in flight from an F-22. Now think about that interaction. Something that probably would not have been really focused on in the past, but this is the kind of operational art that Air-Sea Battle is intended to expand and amplify. Finally, at the strategic level, there are – there are – I would call it the – better, the materiel level.

There are opportunities, again, to collaborate in ways that perhaps were not routine before, and maybe Global Hawk’s the best example of that, or BAMS, which is the Navy equivalent. You know, we – why should we base these systems at two different locations? Why should we have two different depots for their repair and overhaul, and so on and so forth? So both at the professional – the institutional level, at the operational level and then at the materiel level, that’s what Air-Sea Battle is about, and that – and the Air-Sea Battle Office is the gatekeeper – is the bird dog for that activity.

MR. PAVEL: (Inaudible) – sort of a follow-up question, but raise it up a level. General Scowcroft gave a lecture one week ago tonight, I believe, an annual lecture called the Makins Lecture where he – in response to a question, he talked about the shift to Asia and said that the best way – I’m paraphrasing – the best way to make China our adversary is to treat them like our adversary and to posture as if they’re our adversary.

And this reflects certainly the knowledge that we have to develop the needed capabilities to deal with a crisis with China at some point in the future things happen; sometimes interests collide. But the question he raised, and I’ve talked to him in previous discussions about this: How do we achieve this balance between developing the necessary capabilities in case the worst case happens while at the same time not creating the very dynamic that we’re trying to – that we’re trying to avoid at all costs?

GEN. SCHWARTZ: Well, let me address that in two ways. First, you asked the question, there’s an inference, if I go back to the earlier question, that the Air-Sea Battle is about China, and it’s not. I mean, Air-Sea Battle is about Iran, it’s about Syria, it’s was – to a significant degree it was about Libya. The bottom line is, is that I would argue that Air-Sea Battle is agnostic with respect to specific nation-states, but rather the kinds of capabilities that they might field – or, for that matter, even nonstate actors to a certain extent.

Now, with respect to how we conduct ourselves, I would agree that we can be foolishly provocative. And we should not be foolishly provocative, but neither should we be naïve. And I think there’s a need to make the best use of the resources at our disposal and we’re – you know, for preserving America’s interests. Whatever the national leadership asks us to do, that’s our obligation.

And I think that maintaining connections with the PLA at various levels, certainly at the military-military level, is important. We’re hopeful that perhaps the – my counterpart might come visit here and perhaps, you know, we will be able to visit there, as other service chiefs have done. These are the kinds of things that – and certainly at higher levels in the – in the civilian leadership. You know, keep perceptions in a solid place and where – you know, where misperceptions cannot persist. And so that’s a – I think a key thing with respect to the Chinese. We need to maintain our ability to project power, to influence events and I don’t think we should apologize for that.

MR. PAVEL: Question right on the middle aisle.

Q: Yes, General. Your presentation’s been excellent, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – oh, sorry. Bill Courtney, I’m a retired diplomat. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently spoke of a possibility of our using an air facility at Ulyanovsk for a retrograde from Afghanistan – either in substitution for Manas if that’s not available or possibly supplemental. What do you think of that option? Have you ever had cooperation with the Russian air force on anything even remotely comparable to that? Is this wholly unique?

GEN. SCHWARTZ: General Zellen (sp) visited me last year and in May I hope to visit him. So certainly Zellen (sp) and Schwartz are, you know, maintaining close cooperation. I have spoken to him over the last seven months on a couple of occasions, and he’s called me. You know, perhaps that’s not all that dramatic, but it’s a reflection that at least his MOD and my DOD allow us to interact at that level without too much supervision. (Laughter.)

But more importantly, with respect to your specific question, the Russians have actually been helpful to us with respect to maintaining resupply in Afghanistan. They have offered over time over-flight permissions. They have assisted us in securing transit in the – in the “stans” writ large. Had they – had they not encouraged others to be helpful, that – it might have been a different outcome.

And so I don’t think it’s a surprise, frankly, that they’ve made such an offer. I mean, the reality is, is that they have a strategic interest in the outcome of events in Afghanistan as well. And to the extent that we can be skillful and allow those interests to coincide or reinforce one another, that’s – you’re – sir, you’re the diplomat. You understand that better than I do.

And a transit point, which is what the Russians are talking about – we won’t have uniforms on the ground. This will largely be a commercial operation, but whose purpose is well understood, I think, is again a reflection of our flexibility and our ability to collaborate where interests coincide.

MR. PAVEL: We have time for one last question in the back.

Q: Good evening, General. Michael Hoffman with Speaking of partnerships, I wanted to ask you about the very important partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan, considering the terrible tragedy that happened last year with the U.S. airmen that were killed and more recently something that may be a smaller incident, but losing the contract with the light attack aircraft. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the current – the current relationship and what you see as the future relationship as U.S. forces draw down

GEN. SCHWARTZ: Actually, we have a productive relationship with the Afghan army/air force. And you know, we have had in the neighborhood of 350 or so trainers there for a number of years. Ad they are operating a variety of aircraft, both MI-17 and MI-24 helicopters, C-27A fixed-wing airlift aircraft and a number of trainers and so and so forth. And I would argue that their progress is – you know, has been a result of this partnership with us.

And the bottom line is, you know, there is a war going on in Afghanistan. And one shouldn’t forget that very stark reality. And you know, events occur on the battlefield and, you know, we need – we need to be – have sufficient perspective here to put them in the proper context. We will restart – or I should say, we will publish the – a new draft request for proposal on the light air support aircraft program.

And you know, our purpose, again, is to provide the Afghan counterparts with a fixed-wing close air support platform that they can operate effectively, affordably and reliably. It was regrettable that we had a – you know, a problem on our documentation on the force – the first source selection. And I – you know, we were – as a result we responded by discontinuing that phase of the effort. And we will begin anew here later this month with the current offers. OK?

MR. PAVEL: Well, General, we have to wrap it up. Thank you so much for you time, for coming here today, for addressing the critical issue of international partnerships that are so important for the defense strategy going forward. And thank you above all for your amazing leadership of the Air Force and for coming here today.

GEN. SCHWARTZ: Thank you. (Applause.)


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