Friday, November 18, 2011

2011 Global Warfare Symposium Wrap-Up

AFA has relocated to the west coast this week as we gathered in Los Angeles, CA to bring together AFA members, industry partners, Air Force Councils and all attendees for two days of discussing global warfare--from space and cyber priorities to ISR and AirSea Battle. While the tone was a somber one, admittedly looking towards the upcoming budget cuts without any delusion of what they will mean for our Force, speakers looked forward with hope.

Wednesday and Thursday began with the Enlisted, Air National Guard, Reserve, and Company Grade Officers Councils taking part in meetings. These councils gather at AFA Symposiums to tackle unpopular issues, fully cognizant of the importance of saving money while protecting the interest of Air Force families. Flight pay, separation pay, educational benefits and more were fleshed out to write persuasive position papers and reports in the coming months.

The actual Symposium sessions began with a welcome from AFA's Chairman of the Board Sandy Schlitt, followed by a presentation by General William Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command, entitled “The Foundational Role Space and Cyber Play in our Nation's Defense.” General Shelton discussed "launch business," encouraging competition to help drive down increasing costs while managing risk. Take Away: The Air Force has an unparalleled track record for launches, which should not change. What should change is buying practices, perhaps with bulk orders, which will improve predictability and provide parts in a larger quantity. We will rely on industry to help define different architectures while recognizing that resilient systems will offer cross mission/domain alternatives with cost efficiency. Serious about stretching every dollar, Gen Shelton advises all commanders to be cost conscious and to understand that "there won't be additional money" in the future. He recognized that this is not an upbeat topic, but one that we need to hear, with faith that the Force will be very capable.

This year, the Global Warfare Symposium included several breakout sessions, including one addressing the Challenges to the American Way of War with Dr. Alan Vick of RAND Corp. Using the definition of American Was as rapid deployment, rear area sanctuaries for US Forces, and closely monitoring enemy activities, he suggests that the anti-access threat will be disruptive to American military dominance and hinder our ability to project power with potentially serious consequences. Citing prior "disruptive innovations" such as the telephone replacing the telegraph, something like the conventional ballistic missile could become dangerous in the hands of an enemy with the technology to displace ours.

Later in that day, Maj Gen Suzanne Vautrinot advocated for "full spectrum operations" in the cyber domain in her talk on Cyber Operations: Maximizing the Return on Investment. Cyber attack in the military is a serious attack, so there is a need every day for us to be on offense, defense, and exploitation. Orders in cyber are the same as in other domains, with cyber being inherently Joint in air, space, land and sea. "Cyber" must become a part of the solution, as much as a part of the mission, because "we have to fly the network every single day."

Lt Gen Ellen Pawlikowski then moderated a panel of industry professionals, “Looking to the Future: What Should We Be Doing in the 21st Century.” George Whitesides of Virgin Galactic spoke of space changing drastically in the next five years, most markedly with opening space to anyone willing to pay $200,000 for a flight. Kay Sears of Intelsat General followed with strides the commercial industry can take to help prepare for future fights in space. She urged that the industry should not be seen as a threat, but as an ally in resiliency to defend against hostile attacks and adverse conditions. Elon Musk of SpaceX looked to take us back to the moon and beyond, bringing more launches and working to create sustainable space shuttles which will be reusable. Lt Gen Michael Hammel, USAF (Ret) from Orbital Sciences Corp., also brought up the corporate responsibility with opportunities for government to leverage what's in the private sector, warning that we must change the architecture and buying practices to meet demands.

The day concluded with a viewing of Jay Lavender's film Wounded Warriors' Resilience, which we mentioned here in October. It's a powerful 20-minute video showcasing the resilience of our service members across branches. Definitely a strong end to the first day of the symposium!

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