Watch, Read: Lessons on Joint Distributed Ops from CENTCOM

Retired Maj. Gen. Doug Raaberg, executive vice president of the Air Force Association, moderates a discussion with Vice Adm. James Malloy, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command; Col. Anthony J. Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Central; and Lt. Gen. Gregory M. Guillot, commander of the 9th Air Force, on “Joint Distributed Ops – Regional Commitments and Security,” during the AFA Warfare Symposium on March 4, 2022. Watch the video or read the transcript below. This transcript is made possible through the sponsorship of JobsOhio.

Speaker: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage AFA’s executive vice president, Maj. Gen. Doug Raaberg.

Maj. Gen. Doug Raaberg, executive vice president of the Air Force Association: Thank you and good afternoon. It’s good that we have some stalwart people hanging on. Appreciate that. You know, most of us know that Central Command has been the main American presence in many military operations. I have no doubt that many in this room have served inside Central Command. From the beginning of Operation Desert Shield on Aug. 2, 1991, to the Aug. 30, 2021, closure of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, with the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Now, since 2014, Operation Inherent Resolve continues in Iraq and Syria in supporting and advise and assist roles. For over 30 years, Air and Space Forces have maintained and sustained continuous combat operations in the CENTCOM AOR. If we look back, CENTCOM’s lines of effort in deterring Iran, broadly countering violent extremist organizations and destabilizing the influence of Russia and, verbally, China, call for an ever-increasing demand signal for war coalition capability, especially for the U.S. Air and Space Force capability. Now, the strategic landscape is changing in the CENTCOM AOR as quote, “Mr. Putin enjoys escalation dominance,” where he can attack, he can pull back for a while—at least—he can stay put, and all the while commanding the world’s attention.

We will touch on the challenges CENTCOM faces in this panel entitled ‘Conducting Joint Distributed Ops, Regional Commitments, and Security.’ Absolutely delighted to be joined by Vice Adm. James Malloy, deputy commander, U.S. Central Command. Joining him is Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot, CENTCOM’s air component commander and Col. Anthony Mastalir, director, Space Forces, U.S. Central Command. Please. Let’s give them a warm welcome.

Admiral, General, Colonel, I’d like to start with a brief perspective from each of you on the evolving changes you face in your support to the CENTCOM commander and the mission at hand. So Adm. Malloy, let me start with you. Perhaps with some opening remarks, since you are in fact responsible for the integration of Israel into the CENTCOM AOR. Over to you, sir.

Vice Adm. James Malloy, deputy commander, U.S. Central Command: Thank you. Gen. Raaberg, thank you for your introduction. And, General, we’re right where you are. Thanks for the invitation. On behalf of Gen. McKenzie, it’s an honor to be here, especially with the two panelists—shipmates of mine—that I’m honored to work with every day.

Gen. McKenzie could not be here today. He’s traveling; he’s in the region right now. But he certainly accepted the invitation with every intent to be here. And so he sent his sidekick to two hours down the road to come to be with you, and I’m honored to represent him in this forum. And I think these forums are important looking through their very robust agenda that you have to be able to exchange ideas, assess what we’re looking at as a global threat and then try and outpace it. And it is a combination of government and contract people that are working toward this.

What I’d like to do because our panel looks at the CENTCOM AOR—and you did introduce that—I’d like to spend a couple minutes setting the theater and also letting you look at the theater through the lens of our commander, Gen. McKenzie, setting his priorities and how he looks at the region. As most of you all know—I mean, it’s just the statistics here—CENTCOM has over 4 million square miles of area populated by 560 million people, 25 different ethnic groups speaking 20 different languages, hundreds of different dialects and confessing multiple religions, which transects national borders. And across history and today, the demographics of this AOR create opportunities for competition, for tension and for rivalry. As you know, the geography region consists of the intersection of three continents, globally vital commercial sea lanes, flight corridors, pipelines, overland routes, etc. We have 21 nations in the AOR, with the addition of Israel, that stretch from Northeast Africa across the Middle East to Central and South Asia. Forms of government ranging for the political spectrum from emerging democracies, hereditary monarchies, autocracies and Islamic theocratic regimes. And the region is one of the least secure and least stable places in the world. Adversarial relationships among neighboring states widespread ethnic and sectarian struggles, failing or failed states, malign influence, destabilizing activities, cyber-based threats and growing arsenals of sophisticated conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, all combined to imperil enduring U.S. vital and national interests.

With this as a feel-good backdrop, CENTCOM’s mission is to direct and enable military operations and activities with allies and partners to increase regional security and stability in support of those U.S. national interests. U.S. CENTCOM, through its service components—one of them to the left of me—their actions and activities across the AOR run the spectrum from cooperation and collaboration to competition and conflict in accordance with Gen. McKenzie’s five priorities. Three are strategic, and two are functional. Priority one: deterring Iran—job No. 1 for us. No. 2 is disrupting and degrading violent extremist organizations. We focus specifically on Al Qaeda and ISIS as it metastasizes across the region. And then competing successfully with China and Russia to maintain primacy and stabilizing the enduring partner of choice in the region. And there’s a lot of competition in that part of the world.

Our other two focus areas are functional in nature. The first one is countering the growing threat posed by unmanned systems, where the offense favors the defense, as you know, and supporting whole of government international efforts to address refugees and displaced persons and counter the weaponization or exploitation of those refugees, creating a crisis in the future. ISIS 3.0 or 4.0 into the future. Today as we wrestle with enduring challenges as well as some current events: ISIS in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan, the civil war that rages in Yemen, Iran and their proxies and the malign activities that they conduct, and the dangerous resonant among those refugees and displaced persons in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. It is clear that our approach to these problems must be collaborative, involving not just the U.S. military but the whole of government and our partners and allies and international frameworks with regional and other like-minded nations working toward common ends, common interests.

For us, this involves purpose-built organizations, such as CGATFOIR, the NATO mission in Iraq, UNIFIL, IMSC or Sentinel, and CMF. But it also recognizes emergent collaborations, such as those that made the Afghan NEO possible last summer. So to close, and as I look at this changing region, I see both risk and opportunity. As the president’s interim National Security Strategy guidance directs us, we must work with those regional partners to deter Iranian aggression and threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity, disrupt al Qaeda and ISIS-K and other related terrorist networks, and prevent an ISIS resurgence, address humanitarian crises, and redouble our efforts to resolve the complex armed conflicts that continually threaten our region.

Our challenge then, and our responsibility is to adopt the correct posture and build those partnerships in order to mitigate risks, leverage opportunities in support of our national interest and, as always, should deterrence fail, be prepared to decisively prevail in combat. As Gen. McKenzie made clear across all priorities, maintaining readiness to decisively defeat Iran remains our primary war-fighting focus and the principle means by which we achieve credible deterrence. Avoiding conflict by demonstrating both the capability and the will to wage it relentlessly remains our key line of effort. How we optimize our posture, activities and operations—ranging from Phase 0 gray zone type of operations through major theater war—is the topic I believe of this panel. So I thank you for letting me introduce this, and I look forward to your questions when we’re done.

Raaberg: Thank you, DeCom. Gen. Guillot, your perspective from a CPAC position.

Guillot: Thanks, first of all, Gen. Raaberg, for the opportunity to be here and AFA inviting this panel. I think from the air perspective, the most evolving threat in the region is Iran’s increased capability in terms of number of weapons, quality of the weapons and accuracy of the weapons. And when I say ‘weapons,’ I mean ballistic missiles, UAVs and also land-attack cruise missiles. And not only the fact that they have more and better systems, but they’ve shown the willingness to use them, whether directly by their state or through their proxies. You know, every single day in the AFCENT AOR, there are attacks by either Iran or the proxies from Yemen, Iraq and Syria on U.S. and coalition forces or Saudi Arabia, UAE or Israel. And more and more frequently, those attacks have been complex, where they’ll have multiple types, two or three of those types of weapons at the same time, in a coordinated manner.

So what the air component can do to help Gen. McKenzie address this, I think, I look at in three areas. One is we certainly help deter, and the deterrence there is on state-on-state action, keeping Iran from doing something at the state level. The second is assuring our partners of the U.S.’s commitment to the region, to peace and stability in the Middle East. And we show that through, not only our combat actions, but also by performing defensive postures with the partner nations’ exercises. And something that we’ve seen recently, perhaps in the news, when Gen. Cotton sends B-52s or B-1s on Bomber Task Force missions. We’ve had up to 10 different countries escort those bombers through the region to show the regional adversaries that they’re committed to the U.S. and vice versa.

And the third way that we can help is due to the airpowers’ speed, precision and lethality, we can respond to those threats where and when needed. And, you know, that happens all the time based on what I said previously about the number of attacks that we’re seeing in the region.

Raaberg: Thank you. Col. Mastalir, little shift, but your views but really more through the lens of a real changing Space Force role in Central Command.

Col. Anthony J. Mastalir, commander, U.S. Space Forces Central: Well, thank you, sir. And really, thank you to AFA. It is great to be back here. Flew in from Doha, and I’m just so thrilled to see my family, right? Despite wearing blue threads, spice-brown threads, we’re all one family. We grew up together. We fought together. And it’s great to be back with the AFA.

Yeah, it’s an exciting time. I was sitting in my office at Al Udeid just last week, kind of thinking through some of the comments for this. And I looked up at my wall, where I have, there’s a large piece of felt in my office with the name tabs of all of the DIRSPACEFORs that have walked through the CAOC. First, when it was at PSAB and now of course at Al Udeid. And it struck me that, you know, in your opening comment, you talked about 30 years of continuous combat and, certainly, if you look at Desert Storm, I think the impact GPS had on the land maneuver was significant. And then again, after 9/11, when the very first DIRSPACEFOR reported to the Middle East. In fact, I talked with him—retired Maj. Gen. Dick Webber—talked with him about a month ago, reminiscing of those first days with then-Lt. Gen. Buzz Moseley and how they were kind of laying out the blueprint for how space was going to integrate into combat operations.

That blueprint has persisted, I would say has evolved, has gotten better over the years—over the better part of two decades of having directors of space forces in the air component. In a lot of ways, it’s been a symbiotic relationship between then-space professionals—Airmen—space professionals learning, honing their joint war-fighting skills here and in the desert. At the same time, the joint war fighters learning more about the combat effects that space capabilities can bring to bear and how to better integrate that. So we’ve kind of grown up together over the last two and a half decades.

But looking forward … we’re kind of on the precipice of something new with the stand up of the U.S. Space Force. It’s time to look at how we present space forces to combatant commanders. And that’s what we’ve been busy with—Gen. Guillot’s leadership, Gen. McKenzie’s leadership, Adm. Malloy, looking at exactly what that means. And for a new service, I think that probably looks like a service component. That’s what services do. That’s how they present forces to combatant commanders. So that’s what we’re building toward and putting the building blocks in place. So … the future is exciting in CENTCOM, not just because of our history, and the close relationships we have, but because over those years, we have matured the processes of air and space integration, and really space integration now across all the components. So a lot of work ahead of us. But it’s been, it’s been really wonderful.

Raaberg: You’re at the leading edge and change. Thank you. You know, Adm. Malloy, I’m going to take it to more of the strategic level, especially with the Unified Command plan change that brought Israel into your AOR. So really, what do you and the commander—Gen. McKenzie—see as the primary operational imperative to assure success regarding both your regional commitments but also security?

Malloy: That’s a great one. In Sept. 1, Israel went from EUCOM to CENTCOM in the AOR. And we have seen that—and I’ll be honest with you—two years ago, if given the vote, I would have voted that’s not the right place for Israel to be. So that’s how short-sighted I’ve been. Abraham Accords was a game-changer for that in a lot of ways. We have been operating with Israel in the J3 realm, A3 realm, for a long period of time. And so it has been a relationship that we built that we’ve just reinforced with the official change.

A couple of things that make it an opportunity: One, there is a shared perception of where the threat is coming from. The regionals, the established partners in the region, see the threat much the same way that Israel sees the threat. They both look eastward toward that threat. So that’s issue No. 1. Issue No. 2 is there is a—at the operational level—a recognition that there is a capability there that the new partner has significant capability, technical expertise, operational experience, that come to the show. And then the third thing—and I’ll have to thank Gen. Guillot for this—the third thing is that we have been able to show them in key elements of combat, what integration looks like in terms of improved capability. In two realms specifically, one is integrated air and missile defense. And the recognition of ‘This is what we look like, not partner. And this is what we look like partner,’ in terms of a layer defense surveillance that can come in. Gen. Guillot convened a grouping outside of the area, to have that discussion with heads of Air Force, and the first to do it.

And basically, this is what this looks like in a recognition of ‘this is the value-added.’ If your job, Air Commander, is to defend your country. This is the added value of that—without sacrificing sovereignty, because everybody defends their own space—this is what it looks like as you layer this out and link it up. So people see that in the air and missile defense realm. The other place that they see it is in the maritime. And because there is something called ‘international water’—there’s no such thing as ‘international land’—it’s somebody’s land—but in international water, like-minded countries can meet and organize. And in this way, free flow of commerce between Europe and Asia, and out of the Middle East with energy, is key to the global economy.

And everyone sees that, recognizes that and wants to make sure that that is maintained. There’s common ground there for people to operate in. They saw what happened when the Suez Canal was blocked up for several days and the loss of millions upon millions of dollars just because they blocked that. So they recognize that the choke points in our region, the three of them—the Strait of Hormuz, the Bab Al-Mandeb and the Suez Canal—maintaining that is critical. So between the air component and the naval component, they have moved this forward in an operationally pragmatic way. And we see that as all value-added.

Raaberg: Sir, I’m going to bounce off that point right there—the integration piece—and go to you, Gen. Guillot, because this is important. Specifically, what approach is AFCENT taking, especially to achieve joint distributed ops? And perhaps maybe there might be an example on the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.

Malloy: Sorry. Us bragging on you.

Lt. Gen. Gregory M. Guillot, Commander, 9th Air Force: Yeah, thanks.

Raaberg: Not a tough one, sir.

Guillot: So the distributed ops, in AFCENT began about two and a half years ago. And that was when Gen. McKenzie and my predecessor, Gus—Lt. Gen. Guastella—determined that they should move AFCENT’s command and control capability both at the tactical and at the operational level, back to CONUS, to improve survivability against the threat that I mentioned in my opening comments. Since then, we’ve moved a long way there.

So with the tactical C2—which is the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron called Kingpin, if you recall that—they moved fairly quickly from Al Dhafra back to Shaw Air Force Base. And in May of ‘21—so almost a year ago—since then, they’ve been operational, controlling all of the ground-based tactical-level C2 in AOR from Shaw. Interestingly, they’re in the ARCENT building—Army Central Command building—which is a good demonstration of teamwork and jointness. And just as another note, that building number is building 1947 on Shaw Air Force Base. And so we let them know that we remember. But they’re great partners, and that’s where Kingpin controls the ground part. So the distributed part of that is the airborne TACC2s is still from the AWACS in the theater. So it gives us some survivability and resiliency in place.

The operational level, which is the CAOC, is taking a little bit longer because it has to be more deliberate, a lot more moving parts, especially with the number of countries that we have involved in the CAOC and the systems that it entails. But right now, we have about one-third of our CAOC capability is at Shaw, and two-thirds is that Al Udeid. And then, over the next couple of years, I’d expect those ratios to swap where we have about one-third forward and two-thirds of the capability back at Shaw. And there will always be a presence in the Middle East. But when we have that fully distributed capability, we can go 24-hour ops from either location, or from a number of other locations.

And the last thing, Gen. Raaberg, that I think we’ve seen as a benefit that I didn’t expect going in is access. And not necessarily access to different countries, but access to talent and individuals that we weren’t able to get into the CAOC because of the, you know, the manning premium that all of the air forces feel; it’s really hard to send somebody forward. But now that we’re distributed, they can very easily join us in our battle rhythm by VTC. And we have access to more experts from the U.S. and other countries on a routine basis through VTC in normal battle rhythm meetings than we would have if we were at one location anywhere. And so we’re seeing a lot of benefits to the distributed ops in addition to the survivability that we were seeking at the beginning.

Raaberg: Fantastic. I’m going to keep bouncing to you, Col. Mastalir. So what is distributed ops look like now from a Guardian’s perspective, especially in, through and from space?

Mastalir: Yeah, so, to a Guardian, distributed ops is standard ops, right? So it’s kind of in our DNA. When you think about one of the first things you learn if you’re doing satellite command and control is what information do you need to have available to you to operate a satellite that’s 22,300 miles away? And being able to ensure that you have those data feeds, being able to ensure that you have the access to that information when you need it and over the years kind of evolving to today, which is trying to understand, alright, what are the threats in that space domain that we need to be aware of, and how do we kind of manage that, again, from a very distributed perspective?

One of my first missions as a lieutenant was out in Sunnyvale, California, when we were flying the inertial upper stage for a NASA payload. So, long story short, you had an ops center in Massachusetts, you had the ops center in Sunnyvale, California, it was on a space shuttle mission, so you had Kennedy and then you had Houston. And getting all of those operational centers to integrated crew exercises, rock drills, understanding how that all goes together, and that was, you know, 25 years ago.

So we have a little bit of history when it comes to distributed ops, and I think we are also an enabler for distributed ops. I think what allows, you know, Gen. Guillot, for example, to do what he needs to do from Shaw is enabled by a lot of space assets and space technologies that we provide every day that Guardians provide from CONUS base locations, you know, around the globe. So we’re real fond of distributed ops.

Raaberg: Now that’s great. Adm. Malloy, former 5th Fleet commander, obviously, combined force maritime component commander as well, let me put your Airman and your Guardian hat on as the DeCom. How do you and the commander actually see vertical integration of air and space in the AOR?

Malloy: Chachi stole my talking points, but he wrote them, so I guess he can steal them? Um, yeah. In our region, I think that, you know, if you get a PACOM group up here, they’re going to say differently, if you get a EUCOM—well, they’re not going to be here today—but if they were here, they’d say it’s different. Our region is unique. It’s pretty much the only place I’ve ever, you know, put my hat so I can speak to this. We have always operated as an economy of force theater—austere locations, long distances between, and so access and basing has always been at a premium. As Chachi said, you know, the … only way we operate in that theater is with an integration of space. Utilizing space for communications for ISR, for command and control, as a naval officer, I’ve never sailed over there without leaning on that very strongly.

So with the advent of the new badge, there does not change the key enabler that space has been; what it does is it optimizes it. It creates an organization that has man-to-man coverage on that and doesn’t lose the tactical eye toward the war-fighting requirements. And so and Chachi talked about the component commander, we in the Navy have actually elevated information warfare up to a warfare level at the strike group level for much the same reason. And so the idea of a component—a space component, space for CENT—makes absolute sense for us as we’re sitting around the table, determining our way forward, having that voice with those equities, linked either as supported or supporting commander, depending on what the mission set is. And able to change hats quickly, like they do has been very beneficial. And I think it will be moving forward.

Raaberg: That’s fantastic. So, Gen. Guillot, what’s the air picture look like now in the AOR, you know, especially with ‘other actors’ and especially in the region itself?

Guillot: Well, it’s extremely complex. And I know, probably many, if not all, the people in the audience have been over there at time. And so you work just as hard now, as you did then, or you work just as hard then as they are working now. But the complexity is at a higher level than I’ve ever seen before. And that’s because if you look at Syria, and if you considered AFCENT and Air Force—which of course it’s multiple Air Force’s and Navy’s and Marine Corps’ aviation in one—but if you considered that one air force, it would be one of seven air forces that are flying day to day with combat aircraft in Syria. And only one set follows CFACC SPINS, and so it’s highly complex. And the way that our aircrew respond to each of those other air forces with the ROE is different for each one. So the level of complexity is very high in the airspaces over there.

Over the last, you know, I’d say a year, year and a half, we’ve really seen a dramatic rise in the number of UASs—enemy UASs—that are flying all across the region. And so in my other hat from the CFACC hat, also the area air defense commander—AADC hat—we built a layered network that goes from, you know, the ground commander up through the fighter and electronic attack aircraft in the air to try to address this threat that’s changing and growing very frequently. And we have a variety of systems that are stitched together and with kinetic and nonkinetic capabilities to knock these aircraft out of the air before they crash into our bases and do harm, which is the intent of the enemy there. We’ve gotten pretty good at it. We’ve improved quite a bit. And through all of those ground systems and fighter aircraft, and everything in between, we’ve gotten pretty good at knocking down these shooting down these aircraft. But I will say that the enemy has also gotten really good, and they’re advancing and adapting very quickly.

The last thing I’ll say about the way the airspace looks over there now, as opposed to it did maybe even a short period of time ago, is the level of partnership that we have with the partner nations over there and the coalition. Almost every sortie or mission that we fly is with a partner and, in the past, it was a lot of exercise. But now we’re seeing a lot more not just bilateral, but multilateral, participation by air forces in the region, which is new to that region. And we’re seeing it not only with exercises but in combat and in defensive patrols against that threat, which is really a unifying capability. Adm. Malloy kind of referred to that earlier, some of the meetings that I’ve had, and we have a group of air chiefs that you never thought would be in the same room at the same time and they said, ‘We all wear American flight suits, we fly American aircraft, and we’re going against the same threat, so we need to work together.’ And so we’ve gotten out of—to handle that complex situation that I opened with—we’ve gotten out of bilateral arrangements, and we have a lot more multilateral now.

Raaberg: Col. Mastalir, so I’m going to carry through with that, because very interested in terms of the allied and partner investment, you know, in the space domain, especially for this AOR.

Mastalir: Yeah, so the, you know, when the Space Force was established, actually, that created a very interesting demand signal from a lot of our partner nations in the AOR to kind of better understand what is the U.S. doing? What is the United States Space Force, and why do you need it, and what is the purpose and whatnot? So that’s kind of been, you know, an entry point to some of these discussions, and then what comes is full spectrum, right? So some of our partners are well invested in the space domain, and they’re looking at sharing information with an eye toward interoperability. Some of them are interested, you know, from an organizational perspective. How do you build this? How do you integrate the Space Force into the Air Force? How do we merge those? And how did you do it, and what worked well, and what didn’t work well?

And then some are interested in just very niche discussions. I had a very interesting discussion with one not too long ago about resiliency, and how do we achieve resiliency on orbit and with our space systems? So a lot of interest that varies across the spectrum in terms of where they are with their own programs and what they’re interested in and what their needs are. As far as the allies are concerned, our allies have never been stronger. You know, the C in CAOC is a capital C for ‘combined.’ And … I had for the last six months, for example, I had a U.K. wing commander leading operations for, you know, for the DIRSPACEFOR staff. So our allies are as close as they’ve ever been with us in the space domain.

Raaberg: Thank you. So this is gonna be a double round. Both you, Adm. Malloy and Gen. Guillot, because this is important. So you two have been together in your respective seats and led through incredible changes, especially in this AOR. And given what’s happening today, I think this question is even more relevant. Especially as you all have been together for the last year and a half. You know, what do you believe will be the next strategic surprise you must be prepared for? And then, the follow-up question will be, how does that change or not change the strategy you’ve put in motion through? Gen. McKenzie? Sir?”

Malloy: And he’ll have a smarter answer, so I’ll give him most of my time. But I want to leverage a little bit off of what Gen. Guillot said and Chachi as well, the game-changers that have occurred in the last 10 years or so—and there are several—on the bad side, you know, there has been a growing complexity of the threat both in the promulgation of advanced conventional weapons: UAS, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles. And they’re not only by Iran but also those that they arm with those weapons. And so the level of sophistication, as Gen. Guillot said, we’re seeing complex attacks by people we haven’t seen attacks by before. And in that way, cruise missiles combined with multi-axis UAS designed to hit air defense systems at the same time, that they’re going in different directions. So we’re seeing this threat metastasize in the region, and no sign of that abating.

We are also seeing the increased attention that is being given to this region by global competitors—China and Russia. Both are utilizing different levels of the dime, if you will, to compete with the United States for influence access, to try and displace us as a partner of choice with quick draw, foreign military sales, very transactional sorts of relationships. And that’s on the opposite side. On our side, as Gen. Guillot said, we are seeing much more capable regional partners, both at sea and in air, I think that you would agree. And, you know, in the old days, there will be an exercise, and we would water it down and you’d get a plaque and ‘best ever’ and that kind of thing. And it didn’t meet the requirement, and it certainly wasn’t a burden-sharing environment. And our current guidance is clear, you know, we are going to be focusing on another region.

So how do we squeeze optimization out of this region? Our partners are stepping up to lead and to operate with us at the level that they can, investing in the things that interoperate with us, you know, the CAOC is like the Tower of Babel, and so is CMF, and NAVCENT. And, you know, that has benefits far beyond the fact that they’re reading SPINS. It’s established relationships over generations of time that they’re used to operating with us, the leaders know our leaders from exchanging. So we have that going for us. And then the other side of that, like we said, is that we’re much more linked than we were before. So that makes us resilient to that game-changing threat that you talked about. I yield the remainder of my time to …

Raaberg: Gen. Guillot, we’re down to two minutes. So fire away, sir.

Malloy: Sorry. I’m Irish.

Guillot: Sir. Well, I agree with everything Adm. Malloy said at the strategic level, so I’ll just … how about I just tell you a little bit of how I see it at the operational and the tactical level, from the Airman’s perspective, how the next strategic challenge might manifest itself? And day in, day out, what I really worry about is how we might be pulled into conflict because of one of two ways: One would be just a miscalculation. I mentioned that we’re beak-to-beak with aircraft from six other air forces every day, and one does something wrong, and then we go from a normal day into a strategic-level crisis. And that can happen on the sea, that can certainly happen with indirect fire into one of our bases, and certainly it happens in the air. And it can happen in space and does happen to some degree in space.

But the other concern I have is the fact that if general is C2 and the ability to C2, and I have absolutely no question about ours. Gen. McKenzie could say, ‘Don’t fly here,’ and, within minutes, our aircraft—everybody—will know not to. But I don’t have that same confidence in our adversaries. Whether it’s rogue activity where they just don’t believe what their superiors are telling them to do, and they do something different and we see that. Or they just don’t get the message and they operate the way they think they should, and it’s not the way that their senior leadership wants them to. That’s the type of situation that I fear could take us from what should be a normal day that we can handle through our, you know, normal practices and take us into conflict. And I have no doubt that the first responders will be the air component because of our capability, our lethality, our precision and our speed to respond. And so my job is to make sure that we have everybody ready to respond there, not just what we do day to day in OIR, but we can respond to these variety of challenges.

Raaberg: Well, Admiral, General, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna apply combat rules when it comes to protocol. Can we let the colonel end on the high ground with a final remark about perspective from space?

Mastalir: Sure. Well, I can tell you … this is an exciting time, not because we’re beginning to stand up on our own, really, it’s because the investment that the Space Force is making in all the combatant commands—in particular in CENTCOM. It’s actually going to drive integration to a new level with the air component where it’s been very, very good for years. We’ll continue to grow. We’re going to continue to operate out of the CAOC—C2 air forces out of the CAOC. We’re going to continue to take that blueprint that we have developed and now export it across all of the components. And that’s really what Gen. McKenzie’s vision is in terms of … the impact he wants us to have within CENTCOM. It’s a great place to do it with great leaders, mature processes, and we’re just really excited to be here, so Semper Supra.

Raaberg: Excellent. Admiral? Seriously, on behalf of our entire audience, your entire team has traveled either from far or near, but thank you for making the effort to be with us. It’s been a privilege. Everyone? This is a conclusion of this panel. The next three sessions begin at 3:50. You can check out our programs for the details. Let’s give our panelists a big warm welcome. Thank you.