Global Power From Air and Space

Nov. 1, 1995

The defining task for US military power in the years ahead will be the response to regional crises. The responsibility for this mission will be vested in a force that is much smaller than before and based primarily in the United States. That force will be expected to respond quickly and resolve conflicts decisively with an absolute minimum cost in American lives.

Meeting that requirement is complicated by the fact that the United States will not have a monopoly on advanced technology. The proliferation of high-quality sensors, computers, highly accurate weapons, and weapons of mass destruction has already begun. It will become increasingly possible for an aggressor to instigate a significant military action with speed and surprise, precipitating a crisis at an unpredicted place and time.

Much will depend on the relative capability of US forces to look deep, reach far and fast, penetrate hostile territory, maintain a global situational awareness, and strike with precision. More often than not, holding the combat advantage will depend on systems operating in air and space.

In addition, US forces must continuously project US power and presence from intercontinental distances and deter aggression across the range of military operations. With genuine respect and regard for the contribution of other force components, we believe that response to conflict of the future will be heavily dependent on landbased airpower and space power and that our planning should be directed to that end.

  • Strategy and forces. The declared US policy is that our armed forces will be prepared to fight and win two near-simultaneous regional conflicts. That is the stated basis for projecting requirements, but the actual force has not and does not meet that standard.

    We stand on our position that to fulfill the two-conflict strategy and meet its requirements in wartime and peacetime, the Air Force component of the force structure must include not less than twenty-four combat-coded fighter and attack wings, at least 184 operational bombers with precision guided munitions, and a modernized airlift capability that will meet requirements for forty-nine million to fifty-two million ton-miles per day.

    We further note that while the emphasis is properly placed on regional conflicts, the armed forces also retain their fundamental strategic mission of deterring aggression on the United States and its allies.

  • Resources for defense. This year, after ten consecutive years of decline in the defense program, both the Administration and Congress have finally recognized that the reductions must stop. The Administration says the defense cuts are nearly over and that the defense budget will begin to level out in 1998.

    The fact is, the reductions have gone too far already. By the turn of the century, the United States is projected to spend only 2.8 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense, compared with 11.9 percent in the 1950s. Time and again, the defense program has been marked down from the requirements of strategy in order to meet arbitrary budget ceilings.

    We reject the proposition that the only way to fund “Quality of Life” initiatives and other valid defense requirements is to divert money from elsewhere in the defense budget, primarily from force modernization accounts. Many of the defense reductions over the past decade were levied in the name of economy. For the most part, however, the resources have been reallocated to other spending instead. Since 1990, total federal outlays have risen by 22.8 percent while defense outlays fell precipitously.

    Unfunded defense requirements exist, and they are at least as deserving as most of the nondefense programs that continue to grow. The Air Force Association reaffirms its belief that 4.0 percent of GDP should be established as the minimum level required to support forces needed for a two major regional conflict strategy and below which defense should not be reduced to meet external budget constraints.

  • Equipping the force. Special attention must be paid to weapon systems and force modernization. In recent years, the Air Force cut back on modernization to fund readiness and “Quality of Life” programs. It is now spending a record portion, approximately two-thirds, of its total obligation authority on operations and support.

    In 1995, for the first time in its history, the Air Force will purchase no bombers and no fighters. The Air Force is not programmed to purchase another combat aircraft of any kind until 1998. A shortage is developing in the attrition reserve. Without more aircraft, the Air Force will not be able to maintain even its reduced complement of twenty fighter wing equivalents beyond the turn of the century. Force modernization programs have been held up, delayed, and scaled down.

    The Persian Gulf War of 1991 demonstrated the overwhelming advantage that accrues from superior technology. Other nations saw the results as clearly as we did, and many of them have intensified efforts to catch up or perhaps gain some advantage of their own. Superiority of US forces in conflicts of the future depends on priority and investment today in force modernization, particularly in stealthy aircraft, precision-strike munitions, modern air mobility, information warfare capabilities, and space systems that enable us to hold the high ground.

  • The industrial base. In 1992 and 1993, the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy identified force reconstitution including an industrial base capable of surge production as a “fundamental element” in the rationale that permitted the United States to draw down its defense program. In 1995, however, the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy no longer mention the defense industrial base and force reconstitution has disappeared as a “fundamental element.” Since 1987, the number of firms doing defense business has decreased by seventy-five percent. The Department of Defense demonstrates only limited interest in the problem, and even that interest has been concentrated in selected sectors such as shipbuilding. The Air Force Association deplores the nation’s inattention to industrial preparedness.
  • Space. Information and assistance from space have become central to US military operations. The contribution of space systems is decidedly impressive as well as vital in functions ranging from intelligence to weather reporting. Nevertheless, acute limitations remain. The worst of these is the drift and delay in space-launch modernization. This is a national problem, not just a military problem. In the military arena, the urgent requirements include better systems to detect and track theater ballistic missile launches.

    The Air Force is responsible for ninety-three percent of the people and eighty-nine percent of the funding for the military space program. We believe that the nation would gain in effectiveness and economy by formally designating the US Air Force as the executive agent for launch, operational control, research, development, and acquisition of military space assets.

  • Needs of military people and veterans. We have been encouraged by a number of positive actions on behalf of military people and veterans. These have included provision for a full pay raise for military members, more timely cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees, and a resurgence of interest in “Quality of Life” issues by the Department of Defense. It remains to be seen whether the government will follow through with actions to stop the erosion of benefits for military people, veterans, and retirees.

    Military pay has not kept up with inflation and has fallen behind private-sector compensation by 12.6 percent. The gap is projected to widen to eighteen percent by FY 2001. Service members, most of whom live off base if they have families, currently absorb twenty-two percent of their off-base housing costs because allowances for quarters do not match actuality. Reimbursement for a typical permanent change of station move is only about sixty-five cents on the dollar. It is not surprising that service members rate pay and allowances as their chief complaint about military life.

    The combination of changes to the military retirement system has already reduced the lifetime value of retired pay for newer service members by twenty-six percent. Retirees are increasingly concerned about their benefits, especially medical care. We call on Congress to confirm that military retirees and their families are entitled to medical care that it is not simply a “contingent benefit” that can be withdrawn at will and that older retirees will be assured access to the military health-care system by allowing Medicare to transfer funding to military Medical Services on their behalf.

  • Total Force. The Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve account not only for an increasing share of the force structure but also an increasing share of the mission. They provide all of the air defense forces, more than half of the airlift and tanker forces, and significant portions of the fighter, bomber, special operations, electronic warfare, tactical reconnaissance, and rescue forces. The Air Force Association congratulates the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve for demonstrating the potential of Total Force and congratulates the Air Force for its effective use of Guard and Reserve components.

    The Air Force Association considers it timely and appropriate to associate the official auxiliary of the Air Force the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) with the Total Force of the USAF and that CAP’s unique civil resources, capabilities, and training activities be used to augment USAF missions when feasible.

  • US troops in combat. The National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement, set forth in February 1995, declares that American troops will be employed abroad only when US values and interests are at stake; that when US forces are employed, it will be for clear objectives to which the nation is firmly committed; and if those forces are to enter combat, it will be with the means to achieve their objectives decisively.

    Current policy, stated earlier this year, is that the armed forces may be used on behalf of interests that are deemed important but which are not necessarily vital interests of the United States. We particularly urge the utmost care in deciding our national interests, national security objectives, and role for the military in “Operations Other Than War.” Too often in the past, concepts of employing forces for limited objectives have led to the mistaken beliefs that warfare can be regulated and that military power can always be applied in measured increments and for such uncertain purposes as the sending of signals. We believe clear military objectives must be established, based on national goals, before forces are committed.

    When US forces are committed to combat, it must be under US command, except as provided for by established treaty arrangements.

  • A continuing and proliferating threat. The threat to the national interests and security of the United States is not gone. Instead, it has diversified, proliferated, and evolved.

    In addition to the five declared nuclear weapons states, at least twenty other nations have acquired or are attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons and the means to deliver them. The number of nations that possess ballistic missiles is growing, and we do not yet have an effective means to counter this threat. In the years ahead, we will see rapid proliferation of modern fighters, air defenses, and access to space technologies.

    To meet the challenges that are to come, the nation will have a continuing need for superior land, sea, air, and space forces that in their composite strengths are second to none. The most severe challenges, however, are likely to be complex, fast-breaking, and highly technological, occurring in distant locations where the zone of conflict is lethal and deep.

    Core capabilities in this realm of conflict point to the US Air Force as the nation’s first line of defense. The threat to the interests and security of the US is not gone. It has diversified, proliferated, and evolved.