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Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
/ Published March 07, 2023
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall delivers his keynote speech “One Team, One Fight” during the Air and Space Forces Association 2023 Warfare Symposium in Aurora, Colo., March 7, 2023. Kendall emphasized the need to modernize and reshape the Air Force and Space Force to confront China and other emerging powers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Eric Dietrich)
Reporting progress but conceding that “hard choices” remain, Department of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall offered a report card March 7 during a major address at the 2023 Air and Space Forces Association Warfare Symposium, emphasizing the need to modernize and reshape the Air Force and Space Force to confront China and other emerging powers.
While important to maintain – and sustain – current forces and capabilities, Kendall was blunt about what is needed to ensure the long-term security of the United States and its allies and to protect shared interests. He also was clear in what the Air Force and Space Force must do and why.
“We are united in our commitment to modernizing the Air and Space Forces and in achieving the transformation we must have to be competitive with our pacing challenge – China, China, China,” Kendall said at the top of his 24-minute address.
In evaluating choices and making decisions, “we have no choice but to prioritize the Air and Space Forces we must have to remain dominant in the future,” he told an audience of Airmen and Guardians, industry officials and senior government officials.
“The operational risks we have against our pacing challenge are increasing over time. Emphasizing the current force over the force of the future is a road to operational failure. The good news is that we are maintaining our current force at adequate levels of readiness. We are also continuing to divest older and less capable or relevant platforms as we increase mid-term capacity by acquiring aircraft currently in production at higher rates than previously planned. In general, our previously initiated programs are continuing as intended,” Kendall said.
But Kendall also said the department is not standing still, disclosing that in the budget proposal for fiscal year 2024, which is scheduled to be released next week, will include “close to 20 new efforts.”
Indeed, while Kendall’s remarks and those delivered by other senior Air Force leaders at the AFA’s semi-annual conference are always closely scrutinized, their comments this year carried additional weight because they came one week before the budget proposal for fiscal 2024 is scheduled for release. The budget, like the AFA remarks, give clues for the priorities and focus for the coming year.
“Unfortunately, we’re still a few days from releasing the budget, so I can’t be specific, but I can give you a general sense of what we’ve been able to include,” Kendall said, noting that, as before, the budget is broadly crafted to fulfill objectives outlined in his seven “Operational Imperatives.”
“In our posture statement and hearings last year, we told the Congress that hard choices lay ahead. We were right. We also told Congress that the DAF was using a list of seven operational imperatives to focus our work on defining and acquiring the Air Force and Space Force we need to respond to our pacing challenge. The operational imperative work has had a major impact on our FY24 budget,” Kendall said.