It’s not your first tour in Europe. From 2009 to 2012 you were the Commander of 3rd Air Force at Ramstein AB. How does this prior experience benefit you in your new position?
I’m very familiar with the US Air Forces Europe and US Air Forces Africa mission sets having been previously assigned to Ramstein AB, Germany as the 3rd Air Force Commander. During this time frame, 3rd Air Force directly supported 17th Air Force during Operation ODYSSEY DAWN and the transition to Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR under NATO authorities. As 17th Air Force drew down, we were also responsible for restructuring the 3rd Air Force staff to support two combatant commanders in Europe and Africa. Each of these dynamic events provided me unique opportunities to engage with European and African partners and military commanders in the course of meeting US national military and political objectives.
Additionally, having been a Slovenian born, American immigrant, I am cognizant of people’s backgrounds and what people value. I understand that because of our different backgrounds, we each have a unique perspective with different approaches to the same problems. This mindset is extremely important when we approach our partnerships globally. It is important to understand countries come to decisions in a different way with different opinions, but at the end of the day, their point is valid and must be considered.
What are your number one goals for Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) and how do you plan to accomplish this during your time as Commander AIRCOM?
I believe the NATO Alliance’s experience in Libya and Afghanistan continues to influence the NATO Command Structure (NCS) we see today. The NCS is in the process of a fundamental reorganization to become a more responsive and agile organization. As such, AIRCOM has become the largest standing organization within NATO with responsibility for delivering Air Power for the Alliance. My number one goal is to achieve Full Operational Capability (FOC) for our Air Headquarters as envisioned by the NATO nations in the Air Command and Control (Air C2) Concept of Operations. In order to accomplish FOC, we must ensure the success of our standing missions by protecting Alliance airspace through Air Policing and Ballistic Missile Defence while simultaneously developing the Joint Force Air Component (JFAC) capability for any future NATO led operations. These are not easy tasks, but in my short time as Commander of Allied Air Command, the professionalism and expertise of the Airmen throughout our Headquarters has thoroughly impressed me. I am confident in our ability to deliver Air Power for the Alliance as the single organic source of Air C2 for NATO.
Does the NATO Command Structure follow the principles of SMART Defence? How does the recently completed restructuring affect AIRCOM objectives?
In consideration of the principles of SMART Defence, all of our nations are dealing with economic concerns and decreasing defence budgets. SMART Defence is a new way of thinking that encourages Allies to cooperate in developing, acquiring and maintaining capabilities to undertake the Alliance’s essential core tasks. Additionally, the Alliance’s security environment has become more diverse and unpredictable, demanding the need for modern systems and facilities. As such, the NCS reorganization is a reflection of NATO’s reaffirmation to collective defence through an organizational structure that is optimized to provide real capability to the Alliance and flexible options for the use of force.
As already discussed, my objectives for AIRCOM are directly linked with securing the benefits envisioned with the NCS reorganization. In delivering Air capabilities for the Alliance, we have consolidated from 10 Combined Air Operation Centres (CAOCs) and two regional Air Commands down to two CAOCs in Uedem and Torrejon, the Deployable Air Command and Control Centre (DACCC) in Poggio-Renatico and one overall Air Command here at Ramstein, Germany. This reduction in facilities and personnel requires the organization to be more flexible and responsive to NATO requirements. To ensure the requirements of SACEUR are met, our headquarters must provide quality training and hands on experience for our personnel. Furthermore, this reorganization will be facilitated through the implementation of C2 systems which are reliable, robust and secure while enabling the seamless dissemination of information from the lowest to highest echelons of command.
What do you assess to be the biggest challenges to the future of NATO Air and Space Power especially now that we are entering the post-Afghanistan era?
This is a concern for the entirety of NATO and our Partners. I will echo the concerns that SACEUR has stated in many forums.
I consider General Breedlove’s focus on transitioning NATO from a deployed combat proven force to a ready in-garrison force as the Alliance’s overall greatest challenge in the coming years. Military members from across all NATO nations have spilled blood together fighting in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Libya. If we fail to capture and act upon the lessons learned and unprecedented level of interoperability achieved from more than 10 years of intense combat experience, I think that will be a complete failure to the hard working men and women of our Armed Forces.
To meet this challenge, we are carefully examining the NATO training and exercise construct to ensure we prepare the NATO Response Force (NRF) to meet their obligations when called upon by the Alliance. From soup to nuts, we need to develop a systematic process to ensure all military members from across the Alliance are prepared to carry out their military responsibilities with confidence and precision. From the Air perspective, this must include live flying events that stress cutting-edge technology and proven capabilities in an increasingly diverse and unpredictable environment. We are achieving unprecedented joint effects in the fight in Afghanistan, providing responsive effects from the air to the soldiers on the ground. We should not accept any degradation in these capabilities and should look for every opportunity to improve our ability to provide precise combat power from the air.
AIRCOM has the mandate to plan and execute the full range of Crisis Response Operations (CRO). Accordingly, the AIRCOM JFAC is to be manned, trained, validated and equipped to be capable of planning and executing Air C2 of operations. How will you achieve this, and what are the challenges?
This will be the fundamental underpinning for AIRCOM to achieve FOC as envisioned by the Alliance and what it begins with is proper and effective training for our Airmen. Within the DACCC in Poggio-Renautico, Italy, we have already successfully graduated students from our Initial Functional Joint Force Air Component Training (IFJT) course. This is our first step in ensuring personnel are trained and ready to fill their positions within the AIRCOM JFAC. We are also opening up this training across the NATO Force Structure to ensure continuity and standardization of JFAC training. This will be critical in developing a sufficient pool of air expertise across the NATO nations to fall back upon during CRO. Furthermore, we have validated the AIRCOM JFAC capabilities during this year’s NRF preparation during exercise STEADFAST JAZZ and demonstrated the capability to plan and task more than 450 sorties a day.
As we move towards FOC, we will continue to train and exercise our personnel to the most demanding missions to ensure tactics, techniques and procedures are in place and ready to execute the full range of CRO.
With operational Air and Space expertise concentrated within one organization, AIRCOM has become the focal point for Alliance Air and Space advice and competency. How will AIRCOM generate greater awareness of Alliance Air and Space capabilities amongst organizations Air needs to work with on Operations?
I am the primary advisor to SACEUR for delivering Air and Space Power for the Alliance. However, to generate greater awareness of Alliance Air and Space capabilities amongst NATO Command Structure (NCS) and NATO Force Structure (NFS) organizations, all Airmen must be advocates for Air Power. Our Airmen have everyday interaction with organizations throughout the NCS and NFS. It is absolutely critical that Airmen advocate the advantages of Air and Space contributions to the Joint Fight and the unique capabilities provided to our leadership. This starts with providing proper training and education for our Airmen, but there are also essential strategic messages which require persistent communication to be reinforced.
Air Power saves lives. Not only Alliance and coalition lives, but also enemy combatant and non-combatant lives. The precise application of combat power from the air enables the operational commanders to achieve precise effects with minimum collateral damage as demonstrated during Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR. Air Power has also demonstrated the capability to quickly achieve objectives in conjunction with our joint forces. These effects are unprecedented in the history of warfare and provide our leadership with more capable options in achieving their political objectives.
Air Power supports the Joint Fight. I have been challenging Airmen from across the Alliance to critically consider the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. And to be honest, I have been surprised to find that many still believe that the conflict is and has been primarily a land-centric operation … which I couldn’t disagree with more. What we as Airmen are doing in Afghanistan every day is, in many senses, the most challenging operation for us to support. We have established levels of interoperability across the Alliance that is unprecedented in the history of warfare. From persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) coverage of the battlefield to develop pattern of life analysis to the ability to provide responsive Close Air Support (CAS) in under 12 minutes, we are providing precise effects to enable the Joint Fight.
Air Power provides Joint Effects across the Spectrum of Conflict.
Air Superiority – Without it, nothing is possible, and ensuring it provides a freedom of manoeuvre our adversaries cannot comprehend.
Strike with Precision – Deliver precise combat power from the air while minimizing collateral damage and enabling leaders to take decisive action while minimizing undesired effects.
Joint ISR – Collection, processing and dissemination of information across the Alliance and coalition partners, enabling informed decisions and integrated operations.
Mobility – Airlift and Air Refuelling that enable all other operations.
Command and Control (C2) – Ensure the effective use of resources and capabilities provided by the nations. Effective C2 is often the most difficult thing to do and requires training and practice.
Don’t let Air Power be taken for granted. This also ties back in with the concept that every Airman is an advocate for Air Power. Many believe the capabilities and effects provided by Airmen just happen. They expect to know where the next threat will come from, or they expect immediate CAS in response to enemy contact. These things don’t just happen; an incredibly talented team of Airmen ensures these capabilities are available every day.
Space is a force multiplier and thus access to Space is among the current top issues. How does NATO approach this topic?
This is an operationally relevant topic which is critically important to the success of future NATO operations and something we are still working towards resolution. In my own opinion, as the USAFE Commander, the Air Force component is uniquely equipped to shape Space capabilities as the primary advocate for delivering Air and Space effects for the Joint Force Commander. I think NATO AIRCOM would be an ideal location to provide the Space Coordinating Authority for Allied Command Operations. This would be a natural progression of responsibility in coordinating national space capabilities to provide desired effects for Alliance operations.
Unlike the Air domain, space assets would not be required to undergo a Transfer of Authority (TOA) to NATO Commanders. NATO Commanders only need the information and joint effects provided by those assets, which would remain under the control of the nations which own, operate and maintain them. As the development of NATO’s Space competences moves forward, we need to focus our capabilities on providing the rapid dissemination of information and effects provided by space-based systems to NATO decision makers along with operational and tactical level commanders. This was a critical lesson learned from our operations in Libya and Afghanistan. It’s an issue I am keenly interested in addressing.
The JAPCC started the NATO Air Power – Future Vector project last year. What do you as JAPCC Director hope or expect that the project / paper achieves?
First, I would like to point out that being the Director of the JAPCC is an outstanding opportunity to leverage the unique capabilities of an organization specifically established to be forward thinking in regards to Joint Air and Space Power. The Air and Space Power in NATO – Future Vector Project will be critical in demonstrating the utility of the JAPCC to the Sponsoring Nations. This comprehensive study will chart our path forward and help to guarantee that Air and Space Power continues to contribute to the security and success of NATO and its Allies.
A great deal of work was done in 2012 and 2013 to refocus the JAPCC Programme of Work as a clear contribution to the future success of the NATO Alliance. I expect the Air and Space Power in NATO – Future Vector Project will be a clear demonstration of this focused effort. It is absolutely critical for NATO to actively investigate, develop and promulgate its Air Power vision for the future. This proactive planning will be absolutely essential to ensure the necessary capabilities and force readiness is available to provide a decisive advantage in future Alliance operations.
I also expect that this project will provide tangible results in addressing our near term challenges as we transition from a deployed combat proven force in Afghanistan to a ready, in-garrison force at home. With the expected drawdown of combat forces in Afghanistan, there will be the temptation to reap from the so called ‘Peace Dividend’. During this time of economic austerity and decreasing defence spending, the JAPCC will be our champion in clearly communicating our future defence requirements and the ability of Air and Space Power to provide contributions across the entire spectrum of operations.