In its recently-released thirty-year strategy document, the Air Force lays out a clear vision for its future. Unlike many government strategy documents, America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future actually outlines priorities and choices and is aligned with the Air Force’s budget.
The problem is that the Air Force seems to be going in the opposite direction of its Commander-in-Chief.
President Obama has signaled a muscular response to the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), vowing to “destroy” ISIS and undertaking steps to build a coalition to do so. Airpower has already proven vital in halting ISIS’s advance in northern Iraq and assisting Iraqi forces in retaking key areas. A model of local forces on the ground buttressed by American airpower seems to be emerging, and if done correctly, can prove decisive in defeating ISIS. But the airpower needed is not the kind the Air Force is envisioning for its future.
Countering terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS requires more than simply dropping bombs. The key enabler is intelligence, much of which comes from unmanned aircraft, or “drones.” Contrary to the popular attention paid to “drone strikes,” the most valuable service that drones provide isn’t the ability to drop bombs—many manned aircraft can do that—but rather the ability to loiter overhead for 16-20 hours at a time, watching terrorists and gathering information. Several drones working together can provide 24/7 coverage, an unblinking eye watching a terrorist’s every move, and most importantly, every person he meets with, allowing intelligence analysts to unravel a network and find key leaders.
More from CNAS
CommentarySharper: The Budget
The defense budget and its $715 million price tag accounts for much of the U.S. government's discretionary spending every year, but where will (and should) this money go in th...
By Anna Pederson
VideoThree elements of Army’s iron triangle equally critical for United States, says defense analyst
Billy Fabian, adjunct senior fellow for the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security and senior analyst at Govini discusses the Army's iron triangle on Govern...
By Billy Fabian
Congressional TestimonyThe Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Budget and Future Options for the Pentagon
Submitted Written Testimony I. Introduction Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Rodgers, distinguished members of the committee and staff thank you for inviting me to testify today...
By Stacie Pettyjohn
ReportsRisky Business: Future Strategy and Force Options for the Defense Department
Executive Summary Despite the overarching strategic priorities laid out by the Biden administration and initial indicators provided by the Department of Defense (DoD), it is u...
By Stacie Pettyjohn, Becca Wasser & Jennie Matuschak