USAF Intl Affairs Chief Pushes Alliances at Le Bourget


Heidi Grant, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for international affairs, gave a breakfast speech this morning at a private event hosed by Accenture here at the Paris Air Show.

In her remarks, which were closed to the press, she emphasized the need for partnerships in economic times.

See her speech, as provided by a public affairs officer, here:

Paris Air Show – Breakfast Panel
18 June 2013
Ms. Grant

I. Introduction

It is such an honor to be in Paris this week, seated in the heart of a country that boasts such a strong aerospace history, and to be in the company of top leaders and innovators in the air domain.

This year we celebrate the 50th edition of the Paris Air Show, the oldest and largest of all air shows.  Launched in 1909, and held every odd year since 1924, its history goes back more than a century . . .  and what a century it has been for the aerospace industry!

As I was preparing my remarks for this morning’s breakfast, I thought of the many stages this industry has gone through to reach this point.  Spanning the course of two world wars, the Cold War, and those in Iraq and Afghanistan, the aerospace industry – and especially combat aerospace – has evolved by leaps and bounds.

The industry’s tremendous technological advancements have been essential in protecting our Airmen and bolstering the readiness of our global coalition in times of peace.  The Paris Air Show has always been there at the heart of that evolution.

Even as technology expands exponentially, the key themes of global security have remained the same.  Primarily, we continue to emphasize the idea that no nation can go it alone – collaboration is a necessity, not an option. Industry, too, benefits by working in close coordination with all its stakeholders.  The aerospace industry’s multinational nature can often be demonstrated by taking a look at an individual aircraft.  

The thousands of parts that make up an aircraft come from multiple countries and companies.  Separately, these parts are of little use, but when joined together as part of one aircraft, they each play a critical role that allows the aircraft to perform its intended function.

And so it is with our partnerships -- those between our governments and those within industry.  It takes a global public-private team to enable the development, sales, and maintenance of our aircraft.  We could not stand ready today without the collective efforts of governments, industry, and individual airmen.  You continue to exceed expectations through your spirit of innovation which gives our Airmen access to the best products and cutting edge technology. 

Before beginning the panel discussion, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come over the past few decades, where we are now, and possible opportunities for future collaboration. 

II. Collaboration – Past

Looking back over the last century, much has changed, but one theme remains constant – collaboration is critical to our success.  Today’s technology is the result of decades of engagement between industry and militaries around the world. 

In every major war, and in peacetime, our governments have relied on industry to provide the technological capabilities needed to defend national and global security interests. 

World War I marked the first war in which aircraft were deployed on a large scale for combat operations.  The equipment, technology, and tactics developed during this time laid the foundation for aerial reconnaissance and combat and led to the critical technologies we have today.  For the US, the employment of air power began as a joint venture when a group of American volunteers, known as Lafayette Escadrille [La-fie-et Es-ca-drill], joined with France to fight in World War I.  Multinational collaboration between our governments and industry enabled airmen to engage in aerial combat and reconnaissance, and contributed to allied victory.

World War II saw a drastic increase in the pace of aircraft development production from all countries involved in the war.  On the 16th of May, 1940 – when President Roosevelt called the production of 50,000 planes over the course of a year – industry responded to this seemingly impossible feat.  Not only did they respond, they excelled, nearly doubling that number by 1944.    

At the end of World War II, aircraft transitioned from a combat to humanitarian assistance role.   During the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49, allied transport aircraft delivered 2.3 million tons of food and supplies on more than 278,000 flights into Berlin, saving the city from starvation.  Pilots like the celebrated “Candy Bomber,” who dropped treats for children out of the cockpit window, showed how aircraft could be used to support diplomacy through peaceful means, rather than through combat. 

Air power continued to play a central role in many more conflicts since then, serving to make us a more efficient and effective force.  Over the years, we saw the rise of jets in the Korean War; precision guided munitions and electronic warfare in Vietnam; stealth and GPS in Desert Storm; and Remotely Piloted Aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In every major conflict around the world, industry has risen to the occasion and pushed technological boundaries to deliver crucial capabilities.

III. Collaboration – Present

Let’s fast forward to today.  The US Air Force is the smallest it has ever been throughout our history.  Threats to our global security, however, have only grown more complex.  What this means to me is we need to optimize our efficiencies to do more with less.  We need to be more innovative … more collaborative … and more responsive than ever before. 

In this period of fiscal uncertainty, partnerships between governments and with industry, have become even more important. We are all looking to reduce costs where we can and improve efficiency, while still maintaining the high-quality products and services that we are known for.  

Just as collaboration is critical to our mutual success, so is an open and free market.  I am a firm believer in healthy competition because it drives us all to be better.  The Air Force follows a carefully structured process, designed to provide transparency, maintain integrity, and promote fair competition. 

Competition has been a driving force in the US and our partners’ abilities to maintain the best equipped air forces in the world. Ultimately, our business is about providing our warfighters the capabilities they need to protect our global security.  We must sustain the efforts that have given our warfighters a decisive edge in recent conflicts such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We know we’re doing our job when our ground combat warriors don’t have to worry about coming under attack by enemy air forces.  Air superiority platforms have assured their safety since 1953 – the last time a US service member was killed by enemy air attack. With or without budget cuts, our Air Force mission to fly, fight, and win continues, and so will the need for the latest and greatest technology that supports that mission.

IV. Future Collaboration

And that brings me to my next topic -- our future collaboration.  The US Air Force has a very real and pressing need to modernize our aircraft as we meet new threats and challenges.  The average age of our fighter aircraft is 23 years; rescue helicopters 22 years; trainer aircraft 25 years; bombers 37 years; and tankers nearly 50 years. Satellites for missile warning, navigation, and secure communications are also aging. 

Increasingly, our valuable service funds are being used to maintain and sustain our aging aircraft and equipment.  Frankly, we cannot postpone the next step much longer.

In spite of budget cuts, we must continue investing in future capabilities – we must sustain future momentum in modernization.  To echo US Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, the future success of the Air Force depends on our ability to focus on the right priorities and modernize our fleet.  This also applies to our international partners.  In order to maintain interoperability between forces and support a global coalition of capable partners, fleet modernization for our international partners is a necessity.

So what does this mean for industry? The aging fleets of the US and our partners present an opportunity for industry to introduce new platforms and technology.  I believe FMS and DCS will continue to grow, as it has for the past two decades.  

We need to work closely together with industry on managing expectations regarding exportability to ensure we are prepared to meet both sales demand while complying with US policy. 

Taking exportability into account during product development benefits us all by bringing down acquisition and sustainment costs for all participants while contributing to global interoperability, and increased sales.  The Air Force does not manage US export policy, but we are doing our part to make the FMS process flow more smoothly through internal Air Force process improvements.  We are working hard to anticipate partner needs and be more responsive, while striving for a better, faster, and cheaper FMS business practice. 

I always am looking for opportunities where we can team more efficiently and effectively together.  What we need most from you are ideas – ideas on research and development as well as ideas on how we can improve collaboration. I encourage you to continue your efforts to provide products that are affordable, on-schedule, and exportable. 

What distinguishes FMS from other programs is our ability to provide a capability, not just a platform.  We are creating holistic approaches to defense and developing relationships that will pay mutual dividends long into the future.  It is because of this total package approach and the quality of the products that our FMS cases have grown steadily since 2009 and, I believe, will continue to do so.

V. Conclusion

I will conclude with a simple thought.  The aerospace industry represents much more than aircraft and technology sales.  You are supporting the larger mission of security cooperation by helping to build global air capabilities and capacity for like-minded partners.  

Among the  keys to our success is ensuring our Airmen have access to the top-of-the-line tools and technology that enable them to fulfill the Air Force mission.  The research and development you provide makes this possible.  I look forward to seeing what the next few years of innovation will bring for us and our allies.

Thank you for your continued commitment to this mission and for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts. 

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