DAF leaders emphasize modernization, readiness at AFA Conference amid great power competition

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  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force’s top officials provided a series of keynote speeches and panel discussions at the Air and Space Forces Association 2023 Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 11-13.

The leaders spoke with a common theme of the critical need for DAF modernization and reorientation to counteract strategic competition in the Air, Space, and Cyber domains.

Read on for a synopsis of DAF senior leader keynotes and panels.

Secretary of the Air Force provides assessment of future threats

Department of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall's keynote address Sept. 11 reviewed the People’s Republic of China’s transformation into a U.S. strategic competitor as well as highlighted current DAF initiatives. He emphasized the need for the Air Force and Space Force to quickly modernize and adapt, sharing his view that the PRC now poses a more direct security challenge than violent extremist organizations. He urged Congress to overcome challenges in confirming general officer nominations, passing a full-year defense budget and preventing legislative gridlock.

Kendall also reviewed his seven Operational Imperatives, which align with the U.S. National Security Strategy and aim to reshape the Air Force and Space Force to meet the challenges posed by adversaries. Kendall emphasized the need for a comprehensive review of DAF’s organizational structure, training initiatives and equipment lifecycles. Kendall also expressed confidence that DAF is supporting the Joint Force, along with allies and partners, to unite and focus on deterring the pacing challenge.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force on accelerating change in order to meet global security challenges

Emphasizing themes that are now familiar, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. stated that the U.S. Air Force must continue to change to meet the challenges of today’s complex security environment or risk losing the certainty with which we have defended our national interests for decades. Brown outlined the progress on Accelerate Change or Lose and issued his 2020 blueprint for the Air Force, which has been characterized by four ‘action orders’ aimed at developing Airmen with the attributes needed for a high-end fight, reducing bureaucracy and streamlining decision-making processes, reshaping the service’s culture and mindset to address strategic competition and designing the force required for the future.


Chief of Space Operations on securing America's interests in space

Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman delivered a keynote address Sept. 12, discussing the increasingly contested and congested space domain. He explained how the Space Force was created for this new era, increasingly characterized by great power competition and tying the service’s new mission statement, “Secure our Nation’s interests in, from, and to space,” to the core functions Guardians provide for the Joint Force: space superiority, global mission operations, and assured space access. Finally, he discussed the need to create new Force Design, Force Development, Force Generation, and Force Employment schemas to build the Space Force we need to address current and future challenges.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force speaks on culture, goals, and vision

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass spoke Sept. 13, expressing gratitude for the dedication of Airmen and the vital roles they play in projecting airpower globally. She highlighted the need for the Air Force to continuously improve to meet challenges in the Pacific region. Bass stressed the significance of understanding and harnessing the power of information and artificial intelligence in the digital age. She also discussed the importance of Airmen thinking critically, challenging the status quo and embracing innovation.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force stresses importance of changing the game

Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman spoke to the AFA audience Sept. 13, discussing the Space Force core values, or “4 C’s,” the importance of creating winning teams, and the Space Force’s new Polaris Award. He detailed how the 4 Cs: Character, Connection, Commitment, and Courage, were developed by Guardians and were being incorporated into the promotion board process. He also reflected on his service as the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force ahead of his change of responsibility to Chief Master Sergeant John F. Bentivegna, Sept. 15.

Senior leaders assemble to discuss challenges for military families

Gen. Brown and his wife, Sharene Brown; Gen. Saltzman and his wife, Jennifer Saltzman; Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Bass and her husband, Rahn Bass; and Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Towberman and his wife, Rachel Rush engaged in a panel discussion about the evolving nature of military families, including the rise of dual-working families, dual military families, and single parent families. The leaders highlighted the importance of supporting initiatives and programs on military installations to maintain family connections and mentioned specific resources, including the Cohen Veterans Network, Joint Service School Liaison Program, and the Exceptional Family Member Program. They also touched on the unique challenges faced by Airmen and Guardians supporting high operational tempo units from home stations, emphasizing the need to provide ways to mitigate the stressors of the “deployed in-place” concept.


The Air and Space Forces Association 2023 Air, Space, and Cyber Conference provided a platform for Department of the Air Force senior leaders to discuss their perspectives for modernization and readiness to address evolving security threats to an audience of uniformed and civilian military members and industry partners. It also provided a forum for DAF civic engagements, bilateral discussions, media panels and recognition events for outstanding servicemembers.