Watch, Read: Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett’s Keynote at AFA’s vASC 2020

Video: Air Force Association on YouTube

Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett kicked off the Air Force Association’s 20202 virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 14, 2020, with this keynote address. Here is a transcript of that speech:

“Chairman Murray, Gen. Wright, thank you for the invitation to speak at the AFA Air, Space & Cyber Conference. 

“Less than a month after the Air Force was established, the nascent service launched a tradition of breakthrough technological development with the X-planes. X-1 broke the sound barrier with Chuck Yeager famously at the stick. X-7 tested the viability of ramjet engines on anti-aircraft missiles. X-13 demonstrated the first successful vertical takeoff based on jet thrust alone. X-15 launched from a B-52. This was the first crewed hypersonic flight vehicle. X-26 contributed to stealth designs as far back as 1967. And the X-36 provided a tail-less fighter jet, which could perform extreme aeronautical feats, and influenced today’s fifth-generation fighters, advancing cutting edge technology, breaking unprecedented barriers, collaborating interagency and with industry. This is the 73-year record of achievement on which we continue building. This morning, to set the stage, I will briefly recap some of the department’s achievements spanning the four strategic priorities revealed at February’s AFA, and preview how we plan to build the U.S. Air and Space Forces of 2030. 

“First, we are building a bold new U.S. Space Force. The Space Force is an agile and fast organization with an entirely new structure, including field commands, deltas, and squadrons, removing unnecessary layers. Born digital, Space Force is embracing 21st Century digital transformation. The Space Force published the United States’ first authoritative space doctrine. Space Force is in action. Space professionals increased data bandwidth by expanding emergency medical services to COVID-19 patients. Space Force has supported 20 launches by interagency and industry partners since February’s AFA. Recently, space professionals assisted the Air National Guard, fighting fires that were devastating parts of the American West, and the Space Force is pioneering innovation. The X-37B, a direct descendant of fabled X-planes, launched on its sixth mission this May and won the prestigious Collier trophy for advancing technology that pushes the boundaries of flight and space exploration. America unequivocally depends upon space. U.S. Space Force stands ready to deter and, if necessary, defend our interests in this increasingly contested domain. 

“Second, we are strengthening relationships with our global allies and partners. Around the globe, Airmen participated in 35 joint and coalition training exercises. More than 16 nations, along with numerous indigenous communities, engaged with the Department of the Air Force as we released our Arctic strategy, in which we recognize the vital cooperation Air and Space Forces have with pivotal Arctic allies like Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. Airmen flew C-17 and C-130s following the deadly explosion in Lebanon, delivering humanitarian aid, water, MREs, and medical support to the people of Beirut. Seventy-four international cadets from 31 countries are enrolled at the Air Force Academy. And we salute the 61,358 Air and Space professionals who deployed to locales from Afghanistan to Syria and from Iraq to Thule, protecting our freedoms and cementing the U.S. as the partner of choice around the globe. 

“Third, we are growing strong leaders and resilient families. Reciprocity and occupational licensure for spouses has expanded to 45 states. We have increased professional military education opportunities for pregnant and postpartum women. More family-friendly assignments for parents with child custody orders. And, while there is still much to be done, the Department of the Air Force is improving diversity and inclusion. An Air Force task force has already implemented changes, including updating dress and appearance regulations, modifying grooming requirements, authorizing diacritical markings like accents and hyphens, and increasing ROTC scholarships at historically black colleges and universities, as well as Hispanic-serving institutions. Our Air and Space professionals and the families who stand by them are our greatest asset and our future. We are committed to cultivating a culture of trust, respect, and inclusivity, and developing leaders to overcome the demands of the future. 

“Finally, we are accelerating modernization of the Air and Space forces. We are innovating with urgency and modernizing with alacrity. AFWERX, the Air Force innovator, was recognized by Fast Company as one of the 100 best workplaces for innovators in the country. The only government agency on that list, proving the Department of the Air Force is an organization that people want to work for. The new KC-46 Pegasus transported patients for the first time, stepping up international aeromedical evacuation missions with the Air Force’s newest tanker. Over the last 12 months, your U.S. Air Force and Space Forces have been on the move. And just as Airmen broke barriers with X-airplanes, we continue advancing. 

“Let me share with you some of the ways we are leading. As the Space Force concludes its first year as a standalone service, the department is fielding an agile, innovative, bold force to defend the nation, and our allies, and American interests in space. The department is developing a space culture and doctrine informed by the Joint Force. It’s accelerating the delivery of new space capabilities and capacity. It’s restructuring the force for an era of strategic competition, and it’s employing the best talent management practices to transfer and recruit uniquely skilled military and civilian personnel.

“Tomorrow, here with AFA, Geneneral Raymond will lay out more about how Space Force is posturing for long-term space domain competition. The Space Force joins the Air Force in forging alliances spanning generations. President Reagan once inquired, ‘What kind of people do we think we are?’ He answered, ‘Free people, worthy of freedom, and determined not only to remain so, but to help others gain their freedom as well.’ Cooperating with allies and partners is the best way to help others attain and retain their freedom. The Air and Space Forces will enhance future collaboration by expanding security cooperation agreements, building new shared capabilities in both air and space, increasing interoperability with the systems of our allies, and growing relationships through exercises and education. 

“While bonds formed across borders are critical to national defense, it is also essential that the department maintains faith with our Airman and space professionals, including Active duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilians, as well as their families. Air and Space Forces owe our people a culture of trust, where every individual feels valued and is empowered to fulfill their highest potential. That’s why the department is infusing a culture of diversity and inclusion through deliberate discussion and action, why we’re developing new processes that reveal and eliminate racism and unconscious bias, why we’re improving access to childcare, and upgrading the quality of the Exceptional Family Member Program, and we’re redesigning leadership development and talent management for great power competition. These three priorities— building the Space Force, strengthening alliances, and growing strong leaders—drive implementation of the National Defense Strategy, while the fourth priority, modernizing the Air and Space Forces allows us to effectively and decisively defend the nation and our allies.

“Shortly, General Brown will discuss why the Air Force has to accelerate change, or lose. Let me share my perspective on how we are accelerating improvements across the force to win. Potential adversaries are investing in air, space, and cyber technologies with asymmetric advantages, including hypersonics, AI-enabled weapons, modern-day X-plane equivalents. Correspondingly, the Air Force is investing in groundbreaking capabilities to deter and if necessary, defend, the American way of life. Gen. Hap Arnold once observed, ‘An Air Force is always verging on obsolescence.’ The Department of the Air Force prevents obsolescence by innovating, by adapting, by how we design, develop, build, test, and deploy our capabilities. Dr. Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, will expand on this subject tomorrow here at the AFA. But let me offer a preview. 

“Digital engineering enables companies to design, build, and test aircraft, satellites, or weapon systems completely online. Imagine iterating thousands of potential designs, developing composite materials without mixing chemicals, testing with countless sets of conditions in air or space, and delivering the product for manufacturing as a digital file no larger than an email attachment. Digital engineering benefits do not end there. By lowering development costs, barriers to entry are reduced. By establishing digital prototyping, problems are identified and solved quickly and timetables are collapsed. By reducing R&D infrastructure, nimble startups spanning all industries can contribute to national defense. As an added benefit, this empowers veteran-, minority-, and women-owned businesses. And by expanding testing scenarios, final products are safer and more effective when they’re deployed. Advancements are underway in hypersonics, AI-enabled command and control, a supersonic Air Force One, flying cars, on-demand CubeSats, and future missions to Mars. Your U.S. Air and Space Forces are capturing the upside of these innovations. The result? Revolutionary transformation, positioning America to continue leading in aeronautics and astronautics. 

“To inspire companies to embrace the possibilities presented by digital engineering, today the Department of the Air Force is announcing a new weapon system designator, the eSeries aircraft. Satellites, weapons, and more that are digitally engineered will receive an ‘e’ prefix. The first e designator is awarded to an aircraft that was designed, built, and tested using digital engineering, the eT-7, the Red Hawk. Take a look. 

VIDEO: “Can something fly thousands of hours before it takes off? Be laid out and assembled hundreds of times before any metal is even cut? Can something be designed, built, and tested not by thousands of people, but by fewer than 200? Using leading-edge design tools across a digital landscape, connected virtually across the globe? It can. It was. Introducing the Department of the Air Force’s new eSeries. A revolutionary approach to creating ePlanes, eWeapons, and eSatellites, all of which are to be designed digitally and built virtually before they take to the skies. The proof? The T-7A Red Hawk jet and advanced pilot training system, the first in the new paradigm of how air and space dominance is designed, coded, and built. The new eSeries. What’s next is what’s now.’

Barrett: “The eT-7 is just the first in our vision of a long line of ePlanes and eSats. For 73 years, the entire history of the Air Force, X-planes have represented technological innovation. Today, the ePlane and eSat will join them in making history and ensuring Airman and space professionals have modern tools to protect our nation. Ladies and gentlemen, your Air and Space Forces are on the move to make America stronger, our homeland safer, and our alliances and partners enduring. Thank you.”