AFSOC at “Strategic Inflection Point”

Lt. Gen. Jim Slife AFSOC Commander

Story by 1st Lt. Melissa Crisotomo, AFSOC.

U.S. Air Force Lt Gen Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, addressed the Global SOF Foundation’s 2021 virtual SOF Imperatives Forum to discuss the critical mission areas AFSOC will need to focus on to remain competitive in the future operating environment on June 6, 2021.

Slife was joined by LTG Francis Beadudette, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Linda Robinson, Global SOF Advisor, moderated the conversation with the two current SOF component commanders and begin with each commanders’ view of the state of special operations today.

“When I think of where we are at in 2021, we are at a third post-Vietnam discontinuity, a point of time where the future is best understood as not a linear extension of the past, but rather as something requiring something different all together,” Slife began.

“We have to maintain the ability to respond to crisis on behalf of the nation on a short notice anywhere around the globe, maintain pressure on counter violent extremist organizations,” said Slife. “We have to be prepared for conflict with peer adversaries in contested environments, and we have to compete strategically with global competitors who challenge U.S. interests and our way of life.”

Operating in contested environments, Slife continued, may require changes in how AFSOC deploys its forces.

“To the extent that we can, we need to be independent of main operating bases such as large runways, large fixed facilities,” said Slife. “We need to get smaller, lighter, and more expeditionary to succeed.”

“It’s imperative to lower our signature,” he continued. “We have to be able to blend into the noise both physically and electronically around the globe, wherever we want to compete.”

In a fiscally-constrained environment, Robinson asked Slife what areas of AFSOC might still see growth.

“Going forward I think we need to talk about language,” said Slife. “We need to take a look at ourselves in AFSOC and decide to what degree do we need regionally specialized forces who have deepened understanding of regions and cultures and nations inside those regions.”

When asked what AFSOC needs from its sister services in terms of cyber, electronic and communication capabilities, Slife stated he is not interested in growing an organic capability.

“While AFSOC has a range of kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities…as an enabler, I don’t want to be a duplicator of what people are already doing for us at scale,” said Slife. “I’m focused on the things that no one else can do and I don’t think we are in a resourcing environment that permits duplication for stuff that goes on elsewhere.”

When asked, “How much air support is enough?” Slife described his perspective on balancing the variables of mission, resources, and risk.

“The answer is it’s never enough. As you talk to ground formations, clearly they’ll tell you they need more aviation, he said.” “But it’s not a question of do we need more or not, it’s a question of, ‘At what level of risk?’”

“AFSOC is resourcing aviation at an appropriate level of risk. For every dollar we put into growing our aviation capabilities, there’s an opportunity cost elsewhere,” he went on. “That’s why the armed overwatch program is so important to us, because it’s a very cost effective way of providing that air support to our ground teammates who are going to be prosecuting these C-VEO operations for years to come,” said Slife.

In Slife’s closing remarks, he reiterated the men and women in AFSOC are a competitive advantage and it is up to leadership to ensure they are preparing a formation that is prepared and ready for tomorrow.

“Our challenge in leadership is to ensure that those middle school kids today who will put an AFSOC patch on in 10 years know when they come to AFSOC, they’ll still be relevant.”


Photo: U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, speaks during the AFSOC Operations Center change of command ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., June 24, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brandon Esau).

Story: This article by 1st Lt. Melissa Crisotomo of the Air Force Special Operations Command public affairs office was originally published on June 24, 2021 by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. DVIDS content is in the public domain.

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