WASHINGTON — The US Air Force has released the next piece of its long-term strategic planning restructure, one which begins to deliver benchmarks for how the service will grow in future decades.
The Strategic Master Plan, released Thursday, builds on last summer's "America's Air Force: A Call to the Future" document. That document was billed as a 30-year look at the future of the service, one that was purposefully broad. The Strategic Master Plan, in contrast, contains 12 strategic goals for the service, along with rough timelines for the development of those goals.
To be clear, the pPlan is very much internal facing — or "wonkery," as Maj. Gen. David Allvin, who helped develop the document, readily admitted to reporters May 20.
But, he said, the document is important because it gives the service a way to make sure it is on the right path as it figures out what the Air Force of the future needs to look like.
A theme of the pPlan is agility, something that lines up with service Secretary Deborah Lee James' "strategic agility" push. Hence, the target dates for the development of technologies or reshaping of the force structure are designed to force planners to stop and consider if they are pursuing the right path, and, if not, to readjust.
Allvin noted that while in the past, the enemy was often clear and a path could last you 20 or 30 years, "we don't have that luxury right now." Hence, the need to constantly check the development and make sure it still makes sense.
It's an idea that is being played out already with the service's next-generation air dominance development, a pilot program for some of the concepts that found their way into the Strategic Master Plan.
The overall concern with a long-term planning push, first announced last February by service Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, has been the Pentagon's tendency to crush reforms under the grinding gears of bureaucracy.
Allvin acknowledged those concerns, noting "that is something we have to pay attention to. We shouldn't dismiss that."
But he said there are reasons for optimism, not the least is that the Pentagon as a whole realizes the strategic environment is changing rapidly.
"There is a universal recognition that the strategic environment is really shifting underneath our feet and we're starting to see some of the boxes we're being hemmed into, with respect of not as much flexibility to shift out of what we've been doing for the last 20 or 30 years," he said.
His remarks mirror in many ways those of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who is leading a major push for innovation at the Pentagon.
Allvin said that was not a conscious decision on the part of Air Force planners so much as a reflection of how Pentagon leadership is largely united in on its concerns that the US could be outpaced by competitors technologically.
"We're all coming to similar conclusions at the same time," he said, noting that the development of the plan began last September. "We're happy just to be part of it and have it be consistent with [OSD's] way of thinking."
To read the Strategic Master Plan, please click below.