Sovereign Options

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Trainng Wing commander
Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an Air Force Blue Summit Conference, a gathering of all Air Force general officers and senior civilians in San Antonio TX. At the conference, we heard several updates of various programs across the Air Force. One of the most compelling presentations was from our Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF), Honorable Michael Wynne, who provided a summary of his recent White Paper, Sovereign Options for Securing Global Stability and Prosperity, which has become the USAF's overarching strategy document. I'd like to briefly give you my summary and perspective of the paper.

Now some of you may be thinking . . . reading an Air Force strategy paper is the last thing I want to do. We often think of strategy as useful for policymakers in Washington but not too relevant for us in the field. I'd argue the opposite. Understanding our AF strategy can provide real meaning and coherence to our mission here at home and can also enable us to be better informed advocates for our Air Force for our friends and neighbors.

I've attached a copy of the paper to the electronic version of this article and encourage you all to read it, but let me summarize a few points:

First the SECAF paints a picture of the kind of world we live in and the strategic challenges we'll likely face over the next decades. He describes three primary threats--radical extremist terrorist groups, "rejectionist states" like Iran and the Balkan aftermath, and rising technological and economic peers. These threats will challenge our nation's security and interests around the world.

In the context of this strategic environment, the SECAF explains the concept of "sovereign options" used in our Air Force mission statement--. . . the mission of the USAF is to deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests. By sovereign options, we mean the Air Force provides a range of air, space, and cyberspace options for our national leadership to consider when defending US interests around the globe. Ultimately, sovereign options implies the freedom to act decisively anywhere on the planet, unhindered by geography or defense systems. Simply put, without our Air Force, our nation would not be able to act freely to protect our freedom and interests.

Next, the SECAF's White Paper describes the means by which we exercise these sovereign options--Global Vigilance, Global Reach, and Global Power. Global Vigilance describes the capability to provide continuous surveillance and gather information in any area of interest to US forces or decision makers. Global Reach is exemplified by our strategic airlift and air refueling force, able to deliver and sustain forces anywhere on the globe. Finally, Global Power is our ability to hold any target on the face of the planet at risk, with pinpoint accuracy.

Finally, the paper articulates the very real challenges we face in implementing the strategy in order to achieve true Global Vigilance, Reach, and Power. The SECAF makes the frank assessment that our nation must commit itself to a significant investment strategy in its Air Force to ensure it has the means to carry out our strategy. These investments link directly to our modernization priorities--a new tanker, a new Combat Search and Rescue Aircraft, improved space systems, the Joint Strike Fighter, and a new strategic bomber. Without these and other capabilities, the US Air Force will be limited in its ability to deliver sovereign options for our nation. And ultimately, if our nation and Air Force loses its ability to act freely in the world, our freedoms here at home will be at risk.

Of course the bedrock foundation of our Air Force strategy rests on the quality of our people. Without the training provided here at Sheppard, our Air Force or NATO partners would not be able to carry out its mission today, or tomorrow.

Thanks for all you are doing today, Team Sheppard, to support our great Air Force mission. I'd encourage you to read the SECAF's White Paper in detail to better understand how vital our Air Force is to the security of our nation and the free world.