Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz revealed in his major speech at the Air Force Association conference that the service began a wide-ranging technology study to come up with approaches that may help the service answer some of its pressing mission challenges and help find technologies "that should underwrite our future.".
Schwartz told reporters after the speech that the study is being led by the service's chief scientist, Werner Dahm. The horizon study was launched in July and should be finished by "next summer." One promising technology ahs already been identified, Schwartz said. "Virtual machines" could be used to help protect the utility and integrity of the services' networks. "That technology is close at hand. I would not have known about that if our chief scientist had not told me," Schwartz noted.
Schwartz also addressed a wide range of other acquisition issues, including that the Quadrennial Defense Review may result in the service losing some capabilities it hoped to develop. "It may e that in many areas we might, in (Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James) Hoss Cartwright's word, not end get as exquisite systems as perhaps" the service had planned for.
Schwartz on other programs:
The tanker RFP: Speaking personally, Schwartz said he wants the Air Force to run the KC-X program "but ultimately this is a decision for the Secretary of Defense to decide." He also said service had done a much better job of communicating with the companies since the GAO protest was issued. "I think Jim Albaugh (Boeing) and Ron Sugar (Northrop Grumman) and Paul Meyer (Northrop) will tell you that there has been far better communication than had been the case..." he said.
Asked whether he expected a protest once the RFP comes out, Schwartz said the "the companies will do what they have to do. Do you think we would put out an RFP that would not be near foolproof?"
On the C-130 upgrade: Schwartz confirmed that the service had killed the C-130 AMP program, saying "the bottom line is we couldn't afford it." Instead of installing a state of the art glass cockpit, the service will now install collision avoidance and an air traffic beacon.
Finally, Schwartz focused in his AFA speech on ethics, saying the "only one path to take... is the straight path, strictly in accordance with the law. We have also learned that our reputation is fragile" and bad acts "reverberate for years." Watch for the tanker RFP to come out in the next few weeks and see if Schwartz has come up with the right people possessed of the right attitudes and expertise.