Gates: Air Force Must Prepare For 21st-Century Threats

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today told Air Force cadets that their ser­vice branch has to change to face the foes and chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tu­ry.
“As future Air Force lead­ers, you will be the ones tack­ling the chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tu­ry head-on, and those chal­lenges will be sig­nif­i­cant,” Gates said in remarks at the U.S. Air Force Acad­e­my in Col­orado Springs, Colo.

The sec­re­tary has pushed the ser­vices to fight the cur­rent wars while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly invest­ing in and prepar­ing for a range of threats that include glob­al ter­ror­ism, eth­ic con­flicts, and rogue nations or ris­ing pow­ers with sophis­ti­cat­ed capa­bil­i­ties.

The Air Force has been a vic­tim of its own suc­cess for decades, the sec­re­tary said, not­ing the the Air Force has not lost a plane in air com­bat in almost 40 years, or an Amer­i­can sol­dier attacked by an ene­my air­craft since the Kore­an War.

“Amer­i­can own­er­ship of the skies has been so effort­less, it is tak­en for grant­ed,” Gates said. “Air suprema­cy in this cen­tu­ry, how­ev­er, will almost cer­tain­ly mean dif­fer­ent things and require dif­fer­ent sys­tems, per­son­nel poli­cies and think­ing than was the case for most of the Cold War.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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