Air Warfare Innovation Hampered by Bureaucratic In-Fighting, Says Retired General
Retired Gen. John P. Jumper warned current service leaders to stop bureaucratic in-fighting and focus on technological innovation, which is critical for the future of the U.S. Air Force. “Cul-de-sac arguments” about whether the long-range strike platform should be manned or unmanned, or how many airmen are on the ground versus in cockpits, are distracting the Air Force from more important priorities, Jumper said Sept. 21 at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition.
Jumper warned that the Air Force faces a huge equipment crisis. Even though the aerial refueling tanker and the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter programs appear to be moving along, the service really hasn’t bought many new aircraft over the past decade. And the fiscal crunch on the horizon will make recapitalization of the fleet much harder to achieve, he said.
“Cutting the defense budget cannot cure our economic ills, but I fear they’re going to try,” he said, referring to a Congress that seems poised to slash up to $500 billion in defense spending over the next 10 years.
The service needs to ensure that these budget reductions don’t compound already existing internal issues, he said. The Air Force has to make up for lost time and ramp up production of the tanker, the F-35, remotely piloted aircraft, and must soon begin to build a new long-range bomber, he said.
Jumper said that when it comes to modernization, the Air Force can be its own worst enemy. He recalled efforts to create a more efficient way of operating unmanned aircraft by having a single operator oversee multiple drones. But a cacophony of “whining” that Jumper compared to a daytime soap opera kept the status quo in place. Other ideas have fallen victim to the same kind of dissension, he noted.
The Air Force needs to wisely invest its procurement, research and development dollars, because “the asymmetrical advantage of the United States is our technology,” Jumper said.
He suggested the Air Force should acquire a new light attack aircraft for counterinsurgency warfare. It could be outfitted with advanced sensors and perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions as well as assist in homeland security efforts, he said.
As for whether the future long-range strike system should be manned or unmanned, Jumper offered this:
“When Air Force One is unmanned we’ll be ready to make that step.”