Watch, Read: Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt on How the Pentagon Can Accelerate AI

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and former chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board, delivered a keynote address at the AFA Warfare Symposium on March 3, 2022, followed by a conversation with retired Lt. Gen. Bruce ”Orville” Wright, president of the Air Force Association. Watch the video or read the transcript below. This transcript is made possible through the sponsorship of JobsOhio.

Overhead speaker: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome AFA’s president, Lt. Gen. Orville Wright.

Lt. Gen. Bruce Orville Wright, president of the Air Force Association: Well, good afternoon. And thank you so much for hanging in there with us today. And what an honor to finish with such a strong closing presentation. I’m going to introduce Dr. Eric Schmidt for a few remarks, and then we’re going to shift to a bit of a fireside chat. And I’m going to do my best to keep up with such a bright, accomplished leader and former CEO of Google, among other things. But let me just go over a few more things about Eric. As I said, he was the CEO of Google and in various capacities served until 2020. He has also been a major bipartisan influencer in national defense and as chairman of the Defense Department’s Innovation Board from 2016 to 2020 and as a member of NASA’s National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group and as co-chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Today, he continues to focus on emerging technology as the founder of a think tank that’s growing in importance, the Special Competitive Studies Project. Please welcome for the first time to our Air Force Association stage, Dr. Eric Schmidt.

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and former chairman of the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Board: Thank you, General. Thank you, thank you. Here we go. I am so proud to have been invited here and to spend some time with you. I will tell you that with the events this week, Americans understand why you’re important. And I want to thank you all for what you do to keep our nation safe. And I mean it. 

So I had the privilege of working in the Defense Department under the secretary of defense for some years, as well as working for the Congress on the AI Commission. And we recently set up this Competitive Studies Project, which is my attempt philanthropically to bring the strategic nature of our challenges forward. It seems to me that we have a couple of things we have to talk about. One is we need a thesis of change. And in the tradition of the military, I will be direct, and I hope that’s OK.

If I look at the totality of what you’re doing, you’re doing a very good job of making things that you currently have better, over and over and over again. But I’m an innovator. And I would criticize, if I could say right up front, that the current structure, which is an interlock between the White House, the Congress, the secretary of defense’s OSD, the various military contractors, the various services and so forth, is a bureaucracy in and of its own. And it’s doing a good job at what has been asked to do. But it hasn’t been asked to do some new things.  

The Air Force is a real innovator here. In the years that I spent with the Air Force and now with the Space Force with Gen. Raymond, because the Air Force has this sort of technical capability, you’re much more likely to be the innovators across the broader defense community, which is why it’s so important to work on this. And if you look at, for example, the B-21, with the RCO structure, you ended up building a very significant support system, weapon system for the military, and you did it in a new and innovative way. My first point is, and we did this very thoroughly when I was running the Defense Innovation Board, is we need to do that systematically across all of the processes.  

And for those of you who live in the bureaucracy, which is every single one of you, you can explain in extraordinary detail how the bureaucracy works and how long something takes. And it’s taken as God given, you know, God determined that this is the structure. And if I’ve learned anything in my now 45 years of innovative tech companies is that those rules can be changed, with focus, with cleverness, and with some real buy-in. And I would suggest that if we look at the things that are missing in terms of technological innovation, they’re precisely the things that we need to actually change the system to account for.  

I walked through the trade show; it’s amazing stuff. Air Force has made a lot of progress. The contractors have made a lot of progress. There’s like two AI companies. And all I want to do is talk about AI. And by the way, they’re the little ones in the corner. And by the way, they’re the most interesting ones. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But that’s true. To me, the question, as I look at you, is how do we get this extraordinary innovation to you in such a way that you can actually use it as part of your mission requirements? In the previous administration, people worked very hard on things like JADC2, which looks to me to be incredibly important, and all the various battle management systems. Again, the question is, how do we actually get it in your hands, get it working, get it now. I’m a person in a hurry, and you are too.  

So I think that my suggestion would be that the Air Force think about the B-21 example but apply it to things other than bombers. Like, let’s try to do the same thing for software. Well, every time you try to do something in software, one of these strange scavenging groups within the administration takes your money away. 

It’s insane. And by the way, we did something called a swap study, which I’m very proud of, and one of our rules was software is never done. So if you’re a person who accounts for something that has to be done, you’re always unhappy. Because software is never done. It’s a process of continuous improvement. And I will tell you that, and I’ll talk about AI in a minute, the core issue here in the military is you don’t have enough software people. And by software people, I mean, people who think the way I do. You come out of a different background, and you just don’t have enough of these. These are hard people to manage. They’re often very obnoxious, sorry, welcome to my field. They’re difficult. They’re sort of full of things, but they can change the world and a small team can increase your productivity of whatever you’re doing.

And it’s stuff like logistics. I was trying to figure out one day how many people move around the DoD every year, and my estimate was about 500,000 people physically move. That’s my number; it’s probably not correct. But think about the logistics and the software. Well, that’s a very interesting problem. Think about all the parts; think about all the logistics, right? We understand how important that is in war. Anyway, I can go on about that.

Now, why is software so important? It’s because the next battles will be fought based on software supremacy. And they really will be. And you understand this. You’ve heard it, but you don’t have it yet. I worked very, very hard to support a project called Maven, which I thought was a very important breakthrough project with basically, with the Joint AI Center. And that’s now in very success, and from what I can tell, in very successful classified use in the right ways. And that’s an example of something where you pick it, and you fund it, and you weight it, and you build it, and you build the constituencies, and then you have it.  

And I feel very sorry about our men and women in uniform, who are excessively trained, who spend all day looking at screens doing something that a computer should do, how incredibly mind-numbing, and these are people who serving our nation. And then they’re not going to reenlist because they don’t want to keep looking at the screen. I mean, why can we not fix that?

Now why is AI so important? It’s because AI is a force multiplier like you’ve never seen before. It sees patterns that no human can see. And all interesting future military decisions will have as part of that an AI assistant. I wrote a book with Dr. Kissinger on this called ‘The Age of AI.’ And I’ll obviously recommend you read it. Because we talk a lot about what happens when you have these very, very powerful AI systems that people can depend on. And so the simple answer in AI is that it will improve weapons targeting; it will improve all sorts of accuracy and things that you care about a lot. You need AI supremacy with respect to autonomy.  

When I first visited AFWERX in Tampa somewhere, a lot of the focus was around building these autonomous systems. Now it’s real. Now you have this notion of a joint model in the air with assistance. How is that autonomy going to work? And by the way, the real problem you have is that you don’t have enough bandwidth between them, which no one ever tells you this. You actually, your networks, excuse the term, suck. You got to get the networks upgraded. And you just have to because all of these things depend on that kind of connectivity, right?  

As a story, we went to Afghanistan, and when we were, during the war, and one of the generals got up, and he put up a classified diagram of how all the different systems talk to each other. I’m sure you all have seen this diagram. And I go like, ‘Oh my God, right? Can we not do this better?’ I mean, come on, these are tactics. But the real leadership is this ability to do both precision targeting but also precision analysis. And the power of that is enormous. Now, let’s imagine what’s going on with our friends in China. So they basically take all of our, we open source everything, and they build it, and they’re building better surveillance technology against their citizens, something we wouldn’t do. What do you think their battlefield surveillance situation is? 

I don’t know. I haven’t been briefed on that. They didn’t show me their classified documents the last time I was in China. My guess is, and I’m guessing, they got some pretty good stuff. So that’s going to be a competitive issue. So my point about AI here is that you’re, to be very blunt, you don’t have enough people, you don’t have the right contractors, and you don’t have the right strategy to fill in this. And these battles over things like Maven and ‘JAIC’ were hard fought, and they’re really important. We need 20, 30, 40 such groups. More, more, more. And as that transformation happens … the people who work for you, the incredibly courageous people, will have so much more powerful tools. 

I want to take two more points. And then I think it’s probably more interesting to hear questions from you all. I’m very concerned that the concept of an OODA loop, which is something you all understand, is not understood by anyone else. And maybe because it’s the acronym sucks or something, but you get the idea. And it makes perfect sense if you’re a human that everything is designed around the OODA loop. So one of the things that I did is I got one of these virtual demonstrations of a nuclear attack, and how long does it take for the missile to get from the offender to us? And how do we react and so forth? And it’s all very relaxed, I mean, it’s obviously tense, because it’s being done in human time. We have to wake the president up. Well, how long does that take? Well, 20 seconds, or 30 seconds, we have enough time. But in this new world of battle, you’re not going to have that 20 seconds. And in fact, one of the major issues that we talk about our AI report is this question of automatic weapons systems. 

I’ll give you the simple example. There was a war in the future. And the war consisted of North Korea attacked America. America attacked back. China decided they did not want to have this war at this time, and it shut the North Korean side. Therefore, America stopped. The entire war happened in three milliseconds. How are we going to operate that? How are you going to do human in the loop? How are we going to think about that? But that’s the future. I’ll give you another example. You have a captain or admiral on one of the ships with an Aegis system and all that. And the AI system, which doesn’t exist yet, but let’s say it gets built by all these smart people, is sitting there and it says, ‘Captain or Commander or Admiral, you have 23 seconds to press this button or you’re dead.’ Now is that human control? We have to think about this. What human, which one of you would fail to press that button? I think you would, because that’s how these wars will be fought, especially with the presence of hypersonics, which as you understand, are both very fast, but they can also azimuth from different directions. So we’ve got to get our military doctrine and our thinking about that right. 

And then the final comment I wanted to make is about centralization and decentralization. I grew up as a computer scientist in a completely decentralized world. And one of my contributions was to promote the internet in the way that you all hear about it. Today, the internet is highly concentrated. It’s highly centralized around these large companies of which I’m proud to be a graduate from. That’s not what we thought it was going to be. We thought the internet was going to be all interconnected. 

And so this has been bothering me, and you’ll see the relevance in a sec. We all think that the systems are either centralized or decentralized. They’re in fact both. So the ideal system looks something like this: We put up 1,000 drones. We ship them to do whatever they’re going to do. We accept 20 percent of them will be shot down or fail or what have you. The other 800 are seeking their own outcome, whatever it is, but they’re being monitored by a centralized system. It’s interesting that in my little understanding of military doctrine, I think that is the U.S. doctrine around our commanders in the field. These are young men and women who are like lieutenants, and so forth, who basically have a great deal of autonomy, which is why our military is so incredibly powerful. And yet, we haven’t replicated that in our management culture. It seems to me that you want to change the attitude of the structure, and therefore the attitude of the infrastructure, to reflect this dichotomy, centralized and decentralized.

So we have extraordinarily powerful assets in the sky, but we don’t have very many. If I were doing this, what I would do is I would make 1,000 of them, allow 200 of them to be shot down, and I would take these much less expensive, much less accurate ones, take software, merge the images, and I’d probably get an image that’s pretty good. So again, you see how the thinking is different. And the same is true if you look at your notion of hybrid, instead of having—I’ll make this up; I don’t know what your actual plans are, for obvious reasons—an F-35 and five drones, why don’t you have an F-35 and 100 drones or 500 drones or 1,000 drones. Think scale with control and decentralized behavior. Thank you very much. 

Wright: Well, thanks, Dr. Schmidt. You know, when you talk about your, really your passion for innovation, your passion for changing things, really your passion for more effectively smacking bad guys. You got a lot of people in the room.

Schmidt: There seems to be an increasing number at the moment.

Wright: “You got a lot of people in the room that would share that with you. So I’d like to start a bit on your, obviously you’ve got a great understanding of the OODA loop, but I would share with you in my own experience, and I’ll give you a bit of background. We lack, we lag in our acquisition OODA loop. How do you get from constantly updated warfighter requirements, threat informed, to those systems that we must have with the advanced technologies that our war fighters need and get those systems fielded. And I’ll give you one example. And then you can go from there. 

I only read part of your book so far. But the part that focused on national security, what resonated with me is holding targets at risk. Left of launch, immediately after launch, lots of targets to hold at risk, and my experience is mostly North Korea and China. In fact, at one time when I was living in northern Japan, and I saw when the wing commander, North Korean shot a Taepodong right across the top of our house. So it’s near to my heart. And that’s the experience that’s out there forward-deployed today. But I have to tell you, and then and you can take off from this, as I read your book, for those forward-deployed forces, like numbered Air Force commanders, Joint Task Force commanders, Air Expeditionary Wing commanders, for them to pick up the phone and say, “Here’s what I see as a requirement.” I know, not just about the missile itself that’s about to launch. Pretty good idea who’s going to do it by unit. But to get that phone call built into the acquisition system as you work with Bob Work. I’m not sure how you fix that. So how do you fix the acquisition loop? Because there’s a lot of folks that would like to put AI on the target acquisition and target tracking and hold targets at risk tomorrow, but some thoughts in your experience. 

Schmidt: So a number of people are in the room who have worked on acquisition even longer than I have. And the acquisition problem is a well-known and understood problem for at least 50 years. And there have been many attempts of addressing it. And I think when you have such a large bureaucratic problem with so many different stakeholders, you’re not fundamentally going to fix it as an architecture. You’re going to have to adjust it. You’re going to have to make corners. And one of the principles of decentralized leadership is to allow corners of innovation. And the Air Force should properly be proud of the Skunk Works model. And the Skunk Works model in the ‘60s was interesting because it was run by a set of colonels, right? And I don’t exactly understand how politically they managed to get the freedom; maybe you were part of that. But somehow they managed to do it on a cycle that was a yearly cycle rather than a 10-year cycle. 

We looked at the weapon systems, and Frank looked at this with me at the time, and all of the weapon systems are taking longer every generation. That’s an indication of a governance problem. Though, as we know, the way the major primes work is basically there’s a contest. We’re not allowed to collaboratively joint design with them, which is the first thing that I would do, but you’re not allowed to do that. And then there’s a couple of years of trials. And then there’s an award and then there’s a dispute. Well, you’ve added five years to the whole development cycle.

So what I think, and the people that I’ve worked with in the Congress believe, is that we need to pick some projects … where we can try some of these new management techniques around the management OODA loop. I’m interested in missile defense. I think missile defense is a good example where you could build some businesses that are new and that uses autonomy, uses various clever ways of targeting, and I’m worried about what the Chinese are doing. And again, you would know more than than I. 

But I would pick a couple of areas. And try to get a consensus that we’re going to try this here. Because in a bureaucracy, you don’t want to bureaucracy to block all progress. But you have to allow them to have their concerns. So give us this corner for experimentation. And then you guys can keep doing what you’re doing. That’s how I would do it.

Wright: It’s a great point.

Schmidt: And that corner should be determined by the Air Force and OSD. You know, what, what are the highest priorities?

Wright: I think you also share our passion, passion many of us have for constantly connecting the warfighters, especially the most current warfighters, to their generational cohort in industry. They speak a different language to each other. So as you can imagine, program managers, engineers, we have MIT, Cal Poly engineers, and Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed, just as smart generational cohort counterparts, flying combat aircraft in the cyber fight, certainly among our Guardians. That seems to be a real opportunity for them to connect more frequently, more persistently. Some thoughts?

Schmidt: I think there is a, with the tragedy in Ukraine, you’re now seeing the tech companies actually doing the right thing. What a shock! I think there is good news out of this terrible tragedy, that I think that people have kind of understood what we collectively have all understood is how important what you do is, and I think there will be a change from that. As people see the consequences of inaction. You know, the sort of ‘la, la, life is good.’ Life has conflict.

Wright: Staying on that theme. It sounds exciting, your Digital Service Academy, is that right? And it starts to get at many of your points in your presentation. I think we’re on the same sheet of music, the secret sauce, the asymmetric advantage we have in this country in deterring, facing threats are that next generation of 20- and 30-somethings, empowering them.

Schmidt: Yeah, and what’s interesting is I spent some time meeting with people who left the military and worked. I did this both at Stanford and also at Google. And these are extraordinary people that you all have produced. The problem is they don’t work for you anymore. Right? Aside from that, thank you very much. But they’re like the best employees I’ve ever seen. So thank you. So we have to come up with a retention strategy, because these are people who care a lot about public service. And what they really want is they want to work on interesting stuff. And the military, and in particular, the Air Force and the Space Force, you’ve got interesting stuff. If you can’t get these guys motivated, guys and girls, there’s something wrong. I mean, these are among the most technically challenging problems. I mean, who doesn’t want to work on rockets, space, missiles and jets? I mean, come on?

Wright: Well, that’s a great point. You know, it would be novel. But, for example, if we have a classified exercise, and I know in your travels around the world, you got insight to exercises like Terminal Fury, certainly our exercises across Europe and NATO exercises. Did you see a place based on your experience at Google, that you just said, ‘I wish I had a young engineer from Google with me to meet the young captain or staff sergeant, so that they could talk to each other?’

Schmidt: That was my experience every hour. And we went to 100 different bases. And what I would do is I would basically say to people, ‘Show me the actual engineers.’ And what would happen is because I was perceived as high ranking, which I always thought was entertaining, they would have the top person and then they would have the top number twos, and then they would have the top number threes, and then they would have the two engineers. And so I, of course, would ignore everyone and talk to the engineers, being polite while I did that. And one of the engineers was working on something that they’ve been told to do, and the other one would be leaving. 

 So that’s how serious this problem is. If you care about things like auditing and accounting and so forth, you need these people. And you don’t have a way of—now I talked to the president, I talked to the secretaries of the armed services and so forth. And I complained to them about the HR system, and they said, it can’t be changed. OK? So if the top people in our government can’t change the HR system, we got a problem. So another, if I can just be incredibly blunt, you’ve got to figure out that the people that do stuff that I do are like doctors in the sense that they’re specialists, and they want to be doctors, right? You don’t, the military doesn’t take these, again, beautifully trained medical people, you don’t just transfer them out to other activities. They have a career path. And they’ll stay, because your doctors stay because they believe in your mission. They believe in you. They believe in your culture. It’s not about compensation. Everyone’s obsessed about compensation, which is always an issue. People want to serve. 

And I will tell you that the military has gotten used to this notion—I’ll make a broad criticism—that people are fungible. You have all millions of people who come through every few years, and they, you know, go through the system. They’re educated. It serves our nation, blah, blah, blah. I want us to have a specialized group, a technical group. The Navy has a little bit of this, the Air Force, I met with the Air Force Academy technical people. I’ve never seen people as good as that. I know you have them. Right? I used to wonder, do they not have them? OK, I mean, did they like forget? Right? You do have them, but you don’t grow them. And you don’t keep them. If this were a business, what you would do is you would do a ranking of the people that you need against the secretary’s priorities, against the SecDef’s priorities. And you’d say we’re going to make sure we have more of these people and the other people, well, we’ll deal with that later.

Wright: Sure. Sounds like we need the Dr. Eric Schmidt exercise series where we constantly bring in that group of people. It seems like when we get them into a realistic exercise, then they find common cause and common calling. They bond.

Schmidt: And everything you said is correct. And what’s interesting, I did this AI Commission, which was a blast, and bipartisan, lots of different viewpoints; we visited everybody. The No. 1 problem in the government as a whole: talent. You know, we love to talk about strategy. And we need more money over here, and by the way, we do. And we need more partnerships over here, and yes, we do. And we need more of this over here. And every state has to have its money, and all of that’s fine. But what we don’t have and we need a lot more is the kind of talent to drive this world. 

One-fourth of our recommendations were talent related. Right? We made a proposal for what you all would think of as a reserve corps of technical people that would work directly with you in various ways that will look an awful lot like the reserves, even though these are civilians. We made a proposal for a civilian technical university, very similar to the military academies with four years of training and then, you know, four or five years of service to anyone in the federal government in these technical areas. 

Once again, we presented these things. We talked to all the senators. We talked to the president. We talked to the White House. Everyone said yes. Like, where is it? About a third of our recommendations got into the NDAA, which I’m told is a record. But what about the other two-thirds? Where is the action? Where is the sense of urgency? I spend all day thinking, we’ve got to make sure our crypto stuff is correct. We got to make sure that our national security is correct. We’ve got to advance AI. We’ve got to get our surveillance stuff faster. We’ve got to work on our satellites and get them faster. Where’s the urgency in our government? I know it’s here. I’m not criticizing you. I’m criticizing other folks. So we’re clear.

Wright: I have to ask you this question. I have actually been able to talk to Dr. Bob Work a bit about this. So one of the outcomes unintended, maybe outcomes of Goldwater-Nichols was to essentially expand the OSD staff. So that happened post-’86. In the three or four years prior to ‘86 is when we built the 117. And you reminded me when you talked about Kelly Johnson’s Skunk Works. We built the 117 in about three years in the classified way. And to know that the action officer in the Pentagon was a major, and only he briefed the secretary of defense. Well, that couldn’t happen today. So did you run into that, as you talked through some of your Defense Innovation Board stuff.

Schmidt: We did, and Bob is a fantastic servant of our nation and my colleague for many years now. You got to decide who gets to decide. And I want to be careful not to criticize the mistakes of other services. But you can imagine there are other services that have built systems that were designed for 20 years ago, where the systems don’t work, they’re getting canceled, and all the people who made those decisions are retired or have unfortunately passed away. That’s not accountability. So the problem you have as a manufacturer is your design cycles are getting longer. That notion of responsibility is getting longer. The who decided is longer. 

One of the SecDefs, and I served for four, it’s a separate issue, gave me an assignment to go look at a particular weapons system. And I went and visited the weapons system. I won’t go into the details, obviously. And I listened to all the arguments, what the issue was, and I reported back to him. And he said, ‘That’s not what we asked for.’ And I said, ‘No, the contractor has in writing that this is what you asked for.’ And he goes, ‘OK.’ So he then comes back, and he says, ‘Yes, we asked for that. But we didn’t mean it, because the person who asked for it didn’t understand the trade-off.’ 

And the particular issue had to do with a security rule that drove the cost up by a factor of 100. And it was not, in my view, applicable to this case. I’m trying to speak in general terms here. So what did I learn from this little, this one little Eric assignment, right? If you want systems, have all the people in a room and make all the trade-offs right in front of you. Right? And one of the trade-offs is time. And the fastest way to get something cheaper is to do it faster. Which doesn’t make any sense. And again, there are experts here in the room who can speak about why this is. But I would much rather have you all be on an innovation cycle every year, where we do something interesting every year. And I think people are aware of this general strategy. 

But on this OSD question, you’re not going to solve this problem with having larger organizations and move them around. You’re going to solve this problem by authority. So in the Skunk Works case, you had a colonel, major, what have you. Have an admiral; have a general; I don’t care. The important point is have one and then give them broad objectives, and then let them oversee the trade-offs. And hold them to what those trade-offs are. And instead, when I was talking to the acquisition people, there are 30,000 acquisition specialists, each of them optimizing various components. That’s not the way you would run it.

Wright: Great points. Did you have a chance to get out to the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis and be involved in a Red Flag and watch how, when we decentralize execution authorities, and we really cultivate very smart young men and women across all specialty codes—fighter, bomber, airlift, missile—that when they come together to take on a pacing threat like China, they’re in the room talking about tactics and talking about best employment techniques, given the weapons systems they have. But did you kind of look at that and go, I need a few more my Google folks in that discussion?

Schmidt: Again, my message is the same. We need more of this specialized talent, and we need to organize it to deploy it. At Nellis, we visited the RPA pilots and all of this. And I was sitting there talking to one of them, and I said, ‘Well, how often?’ And he showed me how he flew and explained it all to me. It’s all very interesting. And I said, ‘Well, how often does this system get upgraded?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know. Maybe every couple of years.’ He didn’t know. And I thought, that’s terrible. You have essentially a software system that you’re going to upgrade on every couple of years.

So again, I think if you take my mindset and you apply it in the following way, I want rapid innovation. I want fast product cycles. I want a couple of groups over here that are doing really crazy stuff. Right? And you limit them in budget, and you limit them in impact, and then you’ve got a chance. I do think that there is a cultural and structural problem in the military that goes like this: I want autonomy for you all, I want you all to be able to make every decision on your own. In practice, because there’s consequences to the decisions that an individual makes that can have national repercussions. Somebody’s got to be watching. Right? 

So this is, we were in Qatar, and the Air Force general, who was an amazing guy, was showing us the battle management plan. And we went to the CAOC and all of this. And he authorized a strike on a particular thing. And what’s interesting to me, and this, again, had an impact. One of the assistants, he has a lawyer next to him, one of the assistants shows him a picture of the site. And the general correctly says, ‘When is this picture from?’ He says, ‘It’s about six months old.’ And so he, in a nice way, said, ‘How is this possible?’ And, ‘I want somebody in a jet with eyes on it now. And I want them to confirm that the target is still there.’ And then he looks at his lawyer, and he says, ‘Is this a legal transaction?’ And the lawyer says, ‘Yes, sir, it is.’ And he authorized it. And it was for a modestly important target in his war campaign. 

What I learned from that was, you’re going to have to have top-down control when kinetic force is used. But you’re also going to have to find a way to give autonomy to the person to do it. And that is at the root of your cultural problem. You want the centralization for protection of the institution for good reasons. But I also want the autonomy for our men and women to do what they need to do and do it quickly and well.

Wright: Thanks sir. As we wrap up, thanks to Gen. Brown’s leadership and support, the collaboration between AFA and certainly Gen. Raymond and as we follow Secretary Kendall’s One Team, One Fight mantra, the Air Force Association put together the General James Doolittle Leadership Center, and pretty good history of innovation: 16 B-25s off a carrier for the first time, go west, drop bombs and do your best. Never done before. When you think about that mission order, it’s pretty amazing. And I think sort of defines innovation.

Schmidt: But it also defines courage.

Wright: Yes, sir.

Schmidt: And I think I’d like to say once again that I don’t have your courage. But I do have admiration for you for what you do. And again, this week is a great reminder of why what you do is so important, why the issues that we’re discussing need to get addressed, because this is not the last challenge to American leadership. It’s only the next one.

Wright: Thanks, sir. Well, please join me in a round of applause to Dr. Eric Schmidt. And as a small token of our appreciation to celebrate our 75th anniversary…

Schmidt: And thank you to the Air Force Association. Let me know how I can be helpful. Thank you. Thank you all.