QDR Vetting New Air Force COIN Wing

The Pentagon’s top irregular warfare official told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Thursday that the current Quadrennial Defense Review is strongly considering the establishment of a dedicated counterinsurgency/IW wing within the Air Force, a concept Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz first articulated back in April. “You can’t do the high end and the low end together very easily with the same force,” said Michael Vickers, the assistance secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities. “I think there is a need for that kind of capability … but the question is how much and exactly the mix,” he explained, adding that he was confident that the requirement would emerge from the review process. Specifically, the development of light strike and light reconnaissance capabilities, such as modular turboprop aircraft, along with select mobility assets, are being closely examined in the review—and are all capabilities that are particularly useful in a COIN environment. “That’s one of the issues that this QDR is looking at, about how to create these irregular warfare air units,” Vickers said. However, he acknowledged there is still indecision over “how large a force and what capability you put in that and when you put it in over time.” Still, he maintained, “I think it’s an idea whose time has come.”