DAF leaders stress importance of transformation, partnerships, on-time appropriations

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The Department of the Air Force’s top civilian and military leaders spoke with defense experts and industry partners during the 14th annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference March 15.

Attendees heard Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman speak on a range of topics, including the Department’s continued transformation toward the force of the future, the value of partnerships in support of the National Defense Strategy, and the funding needed to support these goals.

Kendall outlined the Department’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal, which includes a five percent increase and highlighted an increase for research and development spending.

“We can’t stay where we are. We have to move forward,” Kendall said. “There’s an overarching imperative, if you will, getting to the next generation and modernization of capabilities.”

The need to meet new and evolving threats is driving the Department’s recently published $215.1 billion budget proposal.

“We are transitioning to the future, and as we do that, we need think about the threat and where the Air Force needs to be,” Brown said of his service’s modernization plans. “We need to transition while supporting today’s operations.”

Saltzman spoke about how the Space Force continues to work with international partners to address threats. He also outlined how the service’s three lines of effort will maintain advantages in the space domain: Field combat-ready forces, Amplify the Guardian spirit and Partner to win.

“Because of these advantages and our shared interest in the [space] domain, U.S. allies and international partners are eager for expanded collaboration with the Space Force, especially in areas that strengthen the effectiveness of coalition space operations and reinforce norms of responsible behavior in space,” Saltzman said. “In short, our capabilities, people, and partnerships make the Space Force the most formidable space organization on the planet.”

Saltzman was explicit in his remarks that he seeks to maintain U.S. advantages in space as China and Russia hasten their efforts to develop and field their own space capabilities. Similarly, Brown emphasized his continued focus on accelerating change to defend the homeland and maintain the U.S. Air Force’s position as the most capable and respected air force in the world.

In the final words of conference, Kendall stressed the critical need for a timely authorization of the budget to ensure the U.S. maintains its advantage over the pacing challenge.

“My biggest concern in this cycle is getting the authorization and funding that we need,” Kendall said. “If we do not get the authorization for another year, that is another year we give to China…in the advancement of technological superiority.”

Kendall closed the conference by stressing the importance of timely appropriations to maintain the seven operational imperatives he laid out more than a year ago, which aid in the deterrence of war and defeat of adversaries.

“This budget is necessary to be successful in the future and to meet the threats we see coming,” Kendall said.