Airpower and the Information Age

Adapting airpower to succeed in the 21st Century will take more than bolting on new technologies to industrial age platforms and concepts, an ASC15 speakers panel declared Sept. 14. It will take some serious rethinking about how USAF and the US military conduct warfare. Retired USAF Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute, said the US should push past focusing on combined arms warfare to focusing on “combined effects,” where an adversary’s will can be effected without the need to mass forces. “Fewer systems can be more effective,” he added, if they are tied together and optimized across air, land, and sea platforms, but organizations must also be adapted. USAF’s command structures could be updated to reflect changes in technology, Deptula noted, by moving from “domain centric” organizations to “functional aligned” organizations, built around responsibilities such as an “ISR-Cyber command” or a “global effects command.” David Fahrenkrug, a retired USAF colonel and former military advisor in DOD’s Office of Net Assessment, noted potential adversaries have elevated “information superiority” as a top objective in warfare—the Chinese write so much on this topic and DOD cannot translate it all, he noted as an example—and the US must study how others see this problem. Unlike the 20th Century, also, the technology of the information age is being fielded far more rapidly outside of the government and DOD than ever before. “How do we integrate (this technology) with any certainty that it will perform the way we want it to?” he asked rhetorically.