Air Force, Space Force announce sweeping changes to maintain superiority amid Great Power Competition

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force’s senior civilian and military leaders, Feb. 12, unveiled sweeping plans for reshaping, refocusing, and reoptimizing the Air Force and Space Force to ensure continued supremacy in those domains while also better posturing the services to deter and, if necessary, prevail in an era of Great Power Competition.

Taken together, the changes made public Feb. 12 and endorsed by Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Performing the Duties of Acting Under Secretary Kristyn Jones, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman represent one of the most extensive recalibrations in recent history for the Air Force and Space Force.

“Today, we are announcing 24 key decisions that are going to address the current force and our ability to stay competitive,” Kendall said in announcing the changes and the rationale behind them. “We need these changes now; we are out of time to reoptimize our forces to meet the strategic challenges in a time of Great Power Competition.”

While the changes feature a mix of near-term and longer-term initiatives, senior leaders emphasized the need for speed. “We are out of time,” Kendall said repeatedly in urging action on the changes.

The changes included in the plan are grouped in four main categories – Develop People, Generate Readiness, Project Power, Develop Capabilities – and include:

Develop People

• Consolidate force development functions under an expanded Airman Development Command to provide Airmen a common, mission-focused development and training path.

• Expand technical tracks for officers and create technical tracks for enlisted Airmen; reintroduce warrant officers in IT and Cyber fields to maintain technical leadership in these highly perishable skills.

• Develop “Mission Ready Airmen” with training focused on a mix of skills needed for wartime operational mission readiness.

• Continue to transform leadership development and training at U.S. Air Force Academy, Officer Training School, and ROTC to prepare new officers to effectively lead Airmen and Guardians in the context of Great Power Competition.

• Redesign career paths to produce Guardians that meet our high-tech operational demands.

Generate Readiness

• Reorient Air Combat Command to focus on generating and presenting ready forces to combatant commanders.

• Implement large scale exercises and mission-focused training encompassing multiple operational plans to demonstrate and rehearse for complex, large-scale military operations.

• Incorporate no-notice/limited-notice operational readiness assessments and inspections in the Air Force and Space Force to reflect pacing challenge requirements.

• Restructure key processes related to aviation spares and weapons systems to be data-driven and risk-informed to improve weapon systems health.

• Implement Space Force readiness standards that reflect operations under contested conditions rather than those of a benign environment.

• Conduct a series of nested exercises in the Space Force, that increase in scope and complexity, fit within a broader Department of the Air Force-level framework, and are assessed through a Service-level, data-driven process to measure readiness.

Project Power

• Structure Air Force Operational Wings as mission ready “Units of Action” categorized as Deployable Combat Wings, In-Place Combat Wings or Combat Generation Wings. Each will have its own structure, with a redesigned concept of support for agile combat employment or ACE, to ensure the wings are prepared to execute their missions with assigned Airmen and units.

• Establish the relationship between Combat Wings and Base Command. Combat Wings will focus on mission level warfighting readiness and Base Commands will focus on supporting Combat Wings and operating the base in competition, crisis and conflict.

• Elevate AFCYBER to a standalone Service Component Command, reflecting the importance of the cyber mission to the Joint Force and across the Department of the Air Force. 

• Formalize Space Force Combat Squadrons as Units of Action, complete activation of the remainder of Space Force Service Components and accelerate implementation of the Space Force Generation model.

Develop Capabilities

• Create a Department of the Air Force Integrated Capabilities Office to lead capability development and resource prioritization to drive Department of the Air Force modernization investments.

• Combine disparate efforts to create the Office of Competitive Activities to oversee and coordinate sensitive activities.

• Create a Program Assessment and Evaluation Office to foster structure and incorporate a more strategic and analytically based approach to resourcing decisions. 

• Establish Integrated Capabilities Command to develop competitive operational concepts, integrated requirements, and prioritized modernization plans to align with force design.

• Create a new Information Dominance Systems Center within Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) to strengthen and elevate the Air Force’s focus on Command, Control, Communications, and Battle Management; Cyber; Electronic Warfare; Information Systems; and Enterprise Digital Infrastructure.  

• Strengthen the support to nuclear forces by expanding the Nuclear Weapons Center to become the Air Force Nuclear Systems Center within AFMC. This will provide comprehensive materiel support to the nuclear enterprise; establish a 2-star general officer as the Program Executive Officer for Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles.

• Refocus the Life Cycle Management Center within AFMC as the Air Dominance Systems Center to synchronize aircraft and weapons competitive development and product support. 

• Establish an Integration Development Office within AFMC to provide technology assessments and roadmaps. It will drive alignment and integration of mission systems across centers and provide technical expertise to assess operational concept feasibility.

• Create Space Futures Command, a new field command, that develops and validates concepts, conducts experimentation and wargames, and performs mission area design.

More information can be found here.