USA — Schwartz Discusses Korea, Other Issues

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Nor­ton A. Schwartz today said it is “sig­nif­i­cant” that the South Kore­an air force, rather than the Unit­ed States, is lead­ing its country’s air defens­es at a time when North Korea has become increas­ing­ly provoca­tive.
Schwartz spoke here at a Defense Writ­ers Group meet­ing hours after North Korea launched an artillery attack against the South Kore­an island of Yeon­pyeong. North Korea report­ed­ly fired dozens of artillery shells at the island, killing two South Kore­an marines and wound­ing at least 16 oth­er peo­ple.

U.S. Forces Korea is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion close­ly, Schwartz said.

“It is sig­nif­i­cant that the [South Kore­an air force] is in the lead” and launched eight F15 fight­er jets in response, he said.

The attack came with­in days of rev­e­la­tions that North Korea has secret­ly built a large ura­ni­um enrich­ment facil­i­ty, rais­ing long­stand­ing con­cerns about its nuclear inten­tions. And, in March, North Korea tor­pe­doed and sank the South Kore­an navy ship Cheo­nan, killing 46 sailors.

South Korea and its allies have con­sid­er­able air pow­er in the North Pacif­ic region that North Korea should be mind­ful of, Schwartz said. “Today, at this moment, there is no ques­tion that there is very sub­stan­tial air pow­er in the North Pacif­ic and that is some­thing North Korea needs to be respect­ful of,” he said.

Schwartz made the com­ments dur­ing a wide-rang­ing dis­cus­sion with reporters that includ­ed the ongo­ing Air Force tanker bid, the bud­get, and the lifes­pan of the C-17 car­go plane. The gen­er­al acknowl­edged that Air Force per­son­nel inad­ver­tent­ly pro­vid­ed infor­ma­tion to com­peti­tors Boe­ing and EADS about each company’s bid on the tanker. But, he said, the infor­ma­tion was one page of data that was not pro­pri­etary, as some media report­ed, but rather includ­ed tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion relat­ed to analy­sis of the air­craft.

The Air Force reviewed the mis­take, Schwartz said, and had two peo­ple respon­si­ble removed from the service’s pro­gram review office.

The mis­take does not give either com­pa­ny an advan­tage on the bid because both com­pa­nies received the same type of infor­ma­tion, the gen­er­al said.

Address­ing the bud­get, Schwartz said the Air Force has found $28 bil­lion in response to Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates’ direc­tive that the depart­ment find $100 bil­lion in sav­ings dur­ing the next five years to re-invest in high-pri­or­i­ty needs.

The Air Force sav­ings will be redi­rect­ed to weapons sys­tem mod­ern­iza­tion includ­ing improved long-range strike capa­bil­i­ty, Schwartz said. In oth­er weapons and equip­ment needs, he said, the Air Force is fit­ting new engines in 52 of its C-5 trans­port air­craft. The Air Force, he added, also will even­tu­al­ly need to replace its aging C-17 trans­port planes. Turn­ing to Afghanistan, Schwartz said the Air Force ful­ly under­stands the strat­e­gy of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to apply effec­tive air pow­er while min­i­miz­ing civil­ian casu­al­ties.

“We get that,” Schwartz said. “I’m not sug­gest­ing we’re per­fect, but 80 per­cent of civil­ian casu­al­ties” are caused by the ene­my and con­firmed by human rights orga­ni­za­tions. “What we’re doing is, I would argue, is the most pre­cise appli­ca­tion of force in his­to­ry,” he said.

Schwartz also was asked about the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which for­bids gays and les­bians from serv­ing open­ly in the mil­i­tary. The law is under scruti­ny by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, Con­gress and the fed­er­al appeals courts, which are con­sid­er­ing whether to over­turn the law.

Schwartz said he has reviewed the draft report that the depart­ment has sched­uled to be released on Nov. 30, and has offered his edits. He said it is impor­tant that the report’s con­tents and dis­cus­sions about it remain con­fi­den­tial until its release.

Schwartz called a recent leak of infor­ma­tion on the report “unfor­tu­nate,” and said it “makes the can­did exchange of views more dif­fi­cult.”

The Joint Chiefs are pre­pared to give their best mil­i­tary advice to Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma about the poten­tial impact of the law’s repeal on the mil­i­tary, Schwartz said.

“If the law is changed, the U.S. Air Force will pur­sue its imple­men­ta­tion pro­fes­sion­al­ly, thor­ough­ly, and with con­vic­tion,” he said.

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

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