AEDC Strategy 2020: Refocus on great power competition

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeff Geraghty and Chief Master Sgt. Rob Heckman
  • AEDC Command Team

Leaders throughout the United States government recognize the need to re-focus the defense establishment on great power competition.  To meet this end, “The U.S. House of Representatives has launched a new task force to examine how to maintain the Pentagon’s technological edge against Russia and China as well as take on sacred cows along the way,” Defense News reported on Oct. 23.  Likewise, leaders at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex – a major contributor to the National Defense Strategy – have a firm grasp on the compelling need to re-focus our efforts on great power competition, and butcher sacred cows that stand in the way.

Dozens of AEDC leaders met at Gossick Leadership Center on Oct. 22-24 to listen, think and act on the challenges facing our Complex.  Leaders identified actions necessary for AEDC to become the “AEDC We Need” – including roles and responsibilities, scope of authority, and organizational alignment.  After two days of deliberations and robust discussion, we articulated a strategy built on the rock-solid foundation of the National Defense Strategy. 

The result was clear, AEDC must transform more completely, thoughtfully, and deliberately into an Air Force Wing in order to execute our mission with maximum effect.  Our mission – “To prove the superiority of systems required to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy” – requires our full attention.  A mission-focused transformation will enable us to apply squadron-level power to questions like: “How does the nation prove that our space warfighting technologies are second to none?” and “How does the United States prove the global superiority of our next-generation ground-based strategic deterrent?”

As we step deliberately and thoughtfully toward a more complete integration as an Air Force Wing, focus, clarity and transparency will be our guiding lights in this challenging journey. 

First, we will remain mission-focused.  Our priorities are to: pursue mission excellence, invest in our people, and improve and sustain the complex.  We’re proud that you already do this every day, without fail, and better than anyone else in the world for the last 70 years. We must also recognize and embrace the reality that AEDC today is not the legacy AEDC, but one which has grown in scope, mission assignment, and membership over the past 30 years – from a single site with important but limited focus, to a nationally distributed complex of test capabilities aligned specifically to provide key enduring technical underpinnings for developing air and space systems for the nation.

Second, we will establish and maintain clarity in pursuit of these priorities.  Before we step foot in the direction of changing organizational roles and responsibilities, we must define clearly where we stand.  For example, we have challenged every division chief, branch chief, office chief, group commander and squadron commander to communicate precisely how they are currently organized.  As of Nov. 1, every single Airman in AEDC – military and civilian – were briefed of their precise echelon level within the Complex. However, if your supervisor, commander, director, chief, or otherwise, has yet to inform you of your organizational structure, chain of command, and your place in it, I ask that you hold them accountable to AFI 38-101 today!  In addition, we are committed to clarifying existing processes, and will hold firm to each defined rubric; this is especially true when it means holding individuals accountable for shortcomings.

Third, we will communicate with transparency the objectives and changes that we make in pursuit of our strategy to transform AEDC into an Air Force Wing.  Any changes that we enact will be deliberately and thoughtfully considered in a transparent process that determines an appropriate CONOPS, or concept of operations, before the change is made.  We will not let internal quibbling over turf, legacy roles, or ‘old ways’ stand in the way of moving out on making the final push toward achievement of a test wing capable of meeting future national needs. Your role in this strategy is vital: you must hold your leadership team accountable for mission focus, clarity and transparency.  Each leadership team, which Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force Gen. David Goldfein defines as the commander and senior enlisted advisor – and their equivalents at the division, branch, and section levels – will take action in pursuit of this strategy immediately.  If you don’t know who the leadership team is for your organization, I would challenge you to ask your supervisor to clarify who serves in these roles within your section, branch or division, and how they plan to execute this strategy.

Our strategy is focused on attaining a future that Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, General of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, envisioned for AEDC 70 years ago.  Similarly, the task force that the U.S. House of Representatives recently launched aims to answer the same questions Hap Arnold, asked back then.  “We don’t think enough people are asking the big-picture questions about how we prepare for 30 years from now,” says the chairman of the new task force.  That is why AEDC leaders chose to renew our commitment to Hap Arnold’s vision for AEDC: an Air Force Second To None!