NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The U.S. Air Force secretary on Monday said the service is launching a new effort to revamp how it organizes, trains, equips and carries out missions to deter or defeat China.
Over the next few months, the Department of the Air Force’s senior leadership will lead this review to find ways to make itself and the Space Force operate better in an era of great power competition, Frank Kendall said in his keynote address at the Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
Kendall added that he wants the department to start implementing changes by January 2024 and move rapidly that year.
The five teams working on this effort will focus on how the department is organized, both in its headquarters and the field; how the force is equipped; recruitment, training and retention of personnel; readiness; and how the department supports operational air and space missions, including mobilization and demobilization as well as providing installations for service members.
Kendall said the Air Force has no choice but to change to counter the threat from China, which is successfully modernizing its air and naval forces, and has a rocket force capable of targeting crucial U.S. assets such as aircraft carriers, airfields and logistics hubs.
“China has been re-optimizing its forces for great power competition and to prevail against the U.S. in the Western Pacific for over 20 years,” Kendall said. “We must do the same.”
The Air Force in recent years has transformed in several ways, including standing up a new command, control, communications and battle management effort overseen by its own program executive officer, as well as creating multi-capable airmen able to do more than one job on deployment. But more must be done, Kendall noted.
Kendall also urged Congress to swiftly pass a budget so the department doesn’t have to operate under a continuing resolution, and decried the hold Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has on hundreds of general officer nominations.
Kendall also pointed to the Pentagon’s so-called quickstart proposal to Congress — which would allow the military to begin work on some of its most vital new programs before a budget is passed — as an example of a reform that would allow the department to operate more efficiently and “prevent us from losing ground unnecessarily.”
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.