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COMAFSOC discussion on national security

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Melissa Crisostomo
  • AFSOC Public Affairs

Air Force Special Operations Commander, Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, and the Director of the Transitional Threats Project, Dr. Seth Jones, discussed national security issues during a recent interview. The online interview was hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 17, 2020.

The discussion addressed topics relevant to AFSOC, such as competition between state adversaries, innovation and acquisition, budget environment, and potential rebalancing of the force.

Jones opened the discussion, questioning Slife regarding the effects budget deficits and covid-19 may have had on experimentation and innovation in AFSOC.

“It is crystal clear to me that the AFSOC that we will need in the future is different than the one we have today,” said Slife.  “So, if you accept the proposition that we will have declining resourcing with which to work with, the only conclusion that one can come to is that we have to divest to invest.”

“We need to spend less time thinking about technology and a little more time thinking about innovative concepts for employing the technology that we have,” Slife continued. “For example, we’re on the tail end a C-130 recapitalization effort. I have to figure out how we use what we have in a novel and creative way relevant to the future operating environment.”

Slife acknowledged there are certain tasks AFSOC has taken on that are ‘commodity activities’ or tasks in which AFSOC is not the unique provider of particular capabilities.

“Those are the things that, no matter how dear they might have been to us for the last 20 years, we’re going to have to bring ourselves to the point where we can cut loose some of them in order to invest in the things that we think might be more relevant in the future operating environment,” said Slife.

“If SOCOM needed more SEALS, then they’d probably go find more SEALS. They don’t need me to try and produce Air Force SEALS,” Slife stated. “I believe the service components of SOCOM are most effective for SOF when we are closest to our parent service and we need to return to a supporting force to the larger joint enterprise.”

With the U.S. focusing on peer and pacing adversaries, like Russia and China, Slife discussed the opportunities that he sees AFSOC facing, while still remaining a critical part of the counter violent extremist fight.

“I think there’s a lot of room for AFSOC, specifically, to focus on irregular warfare operations as part of the broader joint force,” said Slife.

Jones closed the discussion by questioning AFSOC’s plans to rebalance its force in an environment where a high-ops tempo is uncertain.

“Our primary organizational adjustment over the last year is a transition to a deliberate unit-based force generation model which will afford commanders the opportunity to be more invested in the training and development of the human capital under their charge,” said Slife.

“I’ve been focusing pretty hard on looking for opportunities to draw the connection closer between SOF and the United States Air Force,” said Slife. “There are things that the Air Force will be well positioned to do to help accomplish future special operations missions. I need to help bridge that gap.”

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