Wilson: “Air Force We Need” is Start of New Dialog

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson outlined USAF's vision for "The Air Force We Need" in a Sept. 17 keynote at AFA's Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

“The Air Force We Need” vision for a 386-squadron force outlined by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein at ASC18 is the product of six months of study within “the Air Staff and subject-matter experts.” But that vision is only “the beginning of the discussion” about what it will take to meet the National Defense Strategy’s requirements.

Goldfein said he heard “loud and clear” during his confirmation hearings in 2016 that Congress wants to be consulted on major issues early, not presented a finished, “perfect plan” for approval. “This is the beginning of a dialog,” Goldfein said.

Wilson distributed mugs to reporters with “386” printed on the side, and acknowledged that the 386 figure includes units that could be carved out should Congress decided to fund a separate “Space Force” in the future. She said the study did not specify numbers of aircraft or “tails,” and that “five or six more studies due in the next six months” will help fill in those kinds of details.

There was “a lot of simulation and analysis” to define the squadron-level requirements; how those squadrons will be made up is still to come, but the Air Force didn’t want to “wait until March” to get the conversation started, she said.

The new force structure plan is so formative, in fact, it will not be reflected in the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) 2020, on which the 2020 budget will be based. This is “longer term,” Wilson said. It is, however, “having a significant impact on our Air Force, and it will really affect our planning and force development over the next several years.”