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The State of the U.S. Air Force: A Conversation with General David L. Goldfein

July 21, 2020

General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force

Moderated by Mara Karlin, Director, Strategic Studies Program and Merrill Center for Strategic Studies

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Merrill Center for Strategic Studies hosted a discussion on The State of the U.S. Air Force with General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.

In light of his imminent retirement, General Goldfein noted during the discussion that he hopes that the most talented officers and NCOs have been selected in the Air force. He expressed that moving the entire department forward means focusing on the fighting formation of the US Air Force, which is the squadron commanders, joint leadership development and connecting capabilities that today are just not connected. Furthermore, he noted that the US Air Force has the most diverse mission set, representing the unblinking eye that brings not only the exquisite intelligence but also the analysis that turns ones and zeros into decision quality information.

In respect to the development of Space Force and its overlap with the Air Force, General Goldfein discussed delineating roles and responsibilities on operations and acquisitions. While initially reluctant on breaking the integration of joint warfighting in the process of building a separate service, General Goldfein acknowledged that commercial space is moving so fast that a space force as a separate service is the right way to go. The challenge remains to allow this new service to build its own unique service culture which tends to identify with the domain in which it operates.

General Goldfein was also asked to share his assessment on the state of racism, inclusivity in the air force today and what needs to be done going forward. He explained that something broke in the streets of America following George Floyd’s death while he hopes that something also broke loose in the US Air Force; namely an opportunity to make meaningful lasting long-term change when it comes to inclusiveness and belonging in the air force.

The event concluded with Q&A from the audience discussing topics from civil-military relations, the Air Force’s role in encountering the rise of China and Russia and aircraft procurement.