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A 10 year plan: an Air Force strategy

Posted By on July 20, 2016 @ 06:00

Image courtesy of Department of Defence

Despite having a range of classified and unclassified strategic level documents, an unprecedented capability modernisation program, and a strong record of operational success, the RAAF has lacked a coherent document that outlined where we are heading as an organisation.

In other words, we don’t have a formally documented and widely-accessible Air Force Strategy. Plan Jericho made a good start but its focus on war-fighting meant it cannot fully substitute for a comprehensive Air Force strategy.

Integration is increasingly critical for air power and warfighting. All three Services, our Defence civilian specialists and our partner Groups are aware that our individual strength will fall short of delivering the combat power needed to assure Government, the Australian people, our coalition partners and regional neighbours of the extent of our capabilities.

This integration is the baseline of the Air Force strategy.

Our 10 year strategy can be articulated under five distinct vectors. They are: Joint Warfighting, People, Communications, Infrastructure and International Engagement.

Those vectors have been chosen for their simplicity and because we can tailor clear language around them. We can also measure success against them. They will enable coherent communications in Air Force and empower Air Force leadership’s decision making.

Air Force needs to embrace a new view of leadership. Corporals are our most junior leaders and leadership belongs at every level of Air Force. It is not just me and my team in the headquarters who lead the delivery of air power.

Joint Warfighting

We are driving for an integrated not a federated Air Force organization.

This will mean moving beyond the ‘philosophy’ of joint into an integrated reality where Air Force trains, exercises and deploys as the air power element of every ADF operation.

We know we have to support and be supported by whole-of-Defence elements, particularly within the domains of space and cyber, data collection and intelligence product. ‘Joint by Design’ means we must invest in gaining the trust of our Navy and Army.

This trust—between Navy, Army, Air Force, APS, JOC and CASG, and stakeholders outside Defence—will be critical to Air Force’s success.

People

Air Force is fundamentally about our people. Whether we have the most advanced or the oldest air power system, Air Force’s capability edge is generated in large part by the people who operate them.

The advanced technological nature of our machines means the preparation of our people is vital to Air Force as a combat effect. Technology has matured to a point that the careful preparation of Airmen, including their technical, social and personal proficiencies, will greatly shape their influence on the air domain.

We have to train our Airmen effectively from the outset and provide them with ongoing career opportunities to develop their skill-sets. Women represent 19.2% and indigenous Australians represent 1.1% of our Air Force. That means we don’t have the best Australia has to offer. We have established a clear vision to grow female representation to 25% by 2023; as a minimum and not as a goal.

Air Force must change its approach to recruiting, training, retaining and career managing our people. It’s just as important as the hardware they use.

Communications

Communication and data transfer is a key component of air power. Our latest capabilities rely on sharing data to inform our operators and allow more efficient and effective decision-making. Mission assurance will only be achieved if we have fast, coherent and secure information flow and effective command and control. Interoperability hasn’t, to date, been a force design requirement. Our communications strategy must therefore include managing the delta between what we already have and what we are acquiring.

The communications vector also relates to our internal and external messaging. Our Airmen today are educated and motivated with an increasing need for engagement and relevance. If my headquarters cannot articulate a clear way ahead then how can I expect the LACW, the FSGT or the AIRCDRE to use their inherent skills to reinforce my message, improve it and ultimately improve the outcome. Air Force leadership is about all levels of the organisation, not just about me.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is about more than just messes, flight lines and whether they are in the Northern Territory or Victoria. It is about our ability to generate and sustain airpower.

Bases are intrinsic to air power. Air Force fights from our bases while Army prepares from theirs and Navy sails with theirs. Bases are Air Force’s home, our launch point and arguably our centre of gravity. They provide the fundamentals of maintenance, ordnance, mission-data and real-time, mission-critical information to our warfighters.

The Air Force demographic is also changing. Stability, job opportunity for spouses and social consistency for teenagers are recruiting and retention factors driving tenure and job satisfaction. Today we have over 1000 members classed as ‘married with dependents working unaccompanied’. This means they are geographically dislocated from their families for the duration of a posting.

We need to understand our workforce better, in terms of their needs and their desires and match our infrastructure to suit. It is about who our people are, where they can work, and how we can work to ensure they stay with us as part of Air Force’s future.

International engagement

We will embark on a cultural change around how Air Force has typically regarded international engagement.

In the past, we have taken a somewhat transactional approach at the tactical level. We have often centred on exercises that directly meet our own training and certification requirements. We have focused on engagements that improve our intelligence sharing or expose us to advanced technologies.

Air Force will now focus on relationship-building as the key to our international engagement.

Air Force will continue to pursue engagement opportunities through individual and collective training and exercises to build transparency and trust with other nations, especially those in our region.

Releasing Air Force’s strategy

Here, I have only outlined the vectors—the five general directions—along which we will travel over the coming decade to become a fully fifth-generation Air Force. These are the organisational activities we will emphasise alongside our business-as-usual of being professional masters in the air domain.

I will in coming months release a formal strategy with these vectors, our goals and the pathways to get us there.

This strategy will see Air Force integrate its people, capabilities and relationships to evolve in the information age, continue contributing effectively to ADF operations and adapt coherently to become the first fully fifth-generation Air Force in the world.



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