Retired Lt. Gen. Bruce ”Orville” Wright, president of the Air Force Association, hosts a discussion with Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, commander of Pacific Air Forces and Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, deputy Chief of Space Operations for operations, cyber, and nuclear titled “China: The Pacing Challenge” during the AFA Warfare Symposium on March 3, 2022. Watch the video or read the transcript below. This transcript is made possible through the sponsorship of JobsOhio.
Overhead voice: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the president of the Air Force Association, Lt. Gen. Orville Wright.
Retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright, president of the Air Force Association: Well, good morning, and let’s just keep it rolling here. It’s an honor for me this morning, first of all, to thank all of you for being with us, to being in the fight. As we all know, there’s a ton of concern right now about the Ukraine. And that’s understandable. But it’s certainly also important to remember that Russia stretches from Europe to the Pacific, and its border with China is the sixth-largest in the entire world. In the Pacific, of course, China is the pacing challenge to U.S. and allied interests, and also a complex economic partner, and now a major peer military threat. China really is the giant panda in the room. It has advanced its nuclear, air, space, sea and land-based capabilities. In fact, China has built its modern force to directly disrupt our American way of war. And as we all know, its ambitions are immense. China is on a path to surpass the United States in stealth, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence and information dominance and more. So who better to talk about the warfighting challenges in the Pacific today than our panelists. Gen. Ken “Cruiser” Wilsbach, U.S. Air Force, Commander, Pacific Air Forces, and Lt. Gen. Chance Saltzman, U.S. Space Force. He’s our deputy chief of operations; that includes also cyber and nuclear. So gentlemen, if you’ll please join me on the stage we’ll get this rolling.
Well, let’s start with Gen. Wilsbach. And we’ll stay at the unclassified level, which may be a challenge. I think the world should know, and there’s certainly plenty of open source information, how do you currently view the state of the strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific between the U.S. and China?
Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, commander of Pacific Air Force: You bet. Thanks. Thanks, Orville. And really thanks to the AFA, for having us. And it’s really such an honor to be up here with Gen. Saltzman to talk about China. I know a lot of people that are here that serve in the Pacific. You know, I just recently put out an order for all of the Pacific that you know, where two or three airmen are gathered, you talk about China. We do that at every, you know, even like a flight brief for a maintenance team in the morning, they talk about China so that our folks can be up to up to speed on what’s happening in the AOR. And before I get to your question, I would like to just address, you know, why is it that we’re, we’re having this competition? Well, it’s because China, the pacing threat, is executing some nefarious activities. And they’ve been doing this for years, you know, from predatory lending practices, to promising democratic principles to be allowed in Hong Kong, and then taking it back and making it illegal to have those activities, to take over territory illegally in the South China Sea and in building new territory outside of their territorial waters. And then saying, that’s China, it’s always been China, a revisionist history, to incurring on other people’s property. And then most recently, supporting, you know, an unprovoked invasion, or at least, at least the beginning of that, and supporting Russia, in manufacturing, the rationale for that unprovoked. And so they seem to be on the wrong, the wrong side of just about every issue with respect to a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is our objective. And so as you look at, you know, the nature of your question of, you know, how, how’s it going? And what are we doing? That’s the reason why we’re there.
And, incidentally, this year, we’ve seen the Europeans even come out and help with competition with the Queen Elizabeth II doing a cruise through the region. The French were out, they obviously have interest in French Polynesia, and even the Germans.
And so in this year, you’re going to see even more of that. And in my interactions, even with the Europeans, they’re going to continue that, because they’re also concerned about a free and open Indo-Pacific and they have interests to protect. And so that brings up, you know, how are things going? And the first principle for us is, the allies and partners. And so as, as China views this thing, they do not want an open and free Indo-Pacific. They want it to be the Chinese way, which is why we have a problem with this. And so the allies and partners and like-minded nations who, you know, support the rule of law and international rules-based order, the strength of us together, demanding that China also operate inside that international rules-based order is incredibly important. And so when China views it, they may view it as the China versus the U.S., but what they should view it as China versus Team Blue, you know, which is, you know, almost every other country in the Indo-Pacific and, you know, throw in the allies and partners from Europe and other parts of the world, who also value a free and open environment, as well as the rules-based international order, that that presents some dilemmas for China that perhaps they need to consider before they would move out on, you know, further nefarious activities.
So allies and partners is the first aspect of that in competition. And then the next piece of this is joint operations. And, you know, the Air Force and the Space Force, you know, we, we can scarcely go time hack, hack without the Space Force for the U.S. Air Force. But everything that we do relies on the Space Force. And so that joint aspect is built in, as it should be. But with our Navy, Marines, and Army brothers and sisters, that joint aspect and integrating joint fires and integrating operations, even in the competition phase, is tough to do, as we all know, but we can do it, and we’re actually getting much better at it. And as the Secretary talked about, ABMS, as well as some JADC2, we’re going to continue to get better and better. It’s synchronizing and integrating those joint effects, which is something that, you know, our adversaries, principally China, but certainly North Korea, and Russia, as other Indo-Pacific competitors, that they don’t do as well as us. And so we do have somewhat of an advantage there with joint and then certainly modernization, which we can get into later if you’d like. And I’ll stop there just not to take up all the time, I can keep going all day.
Wright: Terrific. Great, great kickoff. Salty, let’s talk about in the space perspective. And certainly China’s threats in space, which have become more and more visible and are obviously growing, a worldwide issue. Particularly significant, as you well know, in a region that is so large, and includes so much of the vast Pacific, and given China’s expenditures on space and counter-space capabilities. Is there one thread that goes through your mind every day, that is most worrisome?
Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, deputy Chief of Space Operations for operations, cyber, and nuclear: Well, thanks, sir. And to Orville and the whole AFA team, once again, terrific event, it’s really great that we get to come together and have these very important discussions. So thanks for all you do to help enable that. And it’s a real honor to be on the stage to share with you, sir. A great leader, great Airman, great warrior, great partner, and really appreciate the opportunity today to talk about.
There’s not really one threat that keeps me awake or is most worrisome. What’s most worrisome is the pace with which they’ve developed all of their space capabilities, how fast they’ve been able to not just increase what you would expect in terms of their satellite communications and ISR capabilities, but the pace with which they’ve developed counter-space weapons, they clearly see that we gain tremendous advantages in joint warfare by leveraging space capabilities. And they have invested heavily to develop a mix of counter-space capabilities from fractional orbit hypersonics, GPS and SATCOM jammers, the anti-satellite missile capability they have, it’s a formidable force that they are building, fielding, operationalizing to deny us the capabilities that we use in space. And that pace, that accelerated pace with which they’ve been able to put them in place, is really what’s most worrisome. And I say that because it’s almost a challenge to us. And it’s a challenge that I want to take on and I want certainly the Space Force to step up to, is we have to match that pace, we have to match the ability to bring technology and put it in the hands of our operator, just like Secretary Kendall mentioned a few moments ago, how fast can we put capability in the hands of our operator to mitigate the effects the Chinese are trying to create?
And so that’s really what I’m trying to focus on, is not just the products, not just what are the things that we need to buy that we can put in place to make our architectures, our space capabilities more resilient, but the processes by which we do it. We have to be agile, we have to be adaptable, because the security condition is going to be highly dynamic. So how fast can we innovate? How are we incentivizing innovation, incentivizing rapid operational capabilities and building processes that are repeatable, so we can get ahead of this decision cycle and actually get in front of the Chinese. I think that’s going to be one of the cornerstones of deterrence, is if we can pose a formidable force that that can deny them the benefits that they might see by an attack, and impose costs if we need to, that there’s going to be consequences to aggressive behavior in space, and in the other domains. And we need to have the capabilities to demonstrate that. And so that pace of change. [Inaudible] And now we want to make sure we’re matching that. So I think that’s, that’s what keeps me awake, is trying to sort that process out.
Wright: Thanks, sir. Gen. Wilsbach, back to your perspective, and you already talked about this a bit. You cover, you defend multiple allies in combination with your alliances with Japan, close work with the Japan Self-Defense Forces, Advanced Defense Force, certainly South Korea, our partners in Australia, and you’re sitting on Russia’s eastern flank. So as the Putin regime has demonstrated an unexpected level of aggressiveness. How are you and certainly Admiral Aquilino—I would offer you are his most lethal force, by the way—how are you and Admiral Aquilino looking at keeping the peace? You maintain an international stability in a big part of the world, a very important part of the world, economically important part of the world?
Wilsbach: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, first of all, you’re exactly right. You know, a lot of people look at the globe and look at it from this sense of the equator. And when you do that, you don’t necessarily get a sense for the Arctic. We are an Arctic nation because of Alaska. Russia is an Arctic nation. [Mic change] So Russia is an Arctic nation; so are we because of Alaska, and when you look at the map from the equator, you don’t get a sense for how close Russia is on, you know, on the east side of Russia, our west side. And so we are very close. And so as we’ve seen the events unfold in Europe, we’ve certainly been keeping a very close eye on what’s happening in Russia, and so far it seems to be relatively routine on their east side.
With North Korea, though, similar of you know, watching them very closely and seeing how they might take advantage of the attention that everyone’s placing in Europe. And so last Saturday, we saw them launch what they claimed to be, you know, space launch, I’m not so sure that’s exactly what it was. But, you know, I expect that we’ll see more of that out of North Korea. And some of those are pretty provocative events. And so we want to keep a very close eye on that and be ready to respond if, if that’s what our nation’s leaders decide we need to do. And PACAF will absolutely be ready to respond with that.
And then let’s focus in on China. But one of the things that I want to point out is, when you translate the word crisis, from Chinese into English, it doesn’t necessarily translate the way we think about it. But the way the Chinese think about it, is there’s a connotation of danger, which we can sort of relate to, but there’s also an opportunistic connotation as well. And so as they look at a crisis, they will look at, it’s dangerous, but there may be an opportunity here, what can we do, and so I’ve got, I’ve got very close eyes watching on what China might do, to take advantage of this crisis, knowing that that’s their propensity. So far, again, it’s been relatively routine, even though the, the friction is there in the routine, you know, as we see that friction with them constantly in that competition, but we’ll be looking to see if they want to take advantage further. But one of the things that I’m very hopeful, and we touched on that earlier in the morning, is that when you have an unprovoked attack, you know, in Europe, like we’ve seen with Russia and Ukraine, and the world has come together in great solidarity. I hope China paid attention because, you know, they’ve communicated in public, you know, what their stance is, you know, toward Taiwan, and what their plans are toward Taiwan. And I hope they’ve been paying attention in Europe because, as the Secretary said, you know, Putin made a mistake, probably a miscalculation. And there’ll be consequences for the nation of Russia. And I believe that a similar event would occur in the Pacific if China were to have a similar unprovoked attack. And so I’m hopeful that they’re paying attention to that.
Wright: That’s a great, great point and how you come together with all your nations and you work with your country teams from Japan to South Korea. There’s certainly a combined diplomatic and military message in all that you’re doing, it seems to me. Salty, you know, I think Secretary Kendall set us up when he talked about AMTI and GMTI from space, holding targets at risk. Obviously, there’s a bunch of targets that we’d like to watch and hold at risk across the INDOPACOM AOR. So could you talk a little bit about the team, the one team one fight, and again AMTI and GMTI from space, but really, how you all are working together on making Joint All-Domain Command and Control real.
Saltzman: Appreciate it, I think the best way to describe it is, orbits in space give us access and persistence to denied areas. The problem is, is they may not be as accessible as they once were because of the counter-space capabilities that the Chinese have presented. So we have to explore how do we maximize the opportunities that are there to take advantage of these orbits, take advantage of the persistence in the denied areas, take advantage of the access with an eye to that resiliency that Secretary Kendall mentioned. How do we make sure that that’s there. On our worst day, we can still provide the capabilities that the joint force needs in the air, land, sea, etc. Once we establish that, and as we think through what makes sense now, I think it’s right that we examine what missions might migrate to space. Where does it make sense to take advantage of the Day One access, the Day One persistence, that we can enhance the joint force’s eyes and ears, targeting capability, etc., so that we’re as as effective as possible on that first day of operations without having to fight our way in to put those sensors there.
That’s the way I’m thinking about it from an MTI standpoint. There’s a lot of work to be done to figure out how to close the technology gaps, how to put the things in place. But we would not be doing our job if we didn’t consider, what are the right missions that can migrate, should migrate—and if they do migrate, now, how do we assure those capabilities so the joint force can come to depend on them when they need it? So work to be done. But I think we’re moving in the right kind of direction.
Wright: Outstanding, I think not only does the Space Force support the fight, I think in so many ways you lead the fight. So thanks. Gen. Wilsbach, you’ve done remarkable work over the years and certainly recently on the whole ACE concept, multiple bases from which the fight, you move to those bases, support those bases logistically. We are going to talk I think, this afternoon about using artificial intelligence to strengthen your logistics chain and your support for the ACE concept. So can you talk about ACE a bit and update us?
Wilsbach: You bet. So a lot of people think that ACE is this strategy for the future, but I’m here to tell you it is a thing. And we have the capability in PACAF to do ACE in almost every single exercise that we do and all the deployments incorporate some measure of ACE. And I’ll give you a recent example, we just concluded Cope North 22 with the Australians and Japanese in the Guam cluster, and I say the Guam cluster because they weren’t just at Andersen Air Force Base. We had forces at all three major airfields on Guam, we had forces at Rota, Saipan and Tinian. And we were executing all aspects of ACE, which, you know, certainly means flying missions from those islands and those airfields, but multi-capable Airmen. So we’ve been training Airmen to do multiple skills where in the old days, if you were a hydraulic troop, that’s all you did. Well, now we’ve got hydraulic troops doing electrics and changing tires, and being crew chiefs, and etc, etc. So that that’s a part of it, the multi-capable Airmen.
The other part of this is the command and control that you need to be able to keep the force in the air. So you can imagine how if we’re very used to being in this one location with all of your assets and very consolidated, it’s pretty efficient. And if you have a maintenance problem, you just land and you fix it from right there. Well, what if you don’t have the maintenance capability, say at Tinian, so you’ve got to get either the maintenance equipment over to Tinian to fix the aircraft or you’ve got to get the broken aircraft back to where you have some heavier maintenance. That command and control is pretty hard to do, but our folks are doing it. And it’s a part of every local exercise. And again, every exercise that we do in the Pacific with deployments, there’s a portion of it that’s going to be ACE.
Interestingly, many of the allies and partners are also really interested in ACE. Certainly the Australians are. And the Japanese are incredibly interested in, they have actually started to do some ACE events themselves inside of Japan. And so they’re learning from us, we recently concluded that the ACE concept of employment really was the second iteration of that document, which lays out you know, how a wing would go about doing ACE and coming into the Pacific. What are our expectations, what’s the manning where you might go, there’s, there’s a lot to it to, to be able to execute ACE. And we’ve been in collaboration with USAFE on that. And so USAFE and PACAF, along with ACC, have been pretty tight on developing this concept of employment. So for those who haven’t had a chance to read through it, it’s a pretty thick read, but you can skim through it if you’d like. It’s out there online. It’s obviously classified at the secret level. So you can get it on SIPR. But it’s a useful document, especially if you were to employ or deploy into the Pacific or into USAFE, you can get a sense for you know, what will be expected when you get there.
Wright: Thanks, sir. It’s all about multi-capable Airmen, no doubt, and Guardians. Salty, you know, Guardians are starting to be deployed around the world. Talking to the Seventh Air Force Commander recently, there are Guardians on the peninsula. It occurs to me, and you and Gen. Wilsbach have a lot of experience from your weapons school time to multiple exercises, Red Flags, and that not only are Guardians in the fight. Guardians are now the link to the traditional, if you will, intelligence community capabilities, NRO. Recently, we had NRO presence at Red Flags and weapon school graduation exercise. So could you talk about how your Guardians are bringing together the entire, if you will, ISR enterprise, NRO and the capabilities that are out there, and roll in commercial too. I know, you’re all over it. So, please.
Saltzman: So I think the best word that describes that is just space integration. It’s all the mission sets from ISR to SATCOM, whether it’s commercial or military, and how do we effectively integrate that or what are the key elements that we need to make sure we’re paying attention to, as we continue to integrate those capabilities to all the combatant commands.
Obviously, we’re heavily invested in, heavily integrated into U.S. Space Command. You know, the vast majority of the missions that we provide are enterprise global level missions, they support all the combatant commanders through United States Space Command, but there are activities and Gen. Wilsbach has priorities that are going to require integration of space capabilities. Adm. Aquilino has priorities that are going to require detailed integration of space expertise, space integration, partnerships with other nations, as Gen. Wilsbach mentioned. And I think that’s the kind of thing that we have to make sure we’re structured, and that we’re training to provide. And so in my head as the chief operations officer, I sum that up in terms of readiness, are we ready to do the missions that we’re being asked to do today, primarily through U.S. Space Command? And are we ready to do the other contingencies that are in the foreseeable future? Whether it’s an Indo-Pacific scenario, whether it’s a European scenario, the Middle East, Africa, you know, what are those challenges that we’re going to face. And the biggest shift, of course, is that we’re not operating in a benign space environment anymore, we are going to operate against a thinking adversary that is committed to denying us those space capabilities. So that fundamentally changes the way you train. It has to change the way you train, so that our operators are ready. So we’re investing in Operational Test and training infrastructure. We’re investing in an OPFOR, red forces, aggressors, to help our operators train effectively against a thinking adversary, we need to create those virtual environments. So the operators can validate tactics, practice their tradecraft. I’m convinced that, you know, in a one-to-one fight where we have maybe parity in terms of equipment, it’s going to be our Airmen, our Guardians that come through because they’re going to have the experience, they’re going to have the skills. We’re going to have the training the tactics to come out on top in one of those kinds of engagements.
One of the challenges that I’ve tried to describe is, I don’t like the idea of space status quo if we go into a high-end fight. In other words, if all sides of a fight, are using space the way they currently do now, think about the Chinese. I don’t like our advantages there. The complexity of synchronizing in the Indo-Pacific, the distances we have to cover, we are going to rely so much on our capabilities, but they’re gonna have targeting capability, they’ve got advanced weapons, I don’t like status quo, I don’t like to win 51 to 50. That’s not the way I want to go to war with these guys. And so we have to invest to make sure that our operators, whether they’re providing ISR, SATCOM, missile warning, electronic warfare, any of those capabilities, they have to be the best trained in the world. And I’m committed to making sure they have the tools, the time and the training environments to do that.
Wright: Outstanding. Gen. Wilsbach, like you, I grew up, trained very much in the importance of the joint fight. One team, one fight, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and now Guardians all in any contingency together, and certainly, the joint capability is important in the INDOPACOM theater. At the same time, my job as your Air Force Association president is to talk more and create the opportunities to talk about our Airmen and our Guardians in the joint fight. My view, is, our Airmen and Guardians are the most lethal arm of the joint fight by far. We invited Adm. Aquilino to be here, and please pass on our regards to him. So given the opportunity, you’re here with Orville Wright, talk a bit, if you would, about your forces, your PACAF forces in the fight, and not just those forces that are deployed in there today that continue to come over the horizon. And those obviously, are Air and Space Forces. So just, I’d like you to just take the opportunity to brag about and talk about your PACAF forces, your Airmen and certainly Guardians in the PACAF area.
Wilsbach: One of the things I’ll start off with, you know, kind of bridging on Salty’s last answer is, we’re in the process of transitioning from, you know, having a DirSpaceFor in the AOC, which, if you’ve worked in AOC, you understand that, to having a space Component Command for INDOPACOM. And so we’ve recently just exercised that in the last exercise we did in INDOPACOM. And it works really great. One of the reasons why it works really great is because there’s not a whole lot of organizational change and new buildings and new infrastructure that’s required, because the space component works right from the AOC. And leverage, it leverages the historical relationship that we’ve had in AOC. And so it’s, it’s really working out really well, from the standpoint of how to incorporate … Yeah, yeah, no, it worked out great. I was really happy with the transition was, you know, people say seamless transitions, it was seamless. So that’s fantastic. And one, it keeps the strength of the Air Force and the Space Force together, and everything we do is together. But at the same time, it met the requirements for the COCOM, and which was the main purpose for having a space component stand up in the Pacific. And so that’s, that’s been really something that is really brand new, and something that we really like. As far as the, the men and women of the Pacific, you know, I’ve got to brag on them a little bit. And one of the things that is somewhat different than a lot of places where Airmen serve is, unless you’re from Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Korea, or Japan, you are a long way from home. Right? And so everybody that serving in the Pacific is there, you know, basically deployed in place. And in the age of COVID, it’s been particularly hard on especially the folks that are in Japan and Korea based on host nation travel restrictions and some of their COVID requirements. And so they’ve been really isolated. But as I travel around the Pacific, I find that despite all of those things, being away from home a long way from home COVID restrictions, haven’t taken leave in a while, etc. The morale is pretty dang high. And I attribute that to awesome leadership, especially at the NCO level. The NCOs are leading through, you know, the age of COVID and competing with China remarkably well. And so I can just report that to everybody that the morale is high despite it being a tough environment. The other thing that I’ll report to you is the Airmen continue to be incredibly innovative with getting after this competition, principally with China.
But, you know, we never forget about North Korea and Russia and in our day-to-day operations, but obviously, China is the pacing threat, but the innovation from Airmen, especially in the area of ACE, every time we do an ACE iteration, even if it’s just a squadron event on a daily training, there’s an Airman out there innovating, and they’ve got supervisors that are encouraging that innovation and adopting new tactics, techniques and procedures, you know, nearly every day, so that we can continue to expand that ACE envelope as we go forward. And, you know, certainly the Secretary talked about, you know, having the ability to do ACE and you know, one of the biggest areas that we’ve got to work on and he addressed it is logistically, getting in a posture to do ACE, which means you have to pre-position or otherwise, the logistics on the fly in a contested environment become incredibly difficult. So Airmen are thinking through and you know, our A-4 community is thinking through OK, what stuff do we need to put and where does it need to go to pre-position so that ACE is not as difficult as it might otherwise be if you had to do logistics as we go forward. And then the, the ABMS piece of this, and having a network so that you can communicate with your forces, because if you’ve got this dynamic force moving across the battlespace, if you don’t have comm, it gets, you know, a lot harder really quick. So having comm, having that self-healing comm web, so that when they try to take out one note of it, you just keep talking, right? That’s important. And so we’ve got folks working on that, and we’ve got had some progress lately on that. But what if you don’t, here’s more of the innovation, if you don’t have that comm, you’re completely cut off? Well, Airmen at lower levels lead, and what’s incredibly encouraging to watch is young captains and tech sergeants being the boss of everything that they’re in charge of maybe at Tinian. And seeing them lead in a way that, you know, heretofore was done by a colonel and achieve now you’ve got a tech sergeant and a captain, sometimes even a lieutenant, leading the force, everybody that’s attending, as an example, being led by, you know, a brand new captain, that innovation and that leadership is something that gives us great confidence in and I believe something that China should worry about every day.
Wright: Thanks, sir. Well, as you all know, your Air Force Association spends a good deal of time with Congress persistently engaged. So our job as we do that is to give you voice, and not just you, but every one of your Airmen and Guardians and their family members, a voice on the Hill that they may or may not have. And we do that across every chapter in every state, in fact, overseas, across our Air Force Association. So as we close up here, do we have, are there messages for Congress that we might reinforce on our behalf and support? Again, all your Airmen and Guardians and their family members. Please, Salty.
Saltzman: Well, that’s a dangerous question. So let me let me tap dance around a little bit. I’ve found tremendous partnership, working with mostly staffers, quite frankly, on the key subcommittees and committees. What I would want to continue to message to them is, sometimes the first thing we have to talk about when we sit down together is understanding what the assumptions are they have going into this, right, because the Space Force is this big, new thing. And I think they all come to those sessions with kind of a set of assumptions about where we are, how many people we have working various issues, what are the priorities, etc. And so we start a lot with education. Here’s where we are, here’s what we’re trying to do. Does this fit with your perception or how this should work?
And so if we if we can continue to message them to start with a discussion, rather than, hey, we understand how this works, and here’s what we want it, you know, here’s how we want it to go. It’s always been a productive session after we get through those initial educational moments. They’ve been great partners. They have very clear ideas about what they want and what they think the Space Force should do, which is appropriate from their oversight responsibilities. We obviously have our priorities that we’re working for Secretary Kendall and, and Chief Raymond, that as soon as we sit down and start talking about where we are, what the challenges are, we’re almost always on the same page, we fight in the margins. But we’re almost always on the same page. And so I would just say, continue the education continue to ask us questions, rather than making presumptions about how we’re moving on on things. And once we get past that, it usually goes pretty, pretty smoothly.
Wright: Gen. Wilsbach.
Wilsbach: I agree with Salty on all counts. And, you know, one of the things one, I’ll thank the Air Force Association, of course, the Air Staff’s been responsible for some of this, but, you know, a year and a half ago, two years ago, if you had a meeting with a member of Congress, you know, they may or may not be as up to speed on China as we would have liked them to be. But lately, you know, in the last few months, they get it, you know, so all the meetings that I’ve had, they are much more aware of why there’s a threat there. They’re much more aware of what China is doing in the region, you know, on a day-to-day basis. And so they’ve been briefed up and certainly by the Air Force Association or the Air Staff has done that, the joint staff has done that. So it makes the partnership, you know that you talk about, Salty, a little bit easier if you’re starting from, you know, a common reference point. And so I think we’re at that point where we do have a common reference point.
I mentioned earlier, and I think it was the first opening remark that I had about modernization. And we, we’ve got some older fleets in the Pacific that we need to modernize. And in order to do that, just based on the limited budget that we have, the older legacy platforms, we need to be able to retire so we can afford those newer platforms. And so air superiority is one of the areas that we absolutely have to modernize the Secretary talked about, and get absolutely. Weapons that go with sixth-generation aircraft also need to be modernized. And we should include our allies and partners in in helping them to also modernize with fifth, fifth-generation weapons that go with the fifth-generation platforms that they’re acquiring as well. And then command and control, the Secretary mentioned, E-3, the E-3 is unbelievably challenging from a maintenance standpoint, just to get airborne. But then once it gets airborne, it can’t see the threats that we need it to see so that we can close a fifth- and sixth-generation kill chain, and then platforms that can break the kill chain that the adversary has, which they have improved immensely. And so modernizing and being able to retire legacy fleets. And then one aspect that I would have mentioned to him that we don’t often talk about when we talk about modernization is, hey, look at the modernization that China has been doing. Man, it’s pretty unprecedented what we’ve seen them do in the last 30 years, as the Secretary mentioned. They’ve done some of that on their own, but they’ve done a lot of it by stealing technology from around the world. And so securing our own technology and helping our allies and partners to do that, you know, that’s something that Congress needs to pay attention to ensure that industry, and that governments that we deal with protect the technology, so that we can continue to have innovation that will help us versus just help the Chinese because they steal it.
Wright: Amen. Well, as we as we close here, sort of a 30-second shout out offer to both of you. There are many Airmen and Guardians out there that would like to grow up to be both of you, will follow you. Do you have a couple leadership principles and words of encouragement for Airmen and Guardians that we’re talking to today?
Saltzman: I always tell the young Guardians that I meet that the skills that never go away, or never age out, are critical thinking communication skills. And sometimes you have to schedule time to think, you know, we get so caught up in our day to day task list, and there’s so many things that need to be done. We’re so busy doing stuff we sometimes forget to think through what’s the right way to accomplish these tasks. And so the tip I always give is don’t forget, you have to schedule time to think and figure out exactly which way you want to go. Because once you decide to go, it’s going to be fast, and you’re going to move fast, rightfully so. And so the critical thinking skills, and then be able to advocate your position. And you know, it’s not as easy as, as you say, the ability to write those thoughts down and actually convey those thoughts so that you can build teammates, great partnerships. It’s shared vision, and that requires communication. And so those kinds of skills never age out. And so that’s what I focused on.
Wright: Excellent. Gen. Wilsbach.
Wilsbach: I only get 30 seconds, it’ll be hard. So as an individual, be humble, approachable and credible, there’s a lot in those three words. And for those of you that have been to weapons school, you know, that’s kind of the mantra of, of weapons school, but it works in a leadership aspect as well for any size organization. And then for the organization, also kind of a theme that I stole from weapons school, which is plan, brief, execute, and debrief. And it’s the process that we all use to execute a flying mission, but it also works in an organization too. And the key to why we keep getting better and better is the debrief. And so analysis of how you executed, looking at lessons learned and looking at ways that you can improve what you’ve already done in an open environment where, you know, everybody’s focused on getting better, you know, and the debrief is not supposed to be just tearing somebody down. And you know, you just were terrible today, and you’re never going to be good. It’s like, here’s what you did. Here’s how you know how I assess that. And here’s what you can do better next time. That works for an entire organization too. And so that would be my one minute version of that.
Wright: Well, thank you, as you represent, again, in Orville Wright’s opinion, the most lethal arm of the joint force, our Air and Space Forces. In lieu of speaker gifts, this year, the Air Force Association has made a donation to enable additional Airmen and guardians to attend the poolside barbecue this evening. Please stay with us now, for our program as we continue a discussion of combat Air and Space Forces in the fight. Please join me in a round of applause.