A Work in Progress
The veil is now (partially) lifted on AirSea Battle, but it's still a work in progress.
Nov. 16, 2011—Pentagon officials updated reporters last week on the Air Force-Navy AirSea Battle concept and discussed, for the first time, the office they established in August to oversee this initiative.
The office, staffed by USAF, Marine Corps, and Navy personnel, is focused on improving ASB and implementing its designs, they said.
AirSea Battle had its genesis several years ago when Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tasked the Air Force and Navy to work together more closely and retool their forces so that the US military would be able to function effectively in anti-access and denied environments. The concept, along with the office, is expected to be a big player in retooling a US military built to fight counterinsurgency wars over the last 10 years to operate in more advanced threat environments in the future.
The Air Force Chief of Staff and Chief of Naval Operations approved the ASB plan months ago, but the Office of the Secretary of Defense has held up its progress since summer time, reportedly over policy concerns relating to perceptions emanating from mainland China (see ASB's Turbulent Year from Air Force Magazine's October issue.)
To the extent that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has signed off on the concept, one of the DOD officials said Panetta has "acknowledged it as credible work and . . . has 'green-lighted' the implementation of the concept."
An Office of the Secretary of Defense official offered more clarity, telling the Daily Report that Panetta has "reviewed and concurred with the ongoing development" of the ASB concept.
The defense officials at last week's briefing indicated that ASB—as a concept—still is very much in development. The office's role, as one official put it, is broken down into three parts.
Firstly, the office, as a multi-service organization, aims to facilitate the "interservice and interagency coordination during the development, maturation, and implementation of the concept," according to the official.
Secondly, the office will supervise the implementation of manning, training, and equipping of "integrated air and naval forces," said the official. This means that the office will have a voice in activities ranging from procurement to joint exercises.
Thirdly, the office will oversee the concept's execution "over time," according to the official.
The DOD officials continued to walk a very tight rhetorical tightrope as to the purposes behind ASB. For example, they never mentioned China during their briefing.
"Anti access/area denial is about systems. It's about technologies and capabilities. It's not about a specific actor," said one of the officials. "It is not about a specific regime. It's about our ability to confront those systems and overcome them no matter where they are or how they're presented."
The officials were quick to note they are equally concerned about technology proliferating to regional powers and non-state actors who have designs against US interests.
That said, they conceded that "state actors with well-funded militaries" possess the most advanced kinds of anti-access capabilities, such as precision weapons, electronic and cyber warfare tools, cruise missiles, advanced integrated air defense systems, modern combat aircraft, and ballistic missile technology.
Independent analysts note that China's rapidly modernizing and well-funded military is pushing forward with developing systems and tools in all of these areas.
Most importantly with ASB, the defense officials said, is the desire to help retool the US military towards advanced threats.
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