The Underappreciated Foundation

Some 220,000 airmen provide vital support to combat operations daily around the world, yet their contributions are often unfairly reduced to the term “enablers” in Pentagon budget conversations, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. This representation does not capture these airmen’s value to the nation, especially when the Pentagon and Congress are accustomed to discussing military value in terms of fighter squadrons, aircraft carrier battle groups, and brigade combat teams, he said in a speech before leaders of the New York business and finance community on May 13. AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies sponsored this event, its first airpower symposium in New York City, together with AFA’s Iron Gate Chapter and the Union League Club of New York. “It is not evil intent. It is just lack of understanding, but it is crushing the Air Force,” said Welsh, the symposium’s concluding speaker. “This is a big deal and it is our fault. We haven’t told [the] story [of these airmen] well enough,” he said. Welsh equated the work of these airmen—who serve in missions like airlift; command and control; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; nuclear deterrence; precision navigation and timing; and space superiority—to the foundation of the Statue of Liberty. “That foundation is not visible so people don’t really understand it,” he said. However, he continued, “there is all of this stuff in the background going on all of the time that benefits so much more than just the military, and our airmen are doing it.” Dave Deptula, Mitchell Institute dean, said participants of the symposium characterized the event as a resounding success.