This is my first appearance as Chief of Staff of the Air Force on such an occasion. I feel a brief and generalized report on the role of the Air Force, as I see it, is appropriate. In doing so, I will outline the threat to the United States and its effect on the Air Force structure.
It will not come to you as a revelation that all military forces are costly and growing more so each year. The increases are due in part to the same circumstances that have acted to increase the expenses of corporations, families, and individuals everywhere. The essentials—in our case, materiel, equipment, and talent—cost more. But in the main the continued rise is tied to greater responsibilities that center on the Air Force. The challenge to the Air Force is greater. The Soviet competition is tougher.
With the advent of nuclear weapons, and their marriage to the air weapon system, the United States and our allies have developed the principle of deterrence. Defense of the Free World by deterrence is based on the concept of maintaining indigenous forces, supplemented as necessary by small United States forces. These forces must have sufficient strength to maintain internal security and resist overt aggression until Free World power can be brought to bear. A large proportion of this Free World power would be airpower.
It is a fact of life in the atomic age that nuclear methods of warfare have become conventional.
To put teeth into this concept the United States and its allies have built an effective deterrent force with airpower as its dominant element. This force is recognized as a first priority force. However, the maintenance of such a force does not automatically result from this recognition, even in the face of new and ever great enemy capabilities. In fact, together with the deterrent force, the US and some of our allies continue to maintain forces designed to counter threats of an historical nature. When resources are critical, forces must be tailored, with survival forces, in whatever service, holding their priority at the cost of other forces. These other forces must continue to exist, but on an austere basis, tailored to their contribution to the survival force.
We have had to face the fact that the perfect air defense system is in the realm of theory; that no air defense in being or presently possible can completely stop a determined nuclear attack. We have faced this fact and are building as effective an air defense as we can afford without running into the law of diminishing returns. We are striving for improved early warning to minimize delay in launching the retaliatory force, as well as to permit more timely civil defense action. We want active defense to complicate the attacker’s problem, slow him down, weaken his effort, and disrupt his offensive campaign. Above all, the defense system must permit engagement of enemy bombers as long before they reach our cities as possible.
The Tactical Air Command, with its ever growing atomic capability and increased mobility achieved through the use of in-flight refueling, is a potent force. As Army atomic weaponry develops, it logically reduces the close air support function of tactical air forces.
I think it is logical that we recognize the military potential and good faith of our allies and plan accordingly. Since no fourth power presently possesses an atomic capability, reliance on our allies should be principally in non-atomic areas. We must assess this capability and use a realistic evaluation of it to reassess the essential forces which the US must maintain to complement strength of our allies. US duplication of allied strengths will not advance the collective security.
Tactical airlift forces have also been critically examined in the light of the nuclear age. As other forces are curtailed to meet the demands of the survival force, so must tactical airlift forces be curtailed.
As one examines the threat today to US security, one immediately senses the impact of that threat on the US Air Force. We know our task and we have faced up to it in the light of today’s realities and tomorrow’s expectations.
The other services have had some rigorous self-examination to do and face still more in the future, just as we do.
The direction this adjustment should take is clear.
This process of examination, evaluation, and resulting action to tailor the military establishment to the needs of the present and the future is not easy. It is a continuing process which once accomplished requires constant redoing, for change is rapid and constant. There are many problems, some at the surface and current, some buried in the future. I will mention but a few, both specific and symptomatic.
These and many other problems must be resolved without compromise with two fundamental principles. First, the need to serve present security requirements while simultaneously developing an adequate force for the future. And second, the need to meet enormous and competitive costs within a budget that will not strain the nation’s economy. In working for solution of the many problems incident to national security, the Air Force will continue to state minimum force requirements as we see them. This process in itself will bring us face to face with other difficult and disagreeable problems which we will not shun.
In this endeavor the Air Force needs, above all else, true understanding of airpower. Public understanding of the harsh realities before this nation is essential. Through your future efforts, as in the past, this understanding can be bettered.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag