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Air Force chief calls for collaboration between Guard, active duty

by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy
National Guard Bureau

9/14/2009 - NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Citing evolving missions and shrinking budgets, the Air Force chief of staff called for the Air National Guard and active duty forces to work closer together.

"The skill-set of National Guard members is critical to sustaining worldwide partnerships," said Gen. Norton Schwartz during his speech at the 131st annual National Guard Association of the United States General Conference meeting here Sept. 12. "We stand to succeed across all areas of our total force mission, but we face numerous challenges."

He said the total Air Force structure is evolving along with the demands being placed on the force by the Defense Department.

"We need to adapt to this change," he said.

General Schwartz said the Air Force's most pressing priority is the acquisition of new refueling tanker aircraft. He echoed Secretary of the Air Force Mike Donley's speech at the conference the day before, citing a robust request for a proposal, which is due out to contractors later this year, with a final contract awarded in late 2010.

"You all have a considerable investment in the new tanker," General Schwartz told the audience.

"The second priority is our fighter aircraft," he said. "Why would I want to dissipate a limited pool of resources on a 4.5 generation fighter, when I can purchase a fifth generation platform?"

He said it would be a "major mistake as a nation" to spend money on upgrading the existing Air Force inventory, and "prematurely walk away from the F-35" Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

"I think this is the wrong approach," he said.

General Schwartz said he believes the F-22 Raptor is "over-spec'd" for the Air Force's air sovereignty alert mission, but he hopes to bring a combination of F-22, F-35, legacy aircraft, including upgraded F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons, and unmanned aircraft to the ASA mission.

"We must recognize that the total Air Force is evolving," he said. "As I said before, we need to adapt, but adaptation also applies to a concurrent and proportional rollout in terms of F-35 procurement."

General Schwartz warned that while distribution of any new platform concurrently among active duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units is important, the changing role of the Air Force means not all units will retain their present missions. Units may migrate to an unmanned flying mission or even a non-flying mission.

"We need to be equally prepared to do those missions too," he said.

The third priority for the Air Force is its long-range strike capability, General Schwartz said.

"I think our country needs a penetrating air capability," he said. "We cannot depend exclusively on 'fire and forget' ballistic missiles.

"And as you know," he continued, citing the B-2 Spirit bomber mission at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., "[The Air Force] has a significant partnership in long-range strike capability with the (Air) Guard and Reserve."

General Schwartz reminded the group of ceremonies commemorating the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, calling them "a sobering reminder of the unfamiliar political and military landscape Americans now face."

"Now, more than ever, we must be vigilant in our efforts to provide for the common defense of our nation," he said.

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