Schwartz, who was sworn in as chief of staff earlier today, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference that the service is fundamentally sound. “It doesn’t mean we’re perfect,” he said. “And we certainly have work to do, things to fix, fences to mend.”
But the Air Force being able to ship 2,000 Georgian soldiers from Baghdad home to Tbilisi this past weekend demonstrated that “we know how to operate, and we continue to support the joint team in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Precision and reliability are the Air Force standard regardless of job or specialty, Schwartz said. “We will return the vigor and the rigor to all the processes and missions … for which we have been entrusted,” he added.
The general said the service will “work with a vengeance” to fix areas that are substandard. “And the United States Air Force will remain the finest air force on the planet,” he said.
Schwartz shared the dais with Acting Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley. The secretary, who is in his second stint as acting secretary, said he and the general have several issues to address including the nuclear enterprise; care for wounded warriors; the service’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance posture; the acquisition process; and modernization and recapitalization. Still, the Air Force’s main priority, is “our continued support for the global war on terror,” he said.
Air Force leaders are undertaking efforts this month to look at all those issues, Donley said, “and expect to address several of them, both in the immediate term and the longer term, within the next month or two.”
Donley and Schwartz replace Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley when Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked for their resignations following an investigation that revealed a decline in the Air Force’s nuclear program focus, performance and effective leadership.
Donley said he and Schwartz will examine all reports of internal Air Force investigations into incidents at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in which nuclear weapons were unknowingly flown to Louisiana, and with Taiwan, in which parts of a Minuteman missile were shipped to Taiwan mislabeled as helicopter batteries. They are waiting for input from a panel led by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger.
“So we’ll be able to take input from the Schlesinger panel, then take about another 30 days to work out our roadmap,” Donley said. “I wouldn’t want to speculate on the organizational structure that comes out of this. What I can promise you is that we’re taking a comprehensive look at this issue. So this is not onesies and twosies and a handful of fixes. This is across the board.”
Schwartz agreed, saying changes in the nuclear program will be “end to end.” He said that when dealing with nuclear weapons, perfection is the standard.
Schwartz and Donley said servicemembers they have talked to are more than willing to put in the hours and effort necessary reinvigorate the service. “My pledge to all today is that the Air Force will keep the promise to our teammates and to our families and to all our partners who rely on us every day,” Schwartz said. “That trust is critical, is born from expertise, respect for our joint partners, and rigorous accountability. We will work together to reinvigorate the Air Force’s institutions and show ourselves completely worthy of America’s trust.”