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Air Force imagines 2050 outlook

Air University is inviting Airmen to take a look at what the Air Force will look like in 2050, aligning to the Air Force Secretary’s and Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s vision for the force.

Air University is inviting Airmen to take a look at what the Air Force will look like in 2050, aligning to the Air Force Secretary’s and Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s vision for the force.

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

Air University is inviting Airmen to take a look at what the Air Force will look like in 2050, aligning to the Air Force Secretary’s and Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s vision for the force. 

“Under the guidance of Secretary of Defense Mattis and with the support of the Congress, we will restore the readiness of the force so that we can win any fight,” said new Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. “Because our adversaries do not rest, we will cost-effectively modernize the force and drive innovation to bring new capabilities to the service of liberty.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein recently tasked Air University to help him come up with ideas for an address about the future of the USAF.  AU is coordinating the project through its Blue Horizons program, a CSAF chartered organization focused on exploring military-technical and geostrategic competition, and its implication for Air Force strategy and planning.  Blue Horizons decided to use crowd-sourcing of ideas as a partial component to creatively imagining what the Air Force will look like in 2050, asking any interested Airmen to share ideas in an essay with senior leadership without reservation to help shape the Air Force of the future.

As the Air Force and joint defense partners shape the way airpower will look in the future, Air University is looking leverage the Air Force’s most important asset, Airmen, to think critically about how a military built for and in the Industrial Age can continue to affordably and effectively provide national security in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. 

“When people feel comfortable in openly communicating new ideas, cooperation and innovation will be at an all-time high,” said Lt. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, Commander and President, Air University. “Innovation doesn't care about rank or position and we need to be able harness those great ideas. Success depends on a leader’s ability to leverage the talent, creativity, and dedication welled within their organizations.”

In a 500-1000 word essay, Kwast would like submitters to be aggressive and be creative, because the Air Force of the future may be fighting in more than just the traditional domains of air, space and cyberspace. With dramatic and potentially unforeseen advances in technology, consider how the Air Force constantly adapt to fight ever-evolving threats effectively.

AU’s Blue Horizons will use ideas developed from the submitted essays to help inspire the brainstorming and writing processes which will ultimately shape the Chief of Staff's thinking and guidance during this September's Air Force Association Convention in Washington D.C.  Submitted essays will also be utilized to aid future Blue Horizons studies of the Air Force.  These annual studies serve as an input for the development of Title X wargames, future technology exploration activities, Strategic Planning Guidance, Quadrennial Defense Review scenarios and the development of service requirements.  

Adapting our ability to provide airpower isn’t a new concept, but the necessary rate of change and development is faster than ever before. All the while, our Air Force is facing our enemies today and tomorrow with a smaller force, down from over a million in 1990 to roughly 660,000 Active, Guard, Reserves, and civilian Airmen.

“When you take a look at our Air Force and look at the state of it today, the challenge we face is that most of those missions have grown over time,” Goldfein said at the American Enterprise Institute in January. “If you look at our 70 year history, as missions have expanded the Air Force has grown. And while we’ve gone through ups and downs, the reality is until about the last 25 years we’ve had (corresponding) growth in the service as missions have expanded. But then we’ve hit a turning point and much of American thinks that they still have the Air Force of 1990.”

CSAF has made clear that it’s time adapt not only for today’s requirements, but what will be asked of air, space and cyberspace powers in the future. This opportunity to communicate with senior leadership is available during a time where change isn’t only desired, but a top priority.

“My number one priority is getting readiness back to where it needs to be, and that starts with people,” Goldfein said. “We need to increase our end strength to help fill the gaps, and we need to retain the highly trained and skilled Airmen we have. We’re making progress, but we will have work to do.”

While the essay prompt is future-oriented, you can still use historical examples and information from the present-day. The most convincing futuristic narratives are typically rooted in facts and experiences with which listeners or readers are already familiar.

The essay contest is sponsored by USAF Blue Horizons and the Air University Foundation at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., delivering the winner a prize of $1,000. Send submissions to awc.csat.workflow@us.af.mil before the June 16, 2017, deadline.