The One About the 2020 Virtual ASC Conference

“Accelerate Change Or Lose.” In this episode, I share my thoughts on the 2020 virtual Air, Space, and Cyberspace conference. I cover the keynote presentations from General Charles “CQ” Brown, Chief of Staff of the Air Force 22, and CMSgt JoAnne Bass, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force 19, as well other senior leader panels that cover topics that are important to advancing the Air Force.


Pre-reading – Accelerate Change or Lose Paper

  • Framing the problem – While the erosion of warfighting advantage impacts the entire joint force, it is particularly consequential for the U.S. Air Force, and so we must double our efforts to accelerate the changes necessary for our future success. The U.S. Air Force must adapt so that we can uphold our unique value proposition to the Nation—the ability to provide strategic deterrence and employ global effects on near-immediate timelines
  • Analysis of current situation – Capabilities must be conceived, developed, and fielded inside competitors’ fielding timelines—knowing we will need to adapt and adjust over time. Innovative ideas from our Airmen need viable sustainment pathways. If we are to beat our competitors in conflict, we must also beat them in the development and fielding of capability.
  • Where change must start from – Our Airmen must be multi-capable and adaptable team builders, as well as innovative and courageous problem solvers, and demonstrate value in the diversity of thought, ingenuity, and initiative.
  •  “Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the change in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur.” — Giulio Douhet

Key Briefings

General Charles “CQ” Brown, Chief of Staff of the Air Force #22

  • The Air Force has a “window of opportunity” to accelerate change, meaning it will close if we don’t act now. He wants us to move out NOW and with a purpose
  • Accelerate Change or Lose = “I wanna go fast! -Ricky Bobby, Talladega Nights
  • Accelerants to Accelerate Change or Lose: National Defense Strategy, the standup of USSF, COVID-19, andracial disparity
  • Accelerate Change or Lose is the Why, and this is the What (Action Orders)
    • Airmen – Started at training and recruiting (talent management). BUILD LEADERS. TRUST AT ALL LEVELS OF COMMAND. Empower Airmen with confidence
    • Bureaucracy – Communicate to break down barriers and drive to decisions. Information is often filtered and shouldn’t be. We must have the “meeting after the meeting” IN the meeting to become more efficient. We must be able to communicate externally w/our allies and industry partners faster to become a more agile force.
    • Competition – We need to understand our connection to the mission and competition to our adversaries. Improve our approach, take some risk, and compete. “Leadership without risk called managers. We don’t need more management, we need more leaders.” Risk is needed to compete at the right place at the right time. Our PME must have a better and deep understanding of our adversaries so we can act
    • Design Implementation – Make tough decisions to invest in the right platforms to meet our adversaries. Force generation/presentation model for us to easy to understand and implement in the joint force
  • Ride the wave of change, don’t fight it. We need to come together with our superpowers. We need to get this right, because we might not get another shot – Avengers
  • KEY TAKEAWAY – Our top leader wants us to change and evolve because we NEED to outpace our adversaries as the world’s greatest Air Force. We need to remain Airmen at heart that push the limits of our assigned missions as a service and a joint force through the creativity and ingenuity within the diversity of our ranks. Don’t fight the wave of change, ride it. Accelerate Change Or Lose.

I submitted the following during the Question & Answer session:

  • Q: What do you see as the biggest hurdle to overcome fear of failure at the lowest level to enable empowered decisions? 
  • A: If we always try to be perfect and preserve our personal/functional interests and minimize the risk of losing those, we will never truly making progress. He referenced the concept of “Command and Feedback” from General Mattis, which encouraged simplicity in planning, and speed, surprise, and security in execution. He mentioned a story when he was a young Major where he was not necessarily looking for approval on his plan of action, but rather looking for leadership feedback and vectoring knowing he already was going to take action to meet leadership intent that was already previously expressed and understood. 

Chief Master Sergeant Joann Bass, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force #19

  • Our history is our foundation – Innovation, determination, selflessness, and courage 
  • The reason we are the best AF in the world is because of the backbone of our force: our NCO corps
  • People
    • How do we effectively and deliberately manage our talent?
    • How do we develop our Airmen using multiple techniques?
    • How do we keep up the dynamic changes of the world?
  • Readiness
    • Wust be ready for the high end fight
    • Resilience is readiness and readiness breeds culture
    • Physically, Mentally, Spiritually, Emotionally, Fiscally READY
  • Culture
    • Our culture is who we are & who we want to be
    • It will take ALL of us to build our culture
    • “Diversity is asking someone to the dance, and Inclusion is asking someone to dance.”
  • KEY TAKEAWAY – Leadership does not come out of an AFI – Get to know your Aimen and take action on what you know is right. Don’t just talk about things, take action. The culture of our immediate teammates are important for inclusion and diversity. 

Gen John “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operations

  • Lots of information to cover, will read Space Capstone Publication – Spacepower: Doctrine for Space Forces
  • Captain and Lt that responded to Iranian missile attack at US forces
  • Air Force will learn from the evolution of the Space Force, and Space Force has a fresh start from the Air Force (not retain inefficient practices) 
  • Mass swearing in of ~300 officers and enlisted to the USSF, really cool!

Chief Master Sergeant Roger A. Towberman, Senior Enlisted Advisor of the United States Space Force; Command Senior Enlisted Leader of United States Space Command

  • Grow the greatest NCO corps of the world
  • Where can USSF perform small experiments that can be scaled afterwards
  • “This is your service!” Leadership is willing to listen to every voice and opinion. Rank or label doesn’t matter. Focus on development of the force, not retention of the force
  • “None of you should be managed when you should be led.”

Attended/Recommended panels

Leading during a pandemic: what our Airmen need to excel

  • Panel members: CMSgt Tony Whitehead, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau; CMSgt Brian P. Kruzelnick, Command Chief Master Sergeant, Air Mobility Command; CMSgt Nathaniel M. Perry, Jr., Commandant, United States Air Force First Sergeant Academy; CMSgt Mary Polanco, Senior Enlisted Advisor, Integrated Resilience
  • Pandemic has forced us to be more agile and figure out how to operate in a contested environment.
  • Remain socially connected. Follow the communication methods of your teammates. Go where they are comfortable so communication continues.
  • Adapt and Evolve. Find ways to be better.
  • No one is going to escape the pandemic or associated stress. Integrated resilience means you have baked in strategies for dealing with stress so you can continue to operate.
  • We will need to reintegrate ourselves when we all return to the “post-normal.” Very similar to returning from a deployment, all of us will have to figure out how to smartly return to our respective teams with the new experiences we have learned from.
  • Leaders should prioritize connection with others to take care of one another.

Diversity and Racial Challenges in the Air Force

  • Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass; Gen Larry O. Spencer, USAF, (Ret.), President, Armed Forces Benefit Association/5Star Life Insurance Company; Gen Lori Robinson, USAF, (Ret.), Former Commander, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command; The Honorable Shon Manasco, Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs
  • Diversity as a joint force adds a different level of experience and lens to any situation and potential solution.
  • Pick the qualified person! Set the tone for a professional organization. If you’re going to make the team better, pick the best person because that’s the right choice to make, not necessarily filling a quota. Once you have narrowed down your choice, seek the diverse choice to increase the power of the team.
  • Inclusion is founded in trust. Trust that perspectives and thoughts can be shared without fear and that everyone will actually be heard.

Information Warfare

  • Lt Gen Mary F. O’Brien, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations; Lt. Gen. Timothy D. Haugh, Commander, Sixteenth Air Force; Brig Gen Bradley L. Pyburn, Deputy Commander, Sixteenth Air Force; Col Lauren Courchaine, Commander, 67th Cyberspace Operations Group; Col Lamont Atkins, Commander, 567th Cyberspace Operations Group
  • Information is important both in conflict and competition.
  • Nat’l security is dependent on commercial solutions that can be rapidly integrated.
  • “No Huddle” type of mindset is needed to deliver effects as needed to support nat’l security.

Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2)

  • Maj Gen Angela M. Cadwell, Director of Cyberspace Operations at NORAD and USNORTHCOM; Lt Gen Bradford J. Shwedo, Director for Command, Control, Communications and Computers / Cyber, Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6; Lt Gen William J. Bender, USAF (Ret.), Leidos Sr. Vice President – Strategic Accounts & Government Relations; Lt Gen B. Chance Saltzman, Deputy Chief of Space Operations, Cyber, and Nuclear, United States Space Force
  • The Joint All Domain Operations concept isn’t a new concept, but the sense of urgency has changed. JADC2 provides commanders access to information to allow for simultaneous and sequential operations using surprise and the rapid and continuous integration of capabilities across all domains—to try to gain physical and psychological advantages and influence and control over the operational environment.
  • NDS drives JADC2 to compete w/near-peer adversaries.
  • The agility to shift domains and deliver effects is important for the future fight.

Culture Collision and Talent Management

  • Lt Gen Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Commander, Air Education and Training Command; Lt Gen Brian T. Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services
  • The Airmen of the past and now are not the Airmen we need to meet the Nat’l Security Strategy and Nat’l Defense Strategy in a high-powered conflict.
  • The mantra of “fighting through” with agile solutions within AETC was established to keep the throughput of Airmen consistent to meet readiness needs.
  • Diversity and Inclusion actions are considered a marathon, not a sprint. Enduring engagements are necessary to keep the positive momentum.
  • General officers will be making more appearances at HBCUs and other minority-dominant universities to try and draw talent to the Air Force that is representative of our national community.
  • “If you can’t talk about it, you can’t fix it.”