Highlights from the USAF's new Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh's media availability at this week's Air Force Association's 2012 Air & Space Conference and Technology Expo included
-- Priorities -- The Service's acquisition priorities remain
unchanged: (1) KC-46 tanker; (2) F-35; and (3) Long Range Strike Bomber (optionally-manned).
-- Morale -- The CSAF said that his immediate job is "hugging the force." While
"morale is good," General Welsh notes that "our people are tired... their families are tired."
-- Equipment --
USAF equipment is also tired and the Service must make smart choices about what to buy and when. "There are lots
of things that we need and can't afford to buy right now."
-- Cyber -- The CSAF confesses that, for him, "cyber
is a really area" and he has not yet sorted out the requirement for personnel.
-- T-X Trainer -- "We need a
new trainer in a bad way, but we don't have the money to fund it right now."
-- F-35 -- The CSAF, soon to visit
with prime contractor Lockheed Martin to discuss the program, notes that the operational tests are going well and that "test
pilots like the aircraft." General Welsh notes that "price is still an issue, stabilizing the production line is
still an issue" and adds that he needs to better understand the cost of operating the aircraft moving forward.
-- More F-22's? --
While conceding that its "really speculative" to comment on USAF interest in having additional F-22 aircraft as
proposed by GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, he said that he wouldn't preclude consideration of the idea. "I
would never draw a line in the sand saying that I won't buy the most capable aircraft in the world."
-- Sequestration --
The CSAF recognizes that sequestration, should it occur, would put the fighter fleet under undue press and identified "ISR"
as an area that he fears could be dangerously cut.
-- Congressional Relations --
General Welsh acknowledges a "trust issue" with Congress and concedes that "the feeling is that the Air Force
doesn't tell the fully story" on the Hill. He notes that he "is naive about the way the Government works"
and says that he will get much more engaged with Members and staff.