Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz emphasized partnership between the public and private sectors during his keynote address at the National Security Forum at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., May 7.
The forum, which continues through May 11, is hosted by Air War College. NSF participants include civilians from all over the nation, who will take part in discussions on national and international security issues alongside members of the Air War College Class of 2012.
Bringing in guests from a variety of backgrounds, including business, government, education and finance, allows the military to gain a different perspective on important security issues while simultaneously educating the participants on the Air Force, Schwartz told the attendees.
“Assembling executives, thought leaders and skilled practitioners from across multiple disciplines, such as what we do here each year for the National Security Forum, can help us harmonize our efforts to devise, develop and integrate strategies to address the wide-ranging issues that we face together as a nation,” he said.
NSF attendees echoed Schwartz’s comments about the importance of the event. Dan Wilson, a business owner in Demopolis, Ala., and a mentor for the forum, said the event gives civilian attendees a unique look inside the Air Force.
“The story needs to be told,” Wilson said, pointing out that news reports on the military may not always provide all details. “I’m like Paul Harvey. I want to hear ‘the rest of the story.’
“I think coming here to the National Security Forum gives us an opportunity to learn, and go back to tell our fellow citizens the story about the good guys in our U.S. military,” Wilson added.
In his address, Schwartz keyed in on the importance of cooperation during trying economic times.
“At a time when our nation, as a whole, is experiencing various levels of hardship associated with a struggling economy, a federal budget crisis and general uncertainty in the geostrategic environment, we would do well to further our whole-of-nation partnerships, and to pool our resources from across both public and private sectors including industry, commerce, academia, government and military,” he said.
When national resources were less constrained, the U.S. military was perhaps less compelled to make difficult decisions regarding strategic ambition and priorities, the general said.
“Today, with the economic recession and current fiscal crisis, operating budgets and investment profiles have been reduced, and for the foreseeable future, will continue to be less sizable,” Schwartz said.
“What objectives are most important? What priorities can we de-emphasize or even shed?” the general asked. “These questions, and many others, represent several dimensions where balance is required – balance that, not surprisingly, is far more difficult to achieve in reality than it is to discuss conceptually.”
The current economic landscape is reflected in the Defense Department’s new Defense Strategic Guidance, released Jan. 5, Schwartz said.
“The broad contours of our overarching strategy consisted of the delicate balance between the need to be efficient in a fiscally-constrained environment, and maintaining our effectiveness to respond to a dynamic, increasingly complex and uncertain geostrategic environment,” Schwartz said.
“Effectiveness, in itself, consists of three distinct but closely interrelated dimensions: readiness, modernization and force structure,” he added. “These dimensions must be balanced; otherwise, we would be left with a hollow, aging and poorly postured force respectively.”
Schwartz closed his address by thanking participants for their efforts and contributions to the national security of the U.S., and encouraged discipline, cost consciousness and teamwork as the key to retaining enduring advantages.
“For those of us who have been around a while, this is not the first period of austerity that we have experienced,” the general said. “The reality is, we will handle this, and we will remain the world’s premier, and most feared, Air Force.”