During the February Chapter Meeting, AFA Langley was honored with two guest speakers, Purple Heart recipient SMSgt Angela Blue and Lt Gen John N.T. "Jack" Shanahan, Director, Defense Intelligence (Warfighter Support), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
Our first guest speaker, SMSgt Angela Blue, call sign "Witch Doctor", recounted her June 2011 deployment to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sweeney in Shinkai District, Afghanistan, as an aeromedical technician for Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul. Sergeant Blue's vehicle struck an IED. She sustained combat-related injuries and was medically evacuated. Sergeant Blue was awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal for her actions while under enemy fire and a Purple Heart for her injuries during combat. Additionally she was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Army Combat Action Badge, and Army Combat Medical Badge for her actions while deployed. Currently six Purple Heart recipients are stationed at JB Langley-Eustis. If you get an opportunity to attend a speaking engagement presented by one of these recipients, we strongly encourage it. Additionally, you can support the Wounded Airman fund through many events in our local area through out the year. For additional info contact SMSgt Chwalik, Langley AFA's VP, Wounded Airmen at www.LangleyAFA.org/ContactUs.
Our second speaker was Lt. Gen. John N.T. "Jack" Shanahan, Director, Defense Intelligence (Warfighter Support). The DDI (WS) ensures combatant commands have the intelligence policy, processes and resources they need to plan and conduct successful operations and campaigns. As lifetime member of AFA since 1985, Lt Gen Shanahan emphasized the importance of AFA's role, its relationship with the "Hill" and the significance of AFA National Symposiums as well as the efforts of local Chapters. He encouraged attendees to join the AFA organization and become actively engaged in their local chapter.
Lt Gen Shanahan discussed the National Defense Strategy relative to the US Air Force. The USAF has had continued success for many years, however he cautioned the audience not to take this success for granted. In support of Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, he discussed current challenges to U.S. security, the roles military force will play in protecting against those challenges, and the priorities for spending and activity to strengthen the enterprise. Echoing SecDef Mattis, Shanahan stressed that the USAF needs to be preparing for the fight - "COMPETE, DETER, AND WIN". All precautions will be taken to avoid a war, but the USAF must be prepared if it is warranted. Equally critical is a strong, cohesive partnership between the USAF Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense. The two must be aligned to send a message that we are one united Force - we are one team. Lt Gen Shanahan believes Secretary of hte Air Force Wilson and SecDef Mattis are demonstrating this message.
Three lines of effort must be accomplished in order to be prepared for the fight:
- Build a more lethal force
- Strengthen alliances and attract new partnerships
- Reform the way the USAF does business - FASTER!
Lt Gen Shanahan spoke about the game changers. The U.S. is losing its technological edge compared to China and Russia, this could undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion in key strategic regions. Significant documentation since the Cold War indicates China and Russia have developed into peers/competitors and are capable adversaries. Additionally, China is investing heavily into its military and artificial intelligence capabilities. The USAF (and US military as a whole) needs to change the pace to, at a minimum match, but more specifically, surpass our adversaries. Revolutionary capabilities will need to be fielded, for example artificial intelligence. US must relentlessly pursue innovative solutions.
Lt Gen Shanahan expanded on what he feels needs to change in order to achieve the three lines of effort. Maintaining the department's technological advantage will require changes to industry's culture, investment sources and protection across the national security innovation base. The current organization structures, planning, budgeting and acquisition process lack agility. We need to expand the competitive space through a more lethal, rapidly innovating Joint Force and Defense Enterprises. Prototyping and experimentation should be utilized prior to defining requirements. And, finally, we must reduce the time it takes to field military capabilities.