COMPACAF: Innovation crucial to power projection

Basing for Attack

Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, and Gen. Todd D. Walters, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, discuss the ability to project power against advanced enemy capabilities during the Basing for Attack Panel session of the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 19, 2017. (Courtesy photo by Brittany Palmer)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) --

Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, highlighted how Airmen are adapting to the challenges of power projection in a contested environment during a panel at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Sept. 19, 2017. 

“We have seen our potential adversaries trying to change the game so we have to continue to be innovative and think about how we’re going to project power," O'Shaughnessy said. 

 The panel, "Basing for attack: Where do we go?" showcased how O'Shaughnessy and Gen. Tod D. Wolters, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa commander, are dealing with the challenges of rapidly evolving potential adversaries able to hold regional operating bases and logistical centers at risk. 

At PACAF, that has evolved into a command-wide focus challenging Airmen to think differently at all levels. That innovative thinking has led to the development of a new concept of operations called Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.

“This isn’t a power point level idea,” said O’Shaughnessy. "This is something that we as Airmen can innovate and we can find ways to actually execute; not because we want to, but because we have to."

Most recently exercised in Alaska and Japan, ACE provides a hybrid approach to power projection in an anti access area denial, or A2/AD, environment by taking an already forward-deployed force and applying operational maneuver to increase survivability and generate more military options for the Joint Force Commander. 

This includes ways to improve passive and active defense capabilities and command and control of forces; everything from connecting sensors across multiple domains to increase situational awareness, to enabling rapid decision-making and the ability to direct forces to achieve commander's intent.

"In a perfect world we're going to connect it all together, but in a contested environment, it's very likely we're going to have periods of darkness," O'Shaughnessy said.

So in addition to enhanced technology, part of the solution is empowering Airmen to make decisions at the best possible level.

"Who is the person in the best position to make the best decisions and not rely on reach back," he said. "We're inserting that in the way we exercise, in our mindset... it's about the culture of Airmen."

While O'Shaughnessy lauded the efforts at PACAF, he emphasized that it's not just a regional challenge created by the tyranny of distance.

"This is something we all as Airmen need to address and take on," he said. "We are not going to face a static adversary.  We have to continue to be innovative."

(Tech. Sgt. Natalie Stanley, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office contributed to this article)