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Adaptive warfighting--defending America in an asymmetric world.

Remarks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Military Strategy Forum, Washington D. C., Jan. 21, 2004

Thank you Dr. (John J.) Hamre (President and CEO, CSIS) for your kind words and gracious introduction. I was happy to accept your invitation and consider it a distinct honor to address the Military Strategy Forum this evening.

CSIS has a long-standing reputation for excellence and dispassionate analysis of the vexing issues that shape the business of domestic and international governance. Rarely, if ever, has the success of your mission been more important. We face a variety of challenges to the security of our nation. Your team of experts here is working hard to develop strategies appropriate for this new era of security, and I sincerely hope that my comments tonight might offer an additional perspective on how air and space power may inform our broader security debate.

As we are but one day removed from President Bush's State of the Union address, I'm particularly pleased to have an opportunity to echo our commander-in-chief's comments last night. We are a nation at war. And while much remains to be done to consolidate our military successes in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should never forget that we have enemies who seek our destruction and all that we value. And while there is often debate on the appropriate strategy to defeat these threats, we should remember that fighting terrorism and radicalism abroad is preferred lest we fight them at our borders or in our cities.

There is no denying the growing nexus of radicalism and technology that threatens the security of our nation. No longer can America rest on the protections of geographic isolation and friendly neighbors. Rather, our erstwhile immunity is being eroded as more nations and rogue groups obtain the capacity to exploit the openness of our homeland to project threats to our people--over long distances and formerly unimaginable, asymmetric tactics.

We also foresee threats posed by ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and smuggled chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. We anticipate the prospect of new kinds of attacks, such as computer network attacks and attacks on other critical infrastructure. Defeating these very real threats remain an imperative for our nation and the civilized world.

This "world war," as George Tenet describes it, began long before Sept. 11, 2001. It began over two decades ago in the Middle East, and it continues to the present. For those of us charged with protecting America and leading the armed forces, these realities have forced us to redefine our enemies as well as our concepts of defense.

Learning Lessons from Recent Conflicts

The task of dissecting the lessons learned from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom has been one that has employed a variety of government entities, think tanks, and defense analysts for several months. As we look to define meaningful lessons, we need to avoid defining those lessons exclusively through the prism of parochial interests. We need to ensure that the conclusions we reach contribute to our overriding national objectives versus those that may be more accurately interpreted as the grinding of one's axe.

In this regard, I'd like to offer three strategic-level conclusions reached by the Joint Staff and offered by General Pete Pace, our Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In terms of our military successes, I think he's summed it up rather well:

* First, he observes that this was the first war that executed a campaign as designed by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986; a truly joint warfighting effort from planning to execution. We didn't just stay out of each other's way; we integrated at the strategic, operational, and tactical level. And our focus was on decisive combat effects rather than apportioning the battlespace to a service or coalition force, as we have seen in some past conflicts.

* Second, our ground forces were comfortable with bypassing major enemy divisions for two reasons: Our precision systems and weapons are very lethal and plentiful. And, in his words,

"Because of the trust our ground forces had in precise and timely airpower if those forces tried to move."

The lessons learned from the major sandstorm on March 25, 2003 cemented these beliefs. Not only did the Republican Guard learn that our ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets could see through a sandstorm, so did our ground forces. As a result, throughout the remainder of the campaign, Iraqi forces were unable to organize a coherent defense, giving our soldiers and Marines a boost of confidence and a decisive advantage in every subsequent engagement.

* Finally, Pete Pace concludes that this was the coming-out party for our Special Operations Forces. They controlled large areas with limited forces and the strength of airpower. They were a light, yet lethal force, and were also genuinely joint in how they operated.

As my partner General Jumper shared with you last month, we are proud of the air and space power contributions to this fight. More than ever before--probably not since Patton's and Arnold's breakout of Normandy and the allied race to Berlin--have we seen as successful integration of air and land forces to achieve decisive combat effects.

From an Air Force perspective, we learned that the phrase: "flexibility is the key to air and space power" is no mere slogan. We've demonstrated that timely adaptation can be decisive in achieving strategic, operational, and tactical objectives. We showed that our ability to conduct multiple campaigns across a spectrum of operations could have a compelling effect on our enemies. And we demonstrated the revolutionary effects that advanced technology could have on combat.

During the entire campaign, the Iraqi Air Force didn't fly a single sortie against coalition forces. In fact, the Iraqi Air Force took to burying their airplanes--we presume in an attempt to save them (if not to grow more!). I'm not sure if those engines will ever start again or if the planes will fly, but this has to be one of the more surprising tactics our enemies have used to preserve their Air Force when faced with the prospect of fighting ours. In 1991, Iraq flew their airplanes to Iran. In 1999, the Serbs rarely turned on their air defense radars for fear of sure destruction. In Afghanistan, we achieved air superiority at the end of the first day--with B-52s--and we flew tankers, airlift, Predators, ISR, and strike aircraft over that nation with virtual impunity.

Ladies and gentleman, we achieved joint air and space dominance. It is what we pledged to deliver to our combatant commanders and to our nation, and for over a decade, our professional airmen have delivered on that pledge. It is now our obligation to sustain that dominance, capitalizing on our strengths while improving in those areas where we can do better.

In the Air Force, we are pursuing strategies that are suited to this new era. As we have studied these conflicts, we have observed three general trends that guide our thinking. The first is contingency basing.

Contingency Basing--Resetting the Force

Contingency basing has already grown in importance relative to permanent basing because the locus of military activity has shifted away from Western Europe and Northeast Asia--the Balkans notwithstanding. In these locales, access to local bases was assured during the Cold War. In Southwest Asia and the littorals of East Asia, we have to be more agile. In OIF and OEF, for example, we built or improved 38 expeditionary bases tailored to the missions we needed done and to the systems that would use those bases.

That's why we've focused on reorganizing the Air Force into a modularized, expeditionary force; one that is able to rapidly deploy, establish operations, and just as quickly, redeploy forces to new operating locations. During OIF, we did exactly that, moving forces forward to Tallil Air Base in Iraq when circumstances on the ground favored such a move, and using our Contingency Response Group to parachute in and establish an air hub in Northern Iraq when ground maneuver forces were denied access.

In the future, our engagement and operational strategy will mirror these realities, building upon the new relationships we have developed with allies who share our outlook and support our objectives in the Global War on Terrorism.

Building a Portfolio of Sensing Capabilities

As a second general trend, we recognize that future battlefields will likely be the subjects of persistent, multispectral surveillance networks because they provide the only means of detecting, locating, tracking and identifying mobile targets for immediate attack. Mobile targets have grown in relative importance to fixed targets because the latter have become extremely vulnerable to precision weapons. We expect that future opponents--at least those who have been paying attention--will try to avoid presenting these lucrative, fixed targets. Thus, we are pursuing a strategy that envisions a portfolio of sensing and strike capabilities; a portfolio that employs integrated manned, unmanned, and space assets to capitalize on the advantages that each brings to the warfighter--and strike systems designed to make a mobile target as vulnerable as a fixed target.

These future sensor networks will fuse the output of sensors exploiting a greater number of phenomenologies, including radar, signals intelligence, infrared, optical, acoustic and others. We will provide precision targeting against a wider range of targets by using networks of GMTI (ground moving target indication) radars, Battle Management Command and Control systems, and networks of SIGINT (signal intelligence) sensors, as well as EO (electro-optical) and IR (infrared) sensors. In this world of proliferating threats--particularly cruise missiles--and the demand to rapidly detect and engage high-value targets, our future portfolio of sensing capabilities will yield a high return.

As we continue to build these future capabilities, we need to avoid the tendency to stovepipe them in a particular platform. Some advocate investing predominantly in space and unmanned platforms or remotely piloted aircraft, while scaling back the development of manned capabilities that would also be responsive to these threats. The Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion program, for example is the next generation, advanced ground moving target sensor for counterland and cruise missile defense missions. Fielding this advanced AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar on various platforms will provide the focused, targeting quality information we need for fleeting, time-sensitive targets, while complementing the wide-area capabilities of space-based and unmanned systems. It is this portfolio approach--one that hedges against the uncertainties of the future--that will preserve our air and space dominance, and sustain our rapid global precision strike capabilities in the future. With the long-lead time it takes to develop new, advanced weapons systems, this portfolio strategy is essential.

And, as Loren Thompson states: "It doesn't make much sense to counter a weapon that few nations possess [ballistic missiles] while failing to address the cheaper and more ubiquitous cruise missiles. If the [manned airborne systems are] not going to be built, ... [we] will be well-defended against a weapon few enemies have, and not defended against the most lethal weapons enemies do have."

I have argued for years that it is only a matter of time before our deployed forces, or our homeland, will be attacked by cruise missiles. They are spreading, and they are for sale.

Sensor Integration

Linking of sensors and the real-time sharing of information is a third trend that we've recognized, and one that we are pursuing aggressively in the Air Force. It is our firm conviction that victory belongs to those who can collect intelligence, communicate information, and bring capabilities to bear throughout the battle. Executing these complex tasks with accuracy, speed, and power requires assured access to space, and the seamless, integration of systems, activities, and expertise across all manned, unmanned and space capabilities. Such integration will enable sensors to detect, track, locate and identify mobile targets; provide timely targeting information to weapon platforms; and enable precision assessment of those attacks.

In the Air Force, we are working to produce such a system--where information is made available and delivered without regard to the source of the information, who analyzed it, or who disseminated it. In our view, it is the end product that is important, not the fingers that touch it. The culmination of this integrated effort is what General Jumper likes to call "the cursor over the target," enabling us to see first, understand first, and act first to save, study or destroy a target.

We envision a C2 Constellation that is a robust, protected network infrastructure, a globally based command and control system that encompass all levels of the battle, and one that allow machines to do the integration and fusion, leaving judgment to leaders. It uses Battle Management Command and Control, and consists of command centers, sensors, and systems like the Space Based Radar, Global Hawk, Predator, airborne AMTI/GMTI and C2, the Distributed Common Ground System, and our Air Operations Centers--all geared toward achieving the objectives of the joint battlefield commander.

The Payoff--Decisive Effects

The military capabilities that logically follow from these strategies are relatively easy to predict. For example, persistent surveillance networks married with penetrating stealthy aircraft and fast, standoff weapons will likely result in the destruction rather than mere suppression of enemy air defense systems on future battlefields, as well as an improved ability to simultaneously and rapidly target regime leadership, infrastructure, fielded military forces, and time sensitive targets.

Another likely trend will be a continuing need for manned combat aircraft. With the emerging dominance of precision weapons and networked target-identification and location, some have argued that we should pursue a course that de-emphasizes manned combat aircraft and instead focus on standoff weapons and UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles).

A more appropriate future concept is one that builds on the assumption of air superiority and includes a concept of operations which sensor networks are used to cue manned aircraft with organic capabilities to identify and locate targets. This supports our long-standing principle of centralized control and decentralized execution, both speeding up the kill chain against fleeting targets, and reducing the limitations of bandwidth.

Further, it supports our proposition that we should look at the development of unmanned vehicles and remotely piloted aircraft as a new form of airpower, not as a means of giving us capabilities we already possess, just without the pilots. And, in some scenarios, we will have to fight our way to the battlefield. To do so, we will need the judgment, skill, and air sense of our professional airmen--by the way, a uniquely American advantage over other nations. And, in a business sense, much more worthy of our investment than software algorithms. That is why we've challenged some force structure concepts proposed for UCAVs, and why we remain ardent in our advocacy of advanced, manned strike systems.

Adaptive Warfighting--A Strategy for the 21st Century

These strategies reflect our efforts to support Secretary Rumsfeld's challenge to each of the services to "better prepare our forces to meet the challenges of the 21st century." It is our approach to transformation, and is a strategy I like to refer to as Adaptive Warfighting, or thinking through the challenges of this era, adapting our forces and people to them, and then operating our services as efficiently as possible.

The strategy of Adaptive Warfighting guides research, development and acquisition. It shapes and instructs leaders on organizing, training, and, the development of concepts of operation appropriate to this new era. It imposes on leadership an obligation to learn the lessons of past wars, to appreciate history, to deal with the uncertainties of the future, and to understand the underlying foundations of the defense industry, economy, and the workforce that supply and sustain our armed forces. It demands that leaders embrace a spirit of innovation, and one that values experimentation and applications of our technologies and weapons systems to missions for which they were never conceived. It requires us to exploit the inherent sources of strength that give us the advantages we enjoy today. It is a strategy predicated on the idea that, if we accurately assess our own advantages and strengths, we can invest in them to yield high rates of military return. This approach helps us create a portfolio of military advantages, allowing us to produce and continue to exploit our capabilities and strengths.

There are a number of recent examples of this mindset in application. In Iraq, a Predator with a Hellfire missile helped us eliminate Baghdad Bob's satellite transmission dish with precision--without disruption of Fox News transmission or other collateral damage.

In Operation Enduring Freedom, we demonstrated our ability to marry the horse and the combat controller, turning "Battlefield Air Operations" from a concept into a reality, and giving special operators the tools they need to bring devastating fires to bear. A decade ago, we were concerned with the relevance of the B-52. Curtis Lemay never would have predicted we'd employ B-52s from 39,000 feet in a close air support role. And now a reserve B-52 unit from Louisiana figured out how to incorporate the Litening II pod on a "Buff," and conducted the first combat laser guided bomb employment!

At one point, there were those who were writing off the B-1. But, we adapted the fleet, retiring a third and rolling the savings back into the remaining two-thirds. Today, we are using it in ways never conceived of previously. We removed a fuel blatter to give it increased carriage capability, and we developed tactics that make it useful for new missions. With intercontinental range, duration over a target area measured in hours, and the new tactic of stacking aircraft in benign areas for execution of time sensitive or emerging targets, the B-1 is now a theater weapon of choice.

These are just a few examples of how we are adapting, how we are investing in developing airmen, bringing technology to warfighting, and integrating capabilities together to produce warfighting effects.

These are the foundations of Adaptive Warfighting. They are what we view as the best means to meet the President's charge to transform, and to fulfill our obligations to the nation.

Unfortunately, on many fronts, it seems as if we've been standing still, especially with most of our weapons platforms. Too many are content to rely potentially for too long on yesterday's technology in the majority of the aircraft we use to fight our nation's battles. Our dominant position eventually can be threatened by nations who have the capability and capacity to develop advanced military systems and who are willing to sell those capabilities to any nation that can pay the price.

We now face the undeniable reality that the best single-engine fighter, the best twin-engine fighter, the best tanker, and the best air battle management system will have been built by American aerospace companies and put into operation--except none of those aircraft will have an American flag on their tails. This will be the case until we field a number of systems currently under development. (For example, best single-engine fighter--LMT F-16 B60, United Arab Emirates; the best twin-engine fighter--Boeing F-15K, Republic of Korea; the best tanker--Boeing 767, Italy get four starting in 2005, Japan gets four starting in 2007; and best air battle management--Northrop Grumman Radar & Boeing 767, Japan.)

You may ask, "Why don't we simply buy numbers of these foreign-financed, made-in-the-USA aircraft?" First of all, we don't play to tie, ladies and gentlemen. We intend to win with advanced systems that will keep us well ahead of the rest of the world. Anything we buy today needs to last for the next 20 or 30 years (or, maybe, 50 years in some cases), and be ahead and stay ahead over that period of time. If we apply the modernization strategies some would have us follow, we would have been flying Doolittle's B-25s or the B-17 in Afghanistan, some 65 years after they were developed for another era. The further we stay ahead in these areas over time, the more credible our deterrent.

Hence, we want the F/A-22 for its ability to change the face of war for years to come. We also want the capabilities we hope to see in the F-35. The combination of emerging, threatening, foreign-built systems, and the resulting challenges to our nation, plus superlative American technology delivered to our allied airmen, makes me passionate about fielding our U.S.-developed, advanced strike systems, as well as our advanced ground & airborne moving target indicator systems, new smart tankers, new ISR systems, advanced weapons, transformational communications systems, and others. All developed and acquired in an efficient manner over time.

Ladies and gentlemen, the building and, now, buying of weapons systems is something to which I've devoted the last 25 years of my life. If there is one thing I've come to firmly believe in these two plus decades, it is that progress and technology belong to those who act, not those who only study, not those who endlessly tweak a development program or play games with the numbers (like only purchasing the 21 most expensive B-2 bombers of a production run planned for 132 aircraft). We should all recognize that the F/A-22 program is 22 years old. And none of us should ever forget what happened to the C-17 program over its nearly 25-year life span--from 210 aircraft to the brink of extinction and back to the current requirement of 180, with some now clamoring for 222. The program wasted anywhere from about $10 to $15 billion dollars, depending on whose estimate one uses. This was a real cost to the American taxpayer--imagine what we could do today with $10 billion dollars.

No ladies and gentlemen, progress belongs to those who act! And advantage in warfighting goes to the nation, or in the case of the current world environment, to the rogue group that figures out how to use that technology best to advance their objectives.

We must remember that the United States does not have a patent on progress. Let's not forget--let's never forget--that without a zealous commitment to remaining in the technology lead, we risk losing it as quickly as Moore's Law predicts it will change.


Let me assure you that we don't envision ourselves as the first transformers of our military. Nor are we following the prescription of armchair strategists. More appropriate, we are using the operator scholars, the officers and enlisted men and women who consistently show us the value of innovation, effects, jointness, precision, agility, stealth and speed. We are paying attention to the lessons of history, as well as to those achievements of warriors whose actions and innovations continue to inspire and instruct. We are paying attention to the ideas of those who understand our systems and who envision what can be versus what is.

Air and space power employed in the first Gulf War was appropriately judged then as a leap ahead of previous eras. The Air Force today is similarly more advanced, and will take yet another leap ahead--if and only if--we do the things we propose. We are planting the seeds of adaptation, leveraging the brilliance and innovation of our people, basing our thinking on concepts of operations, mastering technology and integrating people, systems and information in new ways.

As we look ahead, we remain of the belief that we are on the right course, and find validity in our approach by the prescience of the Italian artillery officer, Giulio Douhet, who nearly a century ago noted:

"Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after they occur."

We are adapting. And, in doing so, remain confident in our ability to fight and win America's wars. I thank you for inviting me tonight and look forward to your questions.

Secretary of the Air Force James G. Roche
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Author:Roche, James G.
Publication:Air Force Speeches
Date:Jan 21, 2004
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