Civilian, military leaders engage in candid conversations at SecAF National Security Forum

  • Published
  • By Phil Berube
  • Air University Public Affairs

Civic leaders from across the country converged on Air University recently to engage in discussions with military members and government civilians about key national and global security strategic realities and challenges.

The venue for the conversations was the Secretary of the Air Force's National Security Forum hosted by Air University's Air War College, May 9-11, 2023.

The discussion with the American public—represented by this year's 76 NSF guests from 32 states—is vital to increasing understanding and support of the armed forces.

The civic leaders, representing diverse backgrounds and occupations, attended lectures and seminars where they were encouraged to offer their perspectives and insights on national security issues as seen through civilian lenses.

Event keynote speakers were U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman.

They also were treated to aircraft static displays and a performance by the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor aerial demonstration team.

"Civilians unfamiliar with the military were immersed in everything from tactical military operations to civic-military relationships to hearing, and, ideally, challenging, military perspectives on national defense matters," said Col. Abigail Frander, NSF director. "However, this is also a learning experience for our students. Only through appreciating alternative perspectives can our students develop into the effective senior leaders our military requires."

During their time at NSF, the guests engaged with U.S. and foreign national military officers and civilian staff and faculty from Air University. The relationships developed and the open and honest discussions shared over the course of just a couple of days can potentially reap dividends well into the future for both the military and civilian communities.

NSF guest Thomas Moore said he’ll use some of what he’s learned to help improve the quality of life for service members and their families in his hometown of Great Falls, Montana, home to Malmstrom Air Force Base.

“In his capstone speech to us, General Brown referenced the difficulties service members face today in their duty to our country,” he said.

Some of these issues, he explained, are good education for their children, adequate childcare and housing, licensure reciprocity for spouses and access to quality and affordable healthcare.

“When I return home, these are areas that I can work harder on with our local and state civilian and military members to accomplish,” said Moore. “By so doing, our service men and women can stay focused on their mission to protect and defend our country.”

This type of candid discourse is key to making the event meaningful and is more important now than ever before as the nation and its partners and allies face an increasingly complex and unpredictable global strategic environment.