WASHINGTON (AFNS) – September 16, 2015 — In a conference room filled with international air forces, three Airmen led a discussion on solutions to meeting global air needs in a time of austerity during the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition, Sept. 15.
Heidi Grant, the Air Force International Affairs deputy under secretary; Gen. Frank Gorenc, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander; and Gen. Lori Robinson, the Pacific Air Forces commander, took turns presenting their thoughts to the audience.
Grant opened the discussion with a look at some of the global challenges currently facing air components. Shrinking budgets, natural disasters, asymmetric threats, insurgency and aggressive nations were among the challenges mentioned. She went on to say that demand is stretching the U.S. Air Force to capacity and current global demand cannot be carried by the U.S. alone.
“The global challenges that we face today require even stronger global partnerships,” Grant said. “The only way we can successfully take on daunting challenges is through building upon these global partnerships.”
She applauded strong, long-standing, successful partnerships with the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, but pointed out partnerships should not be overlooked with countries once thought of as adversaries, giving special recognition to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, which she recognized as one of the U.S. Air Force’s strongest partnerships and friends.
Grant stressed that the time to develop stronger relationships is now, and urged leaders not to wait for the next global disaster to develop plans, deepen relationships or exercise jointly.
“Delivering global power, global vigilance and global reach requires global partnerships,” Grant said.
Grant noted Airmen are embracing international relations and encouraged Airmen at every level to continue growing their cultural awareness.
“People are the driving force behind international partnerships and all Airmen should embrace a commitment to security cooperation,” she said.
Grant suggested focused areas for growth and partnership should be intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, mobility, and command and control. Gorenc is already working on these areas in Europe and in Africa.
“You can’t surge trust and you can’t surge relationships,” said the USAFE commander echoing Grant’s call for Airmen to develop meaningful partnerships before coordination is required. “This is work that has to be done in a very steady and methodical way to make sure if and when something happens that requires the bringing together of a coalition or alliance, or the combination of both, we’re interoperable and we’re able to accomplish the mission in a very swift way.”
Robinson expressed concern for the future of the Pacific theater operating continually at a high operations tempo with a reduced staff and a reduced budget. She cited a cancelled joint exercise in 2013 that resulted in a partner country’s air chief calling into question the U.S. commitment, stating they needed the U.S. to remain good partners.
Continuing resolution weighs heavily on the component major command, with a responsibility for more than 52 percent of the globe. Robinson expressed thanks to other Pacific theater international air chiefs, who she credits with truly ensuring stability in the region.
“We engage very easily in small groups with our international partners,” Robinson said. “As I look to the future, I wonder, ‘Can I keep up this same engagement?’ I worry about what happens in an austere environment. Without stability, the region would be at risk.”
The panel encouraged continued cultural growth by the U.S., financial investment from partnering nations, and proactive, consistent planning by all nations with an interest in global stability.