ARLINGTON, Va. -- Austerity and the strategic environment make communicating and collaborating as a Total Force paramount for the Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz said here Monday, Feb. 28.
Efficiency and zero tolerance of fraud, waste and abuse are also critical priorities, the Air Force chief of staff told senior National Guard leaders, including state adjutants general, during a National Guard Bureau senior leadership conference.
"I ask that we all consider our institutions less as separate and distinct components and instead identify more with the Total Force itself as a larger, remarkable institution that we seek to preserve," Schwartz said.
The general called for applying energy and passion toward shaping the future as a truly cohesive team of American servicemembers, regardless of whether Active, Guard or Reserve.
“Let's pick up the pace together, work together and achieve together," Schwartz said.
Repeatedly emphasizing that leaders face fiscally constrained times for the foreseeable future, Schwartz also urged the conference attendees not to be locked in to outdated mindsets.
For the National Guard, this translates to a willingness to embrace new missions and capabilities, he said.
"It is manifestly clear that it is no longer feasible to ensure that all of the Air National Guard's flying wings will be able to retain traditional flying missions in perpetuity," Schwartz said.
The Air National Guard already has proven its adaptability, he said.
"These last several years have witnessed Guard wings convert from manned aircraft to Predators and Reapers, as well as key non-flying roles such as ground station control operations for our newly minted remotely piloted systems, and intelligence analysis and production," the general said.
Guardsmen have also played a vital role in standing up the Air Force nuclear weapons center, Schwartz said, helping the Air Force stabilize, reinvigorate, strengthen and ensure the success of its nuclear program.
"I call upon you to continue to expand the definition of the Air National Guard's mission set," Schwartz said. "By exploring the range of possibilities beyond a traditional flying role, we can arrive at a more balanced distribution of roles and assets across the Total Force that will ensure mission success for us all.”
The Air National Guard is a vital piece of the Total Force, the general said, citing the decision to include the Vermont Air National Guard on the shortlist of potential F-35 Lightning hosts as an example of the significance of the Air Guard's role.
"We will continue to depend heavily on the Reserve components," Schwartz said. "We would be a much less worthy Air Force without the Air National Guard."
The general sketched a challenging landscape of issues facing the nation, Defense Department and Air Force.
While the nation faces trillion-dollar deficits and debt, advanced technologies that strengthen America are also proliferating and becoming more easily accessible to adversaries, giving even non-state actors the power to shape world events, he said.
"We face a challenging and perhaps unprecedented combination of circumstances," Schwartz said. "Given the reality of fiscal austerity, the need for maximum efficiency is paramount."
The Air Force is shifting overhead and administrative costs to investment in capabilities, operational priorities and functions that directly support warfighters, he said.
Even then, the U.S. military officials “must distinguish between capabilities that are truly required versus those that are merely desired," the general said.
On the manpower side, the Air Force continues force management actions aimed at reducing the service’s number of personnel to its congressionally authorized ceiling, Schwartz said.
The Air Force has reduced both officer and enlisted accessions, increased voluntary separation and retirement opportunities, and stood up selective early retirement boards, which Schwartz called difficult but necessary steps.
Those measures will continue, and recently the Air Force intensified the implementation of force management efforts with programs aimed mostly at officers, the general said.
In this environment, trust is more crucial than ever, he said.
"Throughout the Total Force, there is no place for fraud, waste and abuse," he said. "Even in the best of times, any transgression by any of us sullies the reputation of the entire force and brings -- rightly so – the searing scrutiny of the American public that we serve.
"In today's environment, the economic plight of so many of our fellow Americans serves to further magnify this loss of trust. I appeal to you to assure the soundness of all Guardsmen's commitment to our respective service values as we work to sustain the American public's confidence in our stewardship of and accountability for each and every one of their hard-earned tax dollars," Schwartz said.
Urging his audience of Army and Air Guard leaders to make a virtue of the austerity we face, Schwartz said "there are many reasons to be hopeful, and I'm confident in our ability to collaborate in order to resolve the tough corporate issues we face, collectively."