AU hosts National Security Forum

by Kimberly L. Wright
Air University Public Affairs

5/13/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala -- The National Security Forum will draw an expected 115 civilians to Maxwell-Gunter from across the nation starting Monday. Hosted by the Air University's Air War College and  sponsored by the secretary of the Air Force, the weeklong forum is designed to familiarize members of the private sector with the Air Force and engage their ideas and perspectives on national and international security issues.

NSF participants are nominated by AWC faculty, students, NSF alumni, major commands and the Air Staff for a variety of reasons, including their ability to engage in a rich exchange of ideas with AWC students, who are all senior officers learning to lead at the strategic level. According to the NSF website, NSF began in 1954 as an expansion of the Civilian Outreach Seminars held 1947 - 1949.

"(Participants) are selected because they are inquisitive, engaging and willing to challenge the strategic positions of our speakers and our students," said Maj. Gen. Robert C. Kane, commander, Carl A. Spaatz Center for Officer Education, and commandant, Air War College. "Our guests have a completely different perspective of the military than we do. They are here to challenge what we think, but at the same time we want to educate them on the U.S. Air Force. Additionally, we want to learn from our guests so we can broaden our strategic thinking and our perspective on what our nation needs in today's volatile world."

Participants this year come from a variety of backgrounds, including business, government, education and finance, said Lt. Col. Duane Gunn, NSF director.

"This year we made a significant effort to invite guests who did not have a military background and especially an affiliation with the U.S. Air Force," said General Kane. "The team did a great job working with the major commands, Pentagon, our NSF alumni, and especially our world-class AWC faculty and students to reach out to a different population. The result was fewer nominations but a higher rate of acceptance because our guests want to learn about the U.S. Air Force."

Speakers this year will include the secretary of the Air Force, the Air Force chief of staff, retired Col. Randy Larsen of Institute for Homeland Security, Dr. Thomas Preston of Washington State University, as well as Air War College faculty Dr. David Sorenson, Dr. Jeffrey Record, Dr. Mark Duckenfield, Dr. Chris Hemmer and Army Col. John Dowd. Seminar topics include homeland security; Egypt; Japan's decision for war in World War II; the effect of global economics on national security; biological and nuclear weapons; and Afghanistan strategies.

This year, the NSF will emphasize a total force mindset, including the application of airpower on the battlefield, how airpower is projected into a theater of operations and what it takes to prepare Airmen to deploy, General Kane said. This concept will include demonstrations from the 42nd Air Base Wing, Alabama Air National Guard's 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field and the 908th Airlift Wing, the Air Force Reserve component at Maxwell.

"In an effort to provide our guests with an understanding of the total force and to allow them the opportunity to see firsthand what is involved with deploying America's Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsman around the world, we are going to show our NSF guests a behind the scenes look at how we deploy and how we employ different aspects of airpower in a battlefield environment," said General Kane.

"Our total force in action demonstration is going to show that deploying is a team effort, not an individual or family effort," he noted. "We are going to show our NSF guests that when an Airman deploys, everyone in theater as well as at home work together to protect them, keep them safe and take care of their family while they focus on their part of the mission."

General Kane noted that NSF participants will also better understand what is meant by national security and national strategy and how certain factors impact those topics.

"We want our guests to understand what the right questions are when it comes to national security," he said. "We want our guests to understand how the economic difficulties we are experiencing not only in our nation but around the world affect our military strategy. We are going to introduce them to, educate them on, and debate on strategic issues such as nuclear and biological threats. Finally, we want our NSF guests to have a personal understanding of what it is like to be in a combat environment."

In turn, General Kane expects that NSF participants will provide AWC students with a better understanding of how military operations affect the home front. "We want to understand our NSF guests' perspectives of what they see as concerns to our nation's defense," he said. "We want to engage their views of how our operations affect them in their home towns. As military personnel, DoD civilians and international officers, we want to know how we can make things better and be a successful team when we are in combat or when we are at peace. Above all, we want to learn from our guests."

The experience of NSF is expected to directly benefit AWC students in their follow-on assignments by helping them anticipate how their decisions may be viewed by the civilian population, said General Kane.

"We instill in our students the importance of being critical thinkers and above all, how to be great 'colonels,'" he said. "Our students are going into senior leadership positions when they leave us. Our students can expect a supportive nation, but at the same time they should expect to face and be able to answer difficult questions from a civilian population, which rightfully deserves to better understand their military, its capabilities and most important who their military's senior leaders are."