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Gen. Kelly Speaks on Accelerating Change Across the Air Force at AFA Virtual Event

Screenshot of MAJCOM Commanders

U.S. Air Force Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, speaks during the 2021 Virtual Air Force Warfare Symposium along with six Major Command senior leaders, Feb. 24, 2021. The other six major command senior leaders who all participated in the discussion on the Accelerating Change Across the Air Force panel, are U.S. Air Force Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, U.S. Air Force Gen. Arnold Bunch, Jr., commander, Air Force Materiel Command, U.S. Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, commander of Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Air Force Gen. Jaqueline Van Ovost, commander of Air Mobility Command, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Marshall “Brad” Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, and U.S. Air Force Gen. Jefferey Harrigian, commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe; commander, U.S. Air Forces Africa; commander, Allied Air Command. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --

During the 2021 Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium, Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, shared remarks during the panel on “Accelerating Change Across the Air Force,” Feb. 25, 2021.

Kelly discussed how ACC is working to accelerate change to remain relevant and credible for both today’s and tomorrow’s fight. In addition, he emphasized the Air Force should make significant changes to instill a warrior culture and harness the importance of the electromagnetic spectrum for the future of warfare.

“Neither air superiority nor victory are American birthrights,” Kelly said. “Both are at significant risk.”

ACC is focused on five key requirements of a modern peer-war fight to execute Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” action orders. Four of them being: warrior culture, credibility, capacity, and capability.

“And then of course, the required sustainment apparatus to ensure that our warrior culture, credibility, capacity and capability are resilient,” Kelly added. “Because fragility anywhere is going to be vulnerability everywhere.”

Referencing the first Action Order: Airmen, to develop leaders who can build and articulate intent and feel comfortable enough to delegate down to the lowest competent level, the Air Force has to instill a expeditionary warrior culture, according to Kelly.

“We cannot have fragile Airmen. They have to be resilient and adaptive," Kelly said. “They must be afforded time to train together as a cohesive team before they are required to fight together as a cohesive team in any location.”

As Airmen entrusted with this nation’s security, implementing change in warrior culture and ensuring the credibility of recurring combat skills has become imperative to the endurance of the Air Force.

“It requires changing agile combat employment from episodic to reoccurring and mainstream,” said Kelly. “It requires change where training against the contested electromagnetic spectrum isn’t a contingency, it’s actually the norm.”

Kelly continued, the Air Force is not as powerful as what it owns on a spreadsheet. Rather, the service is only as powerful as what it can project forward, protect, sustain and credibly operate.

“Our combat Air Force fleet is twice as old as United States Navy’s,” Kelly said. “That means every day, we (ACC) are hemorrhaging readiness to care, feed, and supply an older fleet.”

Chinese and Russian advances in stealth, weapons, and precision navigation are all credible gains, but that is not what keeps the General up at night. 

“Our adversaries’ ability to operate across and jam across the EMS is significant,” said Kelly. “Their EMS advances, combined with 5G, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence are what they will use to close their red kill chains and what they will use to break blue kill chains.”

Referencing a quote from Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, British military commander of World War II, “If we lose the war in the air, we lose the war and we lose it quickly,” Kelly contends. “That if we lose the war in the electromagnetic spectrum, we are going to lose the war, and we are going to lose it quickly.”

Changing the understanding of the United States’ adversaries is essential to the progression and enhancement of agile combat airpower.

“I, for one, am confident that we will generate better solutions once we acknowledge the real possibility of losing a peer fight,” said Kelly. “Or to quote President Biden last week when referring to China, ‘If we don’t get moving they’re going to eat our lunch.’ Our combat Air Force is strong but when it comes to ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’, our theme for today, if you don’t like change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more, and you’re going to outright hate a kinetic defeat.”

In closing the General, highlighted the Airmen that the Air Force has to help reinforce the mantra “Accelerate Change or Lose”.

“If we are committed to staying relevant, if we are committed to win, we have to change along with our adversaries,” Kelly said.  “We have phenomenal Airmen that are ready to adapt expeditionary warfighting. Our training regimen can and will adapt to contested ops. We have great high-end capability, but it needs to stay cutting edge, it needs to thrive across a multi-spectral environment, and it needs to become more affordable.”

To listen to Kelly’s full remarks, visit https://vaws2021.us.chime.live/app/module&id=6 to find the “Accelerating Change Across the Air Force” panel.

Other senior leaders on the panel included:

Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander, U.S. Forces Europe, U.S. Forces Africa

Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, commander, Pacific Air Forces

Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, commander, Air Force Materiel Command

Gen. Timothy M. Ray, commander, Air Force Global Strike Command

Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, commander, Air Mobility Command

Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander, Air Education and Training Command

To listen to Kelly’s full remarks, visit https://vaws2021.us.chime.live/app/module&id=6 to find the Accelerating Change Across the Air Force panel.