The Air Force has released a series of planning documents, addressing the direction that the service hopes to take over the next 30 years. The document with the longest outlook, America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future – Air Force 30-year strategy, was available at the end of July 2014. While the budget and strategic choices for the next three decades clearly remain unknown, the text does suggest what the current thinking is.
“Rapid change is the new norm.” That statement underlies all the challenges and goals that the Air Force sees between now and 2044. Changes in personnel practices appear to be among the major ways to adapt to that future.
- Recruiting will need to attract airmen with “not only technical skills, but also critical thinking, adaptive behavior, and diversity of thought.”
- Retention of personnel should recognize that the private model does not tie an employee to one company for 20 years. Breaks in service should be recognized for “the broader perspective it delivers.”
- Movement between the active force and the Guard or Reserves should not be a detriment to an Air Force career.
- Career development needs to provide opportunities for those in specialized fields, incentives and promotional opportunities, on a par with traditional Air Force disciplines.
- “The Air Force must embrace the concept of life-long learning.”
- “We must exploit advances in automation to create a leaner, more efficient force.”
The plan looks at a new “Total Force” concept that blurs the divisions between the Air Force, the Reserves and the National Guard. The agility needed for the future will be enhanced by the recognition that “making each of us strong makes all of us strong.”
The future, as the Air Force sees it, will use a variety of technologies that are in development. They include hypersonics, nanotechnology, directed energy, unmanned systems and autonomous systems. Cutting edge technology will require airmen with technical skills and advanced training methods.
The Air Force recognizes that its future is very dependent on a variety of existing and developing partnerships. The Air Guard and the Reserves often have ties to local communities that should be maintained and enhanced. The Air Force as a whole needs to continue improving relationships with Congress and industry. Joint and interagency operations will only increase in importance. The document also recognizes that academia and think tanks must be on the list of partnerships for the future.