Military News

Monday, September 17, 2012

Air Force Secretary Calls Airmen Service’s ‘Living Engine’



By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2012 – The nation’s youngest force enjoys an unbreakable connection to state-of-the-art technology, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said at the Air Force Association’s annual meeting today.

But while technology enables the Air Force to innovate, its people are “the living engine of the Air Force,” Donley said.

“Today, more than ever,” he said, “our Air Force can take pride that our service culture promotes and benefits from the know-how, determination and commitment of a diverse group of men and women who embody our core values – integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do – while pursuing adaptive and innovative solutions for our nation’s security.”

Although stretched by two decades of combat, humanitarian and stability operations, the Air Force’s men and women continue to provide unmatched global vigilance, reach and power across the full spectrum of operations, the secretary said.

Donley said airmen play critical roles in accomplishing national and international milestones, including the completion of military operations in Iraq and the ongoing transition in Afghanistan.

“Just as in the first moments of that long campaign, as the last vehicles crossed the border into Kuwait, airmen were overhead to ensure their security and mission success,” he said. “During the past year in support of our mission in Afghanistan, airmen have flown more than 162,000 total sorties, including almost 90,000 combat sorties, more than 22,000 close air support sorties, and 15,000 aerial refueling sorties.

“Let there be no mistake – America’s airmen are in the fight,” he said.

The Air Force also is making valuable contributions outside the U.S. Central Command area of operations, Donley said.

“We have continued to strengthen unity of command in the nuclear enterprise with the realignment of nuclear munitions squadrons under Air Force Global Strike Command,” he said. “We also successfully completed the first guided test vehicle release for the Small Diameter Bomb and completed multiple flight tests of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The Air Force continued the F-22’s return to flight, including extensive testing and analysis, taking corrective actions to enhance flight safety and enable operational deployments.”

The Air Force also successfully completed eight launch campaigns with the evolved expendable launch vehicle, Donley said, including the first space-based infrared system geosatellite, the second advanced extremely high-frequency satellite, and the fourth wideband global satellite.

Air Force Cyber Vision 2025, the service’s plan for near-, mid- and long-term science and technology strategy, is scheduled to be released soon, he said.

“This effort seeks to ensure that the Air Force has the best force operating with the best technology in this increasingly contested and critical cyber domain,” he said.

The new defense strategic guidance supports continued Air Force presence in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility, Donley said, where about 60 percent of the Air Force’s permanent overseas assets are stationed.

“This guidance also reinforces the importance of long-range strike and other advanced technologies, and supports concepts like Air-Sea Battle, which will develop integrated air and naval forces to counter anti-access [and] area denial strategies and threats to the global commons,” the secretary said.

“At the same time,” he added, “strategic guidance also provides the basis for adjusting our forces and footprint in Europe and the mix of our force structure based on changed warfighting assumptions.”

Donley said the fiscal 2013 defense budget “reflects both the priorities identified in the defense strategic guidance and the fiscal requirements of the Budget Control Act, and represents the culmination of a number of very tough decisions, including the decision by Air Force leaders to reduce the overall size of the service.

This decision will allow the Air Force “to protect a high-quality and ready force, one that will continue to modernize and grow more capable in the future,” he said.

“We intend to be a superb force at any size,” Donley said, “maintaining the agility, the flexibility and above all, the readiness to engage in a full range of contingencies and threats.”

As the service strives during uncertain times to strengthen its culture and community, two issues are particularly troubling, Donley said.

“Our success depends on our people, our airmen, and we must ensure that our great airmen have the tools, the support and the environment they need to succeed in the tasks that we give them,” he said. “As a military community which values each and every individual, the incidence of suicide is deeply disturbing.”

Air Force people at all levels must do all they can to strengthen airmen's resilience and look out for each other to prevent what he called “these irreversible tragedies.”

The second issue confronting the Air Force is sexual assault, Donley said. Allegations of professional and sexual misconduct by basic military training instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland are both shocking and troubling, he acknowledged.

“The misconduct alleged has no place in our Air Force culture,” he said. “This behavior constitutes an abuse of power and an abuse of trust which cannot and will not be tolerated. … The Air Force has taken aggressive steps to assist the victims and increase protections for our airmen in the training environment.”

Much is expected of Air Force people, Donely said, both outside the service and within it.

“We hold airmen to high standards because that’s what is expected of us, and what we expect from each other –- to set the example, to treat people with dignity and respect and to act promptly to right a wrong, to protect people under our charge, and to live by Air Force core values.”

It’s up to every member of the Air Force to make that happen, the secretary said.

“This is family business. Nobody will do this for us. We must do it for ourselves, for our airmen, and for our Air Force,” he said. “And I have every confidence that we will confront this challenge, and come out a stronger and better Air Force on the other side.”

Budget uncertainty and the threat of “sequestration” – additional, across-the-board spending cuts if Congress can’t find equivalent savings by January -- also presents a challenge for the Air Force as it attempts to budget for fiscal 2013, which begins Oct. 1, Donley said. The budget already reflects the beginning of $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade that will take place whether the additional cuts kick in.

“This [fiscal 2013] budget was really the first opportunity for policy makers to see in black and white what would have to be done to program $487 billion in defense reductions,” Donley said. “And simply put, in beginning to program for these reductions, it is impossible to avoid impacts to airmen, to various civilian and contractor workforces and the communities in which they live.”

As defense spending continues to shrink, the service has rededicated itself to improving communication and rebalancing resources between its active, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve components, he said. The success of the Air Force, he added, depends on the collective success of all three components. “We must move forward together as one Air Force,” he said.

As the defense budget works its way through Congress, Donley said, the Air Force will stand firm on its strategic choices: trading size to maintain a quality force, and staying focused on readiness and modernization.

Sequestration, Donley said, would be irresponsible.

“We have less than four months before sequester goes into effect -- a meat-ax approach which would drive additional reductions of approximately $55 billion to [fiscal 2013] defense accounts. This is not a responsible way to achieve deficit reduction. These additional and arbitrarily applied across-the-board cuts would leave the military without a workable strategy to counter global threats.”

Sequestration would reduce Air Force funding to about fiscal 2004 levels, he added.

“There is great uncertainty in today’s security environment, but these matters at least are under our nation's control and should be resolved,” Donley said. “We need Congress to de-trigger the Budget Control Act’s sequester provisions before the end of this year.”

Still, the secretary said, airmen remain focused on the mission.

“Every day,” he said, “our active duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian airmen are adding bright new chapters to the Air Force story, combining air, space, and cyber power in new ways that add to our nation’s joint warfighting capabilities. Working together in common purpose as one Air Force, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.”

Despite these accomplishments, he said, the Air Force will finish the year facing the same two major challenges with which the year began: an unstable and dynamic international security environment and a looming economic and fiscal crisis putting downward pressure on the nation’s defense spending.

“And as this tension grows, as the uncertainty continues, we need to ensure that we remain well-grounded in the foundations of our Air Force,” he said. “The more uncertainty there is, the more budgetary churn ahead, the more important it is to come back to basics –- to the Air Force family and the central role of airmen in the fight. Because we know that whatever challenges lay ahead, our airmen will see us through.

“[Airmen] are the living engine of this Air Force … and at the core of this engine are Air Force values -- integrity, service, excellence --- and from this engine we generate air power, air power that ensures the success of our joint team and protects the security of our country,” he added.

NATO Transformation Chief Encourages ‘Smart Defense’ Strategy



By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2012 – Despite fiscal challenges, NATO members should work together to develop the right capabilities to adapt to future challenges, NATO’s top transformation officer said here today.

At a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Stephane Abrial of the French air force, NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, encouraged the use of the alliance’s “Smart Defense” strategy for the future.

The strategy calls for pooling and sharing capabilities, setting priorities and coordinating efforts better.

“What we need to do is to make sure that through transformation we continue to enhance the alliance's cohesion, [and] we continue to work hard on our interoperability, our ability to work together side by side and to collaborate,” he said.

The French general noted NATO already has an “intellectual and technical flexibility” to adapt, as evidenced by a “string of strategic surprises” in the world’s history.

“We cannot think that we can imagine everything, but we must make sure that we can adapt to every new environment,” Abrial said.

Two ways to be prepared, he said, are the main initiatives endorsed by the alliance’s heads of state and government at the Chicago Summit last May – initiatives NATO officials call Smart Defense and connected Forces.

“Smart Defense is the will to do more things at the multinational level in the field of capability development,” Abrial said. “Again, when we are faced with the fiscal difficulties in all our nations, there are more and more things that a nation cannot do alone anymore. Therefore, we need to find how to do it more together. This is the spirit of Smart Defense, how to be more efficient in developing capabilities and the best of ways of doing things together, and it works well.”

Abrial said the mindset on addressing capability is changing, and NATO is proving the validity of the concept through projects and proposals already under way.

“We've got 24 projects which are now agreed by the nations and being implemented, and we have good hopes that at least 10 more will be agreed before the end of the year,” he said. “All together, we have more than 150 proposals on which we work now, hard, to deliver with capabilities needed in the future.”

In pursuing Smart Defense, he added, the alliance has worked hard and closely with European Union institutions.

The European Union, he noted, has a similar initiative called “pooling and sharing.” This, he said, makes it necessary for the respective staffs to work closely to avoid duplication and provide complementary capabilities to an enduring effort.

The Connected Forces concept, Abrial said, is “totally complementary” to the Smart Defense initiative.

“We need to emphasize the way we enforce the human interoperability and the technical interoperability,” he said. “How do we improve education and training? How do we enhance exercises? And how do we make a better use of technology?”

Connected Forces means using the capabilities developed through Smart Defense efficiently, the general said. “These two initiatives are totally complementary and look way ahead into the future of NATO and will help us maintain visibility to face emerging challenges and to meet the level of ambition which our nations have decided upon,” he added.

A strong relationship with industry is important in the two concepts and part of NATO’s efforts to make them succeed, Abrial said. Though his organization does not deal with procurement, he said, it must work closely with the defense industrial base on both sides of the Atlantic to understand coming capabilities and what can be delivered in the future.

“[This way, the] industry is as informed as possible about our vision of the future strategic and operational environments,” Abrial said. “And the combination of the two will help us develop capabilities in the best way.”

Abrial, who assumed his post three years ago, will relinquish it later this month. During his tenure, he said, he has worked to keep NATO’s focus on tomorrow.

“Transformation means prepare for whatever could happen tomorrow,” the general said. “And tomorrow can physically be tomorrow, the day after, or could mean 30 years from now.”

Panetta Arrives in China for Three-day Visit



By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

BEIJING, Sept. 17, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived here today for a three-day visit after wrapping up a trip to Japan earlier in the day.

Two senior defense officials traveling with the secretary briefed reporters traveling with Panetta on the secretary’s planned schedule for China. He will spend three days here instead of the two originally planned, the first official said, as several trip details have firmed up since late last week.

The secretary is scheduled to meet with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Sept. 19 at the Great Hall of the People, the first official said. The two met previously in February, and since Xi also is vice chairman of China’s central military commission, Panetta is very interested in furthering the relationship, the official said.

The secretary also will meet during the visit with Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie, who visited the Pentagon in May; State Counsel Dai Bingguo, who serves in a position roughly equivalent to the U.S. national security advisor; and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xu Caihou, the official added.

Panetta will visit several military sites while in China, the first official said. He will tour barracks, deliver a speech and eat lunch with cadets at the People’s Liberation Army’s armored forces engineering academy, the official added, noting Panetta’s visit there will be the first by a U.S. defense secretary.

The secretary also will travel to Qingdao, home of the Chinese North Sea Fleet, the official added. There he will meet with the fleet commander, Vice Adm. Qian Zhong, and will tour a frigate and a submarine, the official said.

The second official told reporters Panetta’s visit to China, his first as defense secretary, demonstrates progress in the two nations’ military-to-military relationship.

In his previous meeting with Liang, the second official said, Panetta talked about areas of potential cooperation. The meetings planned for this visit are an extension of that, the official added.

“This is a relationship that has to be from a long-term perspective,” the second official said, adding the high-level interaction Panetta will have with Chinese military and civilian leaders furthers the U.S. goals of increasing transparency and openness between the two nations’ officials.

The academy and ship visits offer “an opportunity to broaden and deepen contacts with the PLA” through exposure to rising generations of leaders within China’s forces, the second official said.

His high-level meetings will offer the secretary a chance to discuss the U.S. strategic rebalance with China’s leaders and listen to their concerns, the second official said.

The second official noted that as the secretary has repeatedly said, the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region aims to reach beyond military engagement -- though that is an element of the strategy -- and across governments.

The military plays a part in the rebalance, but Panetta hopes to explain it while in China in context with trade and diplomacy, the official added.

The second official acknowledged that discussions during the secretary’s visit likely will involve territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Earlier today in Japan, the secretary responded to several questions on the China-Japan dispute over waters around the Senkaku Islands. His message there was the same one he will carry to China, the second official said: the United States urges calm, restraint, and a peaceful resolution to territorial disputes in the waters of the Asia-Pacific region.

Forest Service Deactivates C-130 Firefighting Operations



From a 153rd Air Expeditionary Group News Release

CHEYENNE, Wyo., Sept. 17, 2012 – The U.S. Forest Service has deactivated the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped military C-130s as fire conditions in the West have improved.

The 153rd Air Expeditionary Group received the notification late Sept. 14, releasing the two MAFFS planes and crews that were still operating, as well as the associated support and maintenance staff. All crews have reported back to their home stations.

The California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, and the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing each had a C-130 operating out of McClellan Air Tanker Base, Calif., for the last few weeks.

On Sept. 2, two C-130s from the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing were released from MAFFS operations in Boise, Idaho. Two C-130s from the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing were released from duty Sept. 7.

"Although our planes and crews have returned home, we all know MAFFS can still be reactivated well into the fall," said Air Force Lt. Col. Donald Taylor, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group acting commander. "We have had a very busy season and know it's still too early to say the season is over for good."

According to 153rd Air Expeditionary Group officials based in Boise, Idaho, this season has become the second-highest in MAFFS history for gallons of fire retardant dropped, surpassed only by the MAFFS season of 1994 when about 5 million gallons were dropped. This season, through Sept. 14, the MAFFS fleet released almost 2.5 million gallons of fire retardant during 1,011 drops on fires in 10 states.

MAFFS is a joint Defense Department and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the Forest Service’s needs.

This is the first year since 2008 that all four MAFFS wings had been activated simultaneously, officials said.

As a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the U.S. Forest Service, MAFFS can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area a quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.