Kendall outlines global threats and need to maintain air superiority
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall spent the first two decades of his military career combating the Soviet Union during the Cold War. These days, he is committed to helping the U.S. counter another potential adversary in China.
Kendall laid out his concerns about China and ways the U.S. Air Force can deter conflict and project power against global threats, while speaking at the Tinker and the Primes conference Aug. 9 at the Reed Conference Center.
China is a more challenging foe than the Soviet Union, Kendall said.
“During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a significant and real competition, but China is more formidable to me by far than the Soviets ever were,” Kendall said. “They have better resources, are more open minded about technology, have much better manufacturing, and are more aggressive and single minded about pursing things designed to defeat us.”
Kendall said China has been working to modernize its military for decades with a “very clear intent.”
“They intend to dissuade the United States from intervening in the western Pacific,” he said. “And if we do they intend to defeat us.”
Since the Gulf War, China has been studying the United States’ warfare capabilities and looking for potential vulnerabilities, Kendall said.
“China has the budget, the resources and strategic initiative to attack what they perceive as the United States’ vulnerabilities,” he said.
Kendall said the military needs to attack the problem, and outlined seven operational imperatives that will help do that. They include – space order of battle, operationally focused advanced battle management systems, moving target engagement, tactical air dominance, resilient basing, global strike and readiness to deploy and fight.
Kendall is hopeful the plans will be included in the budget.
“We are in a race for military technological superiority with China. And time is our most precious asset. We cannot afford to waste any more time,” he said.
A key part of his plan is upgrading the military capabilities of the Space Force.
“We need to completely transform our space military capabilities and make them much more operational focused. We also need to defend against anti-satellite capabilities of the other said,” Kendall said.
Maintaining air dominance includes upgrading fighter aircraft such as the F-22 as well as teaming unmanned aircraft with manned crews to create a more effective force.
“Everything I’ve seen says this is the right idea and it will work, and it will be very cost effective,” Kendall said about the combination of manned and unmanned aircraft.
Kendall was one of several high-profile speakers during Tinker and the Primes. The conference, hosted by the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce, provides an opportunity for defense contractors to connect with Department of Defense leaders and understand the needs of the Air Force.
Gov. Kevin Stitt spoke on the second day of the conference. He spoke about the state’s history in aviation and defense and their efforts to help veterans and the military.
“We have waived taxes on retirement salaries for veterans because we want all of our military folks staying in Oklahoma and having second careers,” he said. “Workforce is such a tremendous advantage we can have in the state and ex-military people are such fantastic Americans and we want to keep them in Oklahoma.”
Stitt said the state has also waived tuition and fees for National Guard members and they are working to align education opportunities with the aviation and defense industry. The state has also made it easier for spouses to acquire and retain professional certifications when moving from a different state.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole spoke at the conference on Aug. 9 about the importance of the National Defense Authorization Act. The U.S. House and Senate both passed versions of the bill and must reconcile differences before it is approved.
“We need to figure out ways to come together and get things done as opposed to pointing fingers,” he said. “Nobody in that caucus is going to get everything they want. The process never works that way, it has to be bipartisan.”
Cole has confidence the Oklahoma delegation will support the bill. He said he’s worried that divisive items could derail the process and create a continuing resolution.
“I’ll do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Cole said.
Tinker and the Primes also included panel discussions on Women in Aeronautics, Oklahoma Air and Space Port, and other defense industry topics.