PACAF hosts first-ever Engineer Theater Posture Summit

  • Published
  • By Diana Nesukh
  • Headquarters Air Force, Office of the Director of Civil Engineers

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Stakeholders from over 45 organizations and across multiple services traveled to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, May 16-18, 2023, to participate in the first ever Pacific Air Forces Engineer Theater Posture Summit. Bringing together nearly 100 engineers, the summit provided an opportunity to discuss the Agile Combat Employment, or ACE, framework in the Pacific.

The Department of the Air Force is navigating unprecedented times and the world is continuously changing. Today, there are formidable threats throughout the Indo-Pacific region making strategic investments to deny the Air Force’s ability to project power.

The key to continuing U.S. warfighting advantages is to stay laser-focused on bolstering lethality and effectively deterring strategic competitors. These competitors are targeting critical infrastructure the Air Force requires to support our combat projection platforms.

Urgent action is needed in infrastructure investment to remain dominant against competitors and transform for the future. To develop a threat-informed, concept-driven future Air Force, airmen engineers must be lock-step with ACE operations.

The Air Force has relied on a limited number of isolated, forward air bases for tactical air operations. However, the National Defense Strategy directed the Department of Defense to transition to an adaptive basing strategy. The Air Force’s response was ACE.

ACE shifts operations from centralized physical infrastructure to a network of smaller, dispersed locations to complicate U.S. competitor’s planning efforts while providing more options for U.S. joint force commanders.

Attendees at the summit included service members from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

"The results of this week are going to enable opportunities, as well as new and creative ways to set the theater for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said U.S. Navy CAPT. Chris Coggins, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Engineering Division chief.

Tasked with the unique challenge of setting the theater in the Indo-Pacific, attendees focused on two critical themes throughout the summit: infrastructure and readiness.

U.S. Air Force Col. Kevin Osborne, PACAF Command Civil Engineer, encouraged attendees to bring all of their ideas to the table and workshop their effectiveness.

“We need all hands on deck to better posture ourselves in the Pacific and diversity of thought to ensure we are capturing everything,” Osborne said during opening remarks. “I look forward to participating in robust discussions on how to provide resilient installations, infrastructure, and combat support capabilities at the speed of relevancy in order to enable the Air Force to project power rapidly and effectively from our combat projection platforms.”

The infrastructure working group focused on the development of hub and spoke locations throughout the Pacific. Participants solutioned challenges revolving around current policy and guidance barriers, country access, supply chain logistics, environmental processes, and a whole of engineering approach. The goal of the working group was to find ways to expediently construct, install, and repair facilities and infrastructure in the most resilient and self-sustaining way, with a light and agile logistical footprint.

The readiness working group focused on ways to maintain contingency response and recovery capabilities during and after a crisis on or near an air base. Discussions included Expeditionary Airfield Damage Repair, Air Force Force Generation, or AFFORGEN force presentation model, readiness training and utilization of Air National Guard and Reserve engineers, with the goal of fielding a lighter, leaner, multi-functional, and rapidly maneuverable approach to restore operations, save lives, mitigate human suffering, and minimize damage in the event of an incident.

Reflecting on the significance of the summit as it relates to ACE, Director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection Brig. Gen. Patrick Miller said, “The Agile Combat Employment scheme of maneuver must be executable in both deterring, as well as at the time of conflict, in the Indo-Pacific.”

A deliberate investment strategy through Secretary of the Air Force’s Operational Imperatives targeting infrastructure improvements and equipment procurement is pivotal to deterring or responding to conflict. The summit was an invaluable step in that direction.

Setting the theater in support of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific is a joint effort, relying on the ideas and solutions of diverse organizations, each service component, and our allies and partners. One thing is clear: if deterrence fails, the U.S. is posturing forces for combat and will be ready to defend when needed.