Washington Watch

Aug. 1, 2007

USAF Maps Its Course

The Air Force in midsummer put the finishing touches on a series of “roadmaps” meant to guide its long-range plans, whether they concern development of a new bomber, the revision of airman specialties as the force draws down, or any other significant service initiative.

The expectation was that the roadmaps would be unveiled soon, perhaps as early as this month. Taken together, they will underpin USAF budget plans for years.

That, at least, is the expectation of Gen. T. Michael Moseley, USAF Chief of Staff, who told reporters that he has “re-energized” the roadmap process because the Air Force has to face up to two facts. The first, he said, is that money is tight. Second, it takes far too long to field new systems.

The roadmaps are meant to answer the question “How do we—US Air Force and [DOD]—stay in that game and provide the combatant commanders with what they need?” Moseley said. He hopes to speed up the process by which USAF gets new hardware into the field.

The Chief tasked Lt. Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr., deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs, to round up all combatant commander requirements and define a “planning force.” It, along with a “program force” of everything the Air Force thinks it needs to meet its obligations, will bound USAF spending.

Between the two, USAF will identify an investment program with “acceptable risk,” Moseley said.

The roadmaps will include a detailed briefing on USAF’s plans for intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, airlift, space, and other mission areas by major command, specialty code, and system.

“We have to somehow lay this in and begin to put money against it,” he said. In turn, the roadmaps will establish what is needed in terms of “basing [and] … manpower decisions” and define roles for active, Guard, and Reserve forces.

The roadmaps, when joined together, will function something like a spreadsheet; changing some data in one place will automatically cause changes in other places. This, in the view of the Chief of Staff, will allow the Air Force to be “quicker and more agile and more adaptive [in response to new threats and needs] than we have [been] in the past.”

In the specific mission area of space, Moseley said, USAF will take planning guidance directly from US Strategic Command, which has operational control of space systems. The Chief said he has tasked Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of Air Force Space Command, to find out what STRATCOM leadership thinks the service should be doing in various mission areas.

Cyber Command in the Shadows

The Air Force has put in place all of the building blocks needed for a new “cyber command,” and it should appear soon, said Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder, Jr., the officer charged with bringing this new major command into being.

Elder is commander of 8th Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale AFB, La. He was given the job of laying the groundwork for the new command, and, on a June visit to Washington, D.C., he had a bit to say about progress thus far.

“My piece of this [Air Force Cyber Command] is in place now,” Elder told reporters. He said he created the organizational structure, shaped the means for defining resource needs, and built a recruiting scheme and a career path for those who work in cyber operations.

In fact, the apparatus is in place and performing the mission already, Elder said. With the filling of some staff slots and designation of a headquarters—expected by summer’s end—the new MAJCOM should be ready to go.

Elder said the official command stand-up will come “when the Secretary and the Chief decide the timing is right.”

The first priority will be to protect USAF’s systems from enemy information and network attack. This is needed to preserve the Air Force’s existing “asymmetric” advantages in global reach and strike capabilities, Elder said.

The command will have the ability to attack the networks of other countries, but that will always be a lesser consideration, he added.

“If we have an adversary that can … take away our domination of cyberspace, then … for the Air Force it means taking away speed, range, and the flexibility that we offer to the joint force commander.”

He continued, “What you lose … is not only freedom of action in the cyber domain; you [also] lose freedom of action in every domain.” The priority must be to “control the domain” of cyberspace just as the Air Force controls air and space. Without the communications ability to talk back and forth to satellites, aircraft, and command centers, “we can’t do our mission.”

Substantial work has been done to identify the schooling and capabilities the Air Force will want from its cyber-warriors, and it has established a clear career path that he believes will be attractive to those skilled in computers, networks, and electrical engineering.

Elder said Cyber Command seeks to make service members mindful of ways they can inadvertently compromise security. He called special attention to “social engineering” attacks, in which individuals bring in compromised “free” software discs that then provide ways for enemies to get past firewalls.

The new command will be set up, to the degree possible, like a weapon system. Operators will not be trained or expected to be able to perform the full range of cyber defense and attacks, but will instead function like “a production line” with interchangeable individuals. They will be “expert on doing their part,” for which they will receive less than six months’ training, and they will expand their repertoire as they mature and gain experience.

The career path for cyber operators is so well developed, said Elder, that recruiters will begin looking for brand-new cyber enlistees this fall. The Air Force will seek out people who have “a natural capability to do this, and then try to funnel them into areas that take advantage of it.”

Elder said Air Force members must resist hoarding information, which has become hard-to-break habit. The creators of intelligence tend to regard it as “intellectual property” and don’t want to share it.

“This information—even though you created it—really belongs to the nation,” said Elder. “You really ought to share it.” He said, “Everyone agrees with this,” but, in practice, the story is different.

Elder noted that most nations are involved to some degree in scanning US military networks and looking for weaknesses, naming China as the top threat in this area.

China does little to cover its tracks, and it is almost as if “they want us to know … what they’re doing,” he observed.

The Spartan Choice

The Joint Cargo Aircraft program took a big step in June when the Air Force and Army chose the C-27J Spartan to fill the requirement. However, the program has been a lightning rod for interservice quarrels and may be the catalyst for a fresh shakeout of some roles and missions.

A team led by L-3 Communications received a $1.5 billion contract to start work on the program, which funds 40 airplanes through 2011, an Air Force spokesperson said.

Plans call for production of at least 78 Spartans—24 for the Air Force and 54 for the Army. That may be just the start, though. Army Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Mundt, head of Army aviation, said at a press conference that he would be “surprised” if the ultimate buy was lower than 145 aircraft, split almost evenly between the two services.

The aircraft can carry a payload of about 25,000 pounds and can be configured for regular troops, paratroops, or small wheeled vehicles. It can also carry 36 stretchers.

The JCA would replace the Army’s old C-23 Sherpa and C-12 Huron light cargo airplanes. For the Air Force, JCA would fill a new niche: supporting ground forces served only by the most rudimentary airstrips, or on missions where the larger C-130 is too big for the job.

The Air Force joined the Army’s program several years ago, when Gen. John P. Jumper, who was then the USAF Chief of Staff, argued for fielding a modern equivalent of the Vietnam-era C-7 Caribou, used to support special operations teams.

The Air Force’s ultimate buy will depend on the results of an intratheater lift analysis, which is to be completed by the end of this year. Moreover, the House 2008 defense authorization bill mandated completion of several lift studies before it would allow JCA production spending.

Italy’s Alenia designed the C-27J. Finmeccanica—the parent of Alenia—and Boeing are also on L-3’s team. Boeing is to build the airplane in the US, with planned production rates going as high as 27 airplanes per year.

However, a week after the contract award, Raytheon, whose team offered the nonselected European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. C-295, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. The Raytheon team, which also includes CASA North America, did not immediately explain the reason it protested. The GAO should issue a finding before next month as to whether the protest has merit.

The Air Force and Army have rarely seen eye-to-eye on the JCA, and harmonizing their requirements has been a challenge.

The Senate has taken a dim view of the service infighting over the size, mission, and funding of the JCA. In its 2008 authorization bill language, the Senate said it wanted the services to focus on their “core missions,” adding that the Air Force alone should have the duty for fixed-wing airlift.

Complicating the issue is that the Army needs a replacement aircraft right away, whereas the Air Force doesn’t need new aircraft until about 2012.

The C-27J would be a significant new program for the Air National Guard. The Air Force views the aircraft as well suited to domestic disaster relief missions such as those flown after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The aircraft might also restore a flying mission to Guard units that lost one in the last round of base realignments and closures.

Gen. T. Michael Moseley said the program also offers opportunities for the Air Force to build coalitions and “partner” with foreign air forces that don’t have the wherewithal to buy fighters or big transports.

“If a country can’t afford the big … airlifters or even C-130s, the … C-27 sure seems to be a reasonable way to look at partnering in a mobility game,” Moseley told reporters in June. He has sent out letters to foreign air chiefs suggesting this idea, and Bruce S. Lemkin, deputy undersecretary for international affairs, is hosting a series of meetings with foreign representatives about the idea.

Moseley also said the JCA might be “a good opening round as far as an Air Force contribution to AFRICOM,” the fledgling regional command for Africa.

China Plans for Pre-Emption

If China fights a protracted conflict with the US over Taiwan, it would suffer profound economic damage. That may be why China appears to be developing a pre-emptive capability to seize Taiwan in the future, according to the Pentagon.

In its annual report to Congress on Chinese military power, released in June, the Defense Department said China is developing a strategy of pre-emption to blunt some of the negatives in a military campaign to seize Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be a breakaway province.

It is shifting from a military marked by massive numbers of ground troops to “a more modern force with long-range precision strike assets,” and other forces that could enable “military pre-emption (including surprise attack) along its periphery.”

Of most concern is the piling up of more than 900 short-range ballistic missiles along the Chinese coast opposite Taiwan. Beijing has bolstered its air force and is producing an indigenous fighter, the J-10.

The People’s Liberation Army has collectively made information warfare, computer network attack, and electronic warfare centerpieces of its modernization, openly discussing that these are the tools to offset the “asymmetric” advantages of a well-armed superpower such as the US.

Moreover, PLA strategists “describe pre-emption as necessary and logical when confronting a more powerful enemy,” the Defense Department noted. The PLA strategists note that they can’t easily repel a massive conventional attack, and that China plans to keep an enemy off balance “by seizing the initiative with offensive strikes.” Chinese doctrine calls for destroying enemy assets “on enemy territory before they can be employed,” the Pentagon study pointed out.

Taking into account China’s advances in submarines, unmanned aircraft, airborne command and control systems, precision guided weapons, and cruise missiles, the Pentagon concluded that the PLA is “generating a greater capacity for military pre-emption.” Its training focuses on “no notice” long-range strike and coordinated air and naval strikes on enemy vessels.

Just as the US has sought to integrate the efforts of the Defense, State, Justice, and Commerce departments in pursuing its war on terrorism, China is likewise putting forth a “multidimensional view of warfare,” the Pentagon said, incorporating economic, financial, and legal means to hamper adversaries, as well as “psychological instruments.”

In a Taiwan conflict, the Pentagon said, it would expect an intensive Chinese effort to “to portray third-party intervention as illegitimate under international law.” Beijing has already embarked on a campaign to “shape international opinion in favor of a distorted interpretation” of international laws regarding freedom of navigation. China is trying to extend sovereignty “over the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, the airspace above it, and possibly outer space,” the Defense Department concluded.