US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James is focusing on streamlining acquisition. (Tech. Sgt. Brian P. Boynton/ / US Air Force)
FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND — The US Air Force is in the process of standing up two study groups to understand how to streamline the acquisition process, according to the service’s secretary.
Deborah Lee James told reporters at the Farnborough International Airshow here that she is seeking better relations with industry to understand how the service can become more nimble in its interactions with business.
“I also care about an industrial base and I’ve been trying to bring the message with me that we collectively are working to streamline processes and procedures,” James said. “Get away from as much rigidity as we’ve had in the past, think about doing our requirements a little differently and having a more open dialogue with industry to try and jointly work those problems.
“Exportability of our US products is important.”
Earlier, James addressed a crowd at the US international pavilion and discussed her plan for improving communications with industry.
“We’re still too rigid in our processes and procedures,” James told the crowd. “We still take too long too frequently to get things done.
“We have got to learn to talk to each other freely,” she added.
To make that happen, James said she has established two groups. The first is comprised of senior leaders from the Air Force and industry with the goal of figuring out what are the major roadblocks to speeding up business. Some good suggestions, such as improved communication about industry days, have already been floated, James said.
The second group is focused on IT and business systems, and is still being assembled.
“Many of you know we have had some programs that we’re not very proud of in the Department of Defense, IT types of systems that haven’t delivered,” she said. “We don’t want any repeats of that.”
James said the service will unveil a blueprint for the future of the Air Force in the next few weeks, one based around reviews of what the Air Force will look like in 10, 20 and 30 years, ordered by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.
Europe In Focus
James also took note of how important Europe is, as both a strategic and industrial partner.
“Obviously, Europe is hugely important to us,” she said. “Everybody talks about the rebalancing to the Pacific, that’s important too, but never ever losing sight of the importance of Europe and NATO.”
But that importance had been obscured in recent years, with the service part of the very public “rebalance” toward the Pacific. And previously, the focus had been on Afghanistan and Iraq. Europe seemed to be a relatively stable and peaceful region, but that changed when Russia invaded Ukraine and the US rotated force structure to Europe in a clear show of force.
“Yes, by necessity,” Gen. Frank Gorenc, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, said when asked if the Ukraine situation had changed the US posture toward Europe.
When Gorenc talked with Defense News in February, he defended the Air Force’s role in Europe despite a public perception that the Middle East and Pacific dominate the service’s focus. The need for US forces in the region no longer seems to be in doubt, but questions about what happens next remain.
While noting that he was “satisfied” with the US response to the Ukraine crisis, Gorenc did note the situation gave an “impetus for creating discussion” around the current relationship of American and European forces. ■