Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Frank Kendall discusses U.S. security alliances and partnerships, U.S. defense industrial base capacity, and the modernization, priorities, and strengths of the Department of the Air Force.
SCHAKE: Hello, my friends. I’m sorry to interrupt your conversations, but we have—I want to use our time as very best as we can because we at the Council on Foreign Relations have the great good fortune today to be able to have a conversation with the good and great Frank Kendall, secretary of the Air Force.
Before I introduce him, I want to remind everybody that we are on the record today and that we will be taking questions not just from folks in the room but from our Council members who are connected virtually.
So thank you for making time for this important conversation, my friends. We have with us Frank Kendall, secretary of the Air Force, who is extraordinarily distinguished—I think possibly the best qualified person to hold this job.
He has been the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. He was the head—vice president—head of engineering for Raytheon. He has been a managing partner of Renaissance Strategic Advisors.
Most importantly, he’s been a soldier. He’s a graduate of West Point. But he also holds a master’s in engineering from the California Institute of Technology, an MBA from Long Island University, and a law degree from a little local school here in Washington.
And we are going to spend about thirty minutes in conversation and then we are going to let you fire at the secretary of the Air Force. So won’t you join me in thanking Frank for being with us this morning? (Applause.)
So when you came to the job you said—you were asked about your priorities and you said China, China, China.
KENDALL: Mmm hmm.
SCHAKE: Two years in how has the Air Force adjusted to making China the top priority?
KENDALL: We’ve done quite a few things. That theme and the theme of “One team, one fight” have kind of characterized what I’ve been doing and will continue to do so.
What motivated me to come back in government was, largely, concerns about China’s military modernization program and it was something that I first observed in 2010. I had been out for about fifteen years. I’d been the director—the deputy DDR&E for tactical warfare programs when I left in ’94. And I came back in 2010 and I started looking at the technical intelligence on China’s modernization program for the military and immediately became concerned.
It was quite obvious to me that what they were trying to acquire was the means to defeat our ability to project power in the Western Pacific and they were pretty well down the road of acquiring those kinds of capabilities.
And so nothing in the intervening dozen or so years has changed that perspective and that’s why China is China, China, China—why it’s my highest priority. It’s also, you know, recognized now as the pacing challenge. That is the phrase we use.
And so I came in intending to do what I could to respond to that growing threat, and I formulated a list with the help of some of my senior leaders of what I call operational imperatives. There are seven of them and they’re the things that we need to do, the operational problems we need to solve, if we’re going to be successful at projecting power in the Western Pacific, and they range from getting the space over battle right through getting our tactical air for—air war capability right—our air superiority capability—long-range strike, resiliency of our
forward bases, our ability to do targeting from space, in particular, our joint—all the main command and control capabilities, and then hardening the things that we depend upon to go to war in general.
So there’s a list that we’ve worked on, and we set about—we formed teams to work on these problems. Each team was led by a technical lead and an operational lead. So I had them working together. I brought in an individual named Tim Grayson from DARPA to kind of oversee this technically along with some of my leadership team.
And so we worked for several months at analyzing each of these operational problems and trying to decide what the optimal thing to do about each of them was and we came out of that with a list of about a hundred recommendations, roughly, and fairly large, you know, costs associated with those things through the FYDP, the five-year program.
And we were able to afford some of that in—within the fiscal guidance we had at the time and we went to the secretary of defense’s office, to the deputy, and the secretary and said, OK, here are the things we’re trying to do. Here’s what it’s going to cost. Here’s how much we could afford. Here’s how much we need. Laid out those priorities pretty clearly. And we’ve gotten great support.
So the position we’re in right now is that we’re getting ready to go up and submit the ’24 budget. I’m feeling very comfortable about what we’ve been able to accomplish, and I can’t say much about the details of all that but we are addressing each of those problems. We are meeting, at the same time, our needs for strategic capabilities and we are providing a current force which is adequately ready to deter and to do its job if it’s asked to.
So that’s the posture we’re going to be in, and I’m giving you a preview of what I’m going to be talking to the Congress about very shortly. But the biggest effort over the intervening time has been that analysis—that comparison of alternatives, if you will—to solve each of those operational problems, and then the things we need to invest in and getting them started.
And what I told the Congress last year was that—as we were starting this work was that we had begun to address these problems, that we had a reasonable balance, given what we knew for ’23, but that we had a lot of hard choices to come.
Now, given the levels of budget that, I think, we’re going to be at and what we’re going to see, I think we’ve been able to make a lot of those hard choices within the resources that we had. But there are going to be more. They’re continual. We still got more work to do. This is a journey where we don’t have the full destination outlined yet. But I think we’re well down the path we need to be on.
SCHAKE: So in the—excuse me—in the hard choices category, F-15s in Japan.
KENDALL: Mmm hmm.
SCHAKE: Where did that decision fit in, given the near-term urgency of potential use?
KENDALL: That’s a good example of what—what Kori is referring to is the plan to retire some of our older F-15s that are in Japan and what we replace them with. So the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the chiefs of the services, generally, work deployment decisions with the secretary of defense. But they have a big impact on the military departments.
My job is organizing, training, and equipping the Air Force and the Space Force. And so we have to allocate resources to take care of the things we currently have and we have to allocate resources to modernize and deal with both current demands and future demands throughout, you know, the future that we can see.
So this has been an issue that’s come up because we need some resources in the near term and to afford some of the things we need to do in the longer term. So I’m not sure exactly where we’re going to end up on this. We’re going to meet the INDOPACOM commander’s needs. We’re going to make sure he has an adequate deterrent, and exactly what form that will take will work out over time.
But it’s a type of issue that we deal with and it’s a tension that exists constantly in the department between immediate and the near-term needs and the longer-term needs of the department, and that tends to surface not just in sort of the routine modernization programs that we’re doing but also whenever anything happens in the world which creates a new demand. And you have to—and something has happened in the world in the last year that created a new demand, which you may have noticed, which was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
So we work through all those things. At the end of the day, we try to balance out all those competing needs.
SCHAKE: So since you have raised Ukraine, one of the interesting things that Russia—that operations on the Ukrainian side and the Russian side after the Russian invasion has been the battlefield use of drones.
Has that—how has that affected our Air Force’s thinking about the battle space, about our own potential uses, about our procurement programs in that regard?
KENDALL: It’s great question.
My history goes back to days when nobody had any drones or UAVs to days when they were kind of a controversial part of what we were trying to do and a lot of questions about them to currently when their utility is very obvious. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, I mean, brought this out very clearly. The ISIS conflict brought this out very clearly for some very small drones.
There are changes in technology and in warfare. Some of it has to do with automation. A lot of it has to do with automated systems like this and the ability to command and control them. It’s an area of technology that’s moving forward very quickly and we’re seeing a manifestation of that in what’s happening in the Ukraine right now.
The Russians are using some very inexpensive drones, relatively speaking, simple, that they’re acquiring from others. Ukrainians are using them. They’re a feature of any future battlefield. They’re here to stay and they’re, I think, a very significant change in development.
So it’s a part of—we’re all learning from what’s happening right now and that’s one of the things that’s become, I think, very clear from what’s happening over there—the utility of UAVs for a variety of functions.
One of the things that I’ve talked about publicly that we’ll be doing much more on and introducing in this budget is what we’re calling a collaborative combat aircraft. It’s a—drone may not be the right word to describe it. It’s an uncrewed combat aircraft that has military capabilities that is—operates in conjunction with a manned fighter aircraft, and what you can imagine is something like an F-35 or the next-generation air dominance platform that we’re working on working together where the pilot in that aircraft is controlling, let’s just say, three or four, maybe five, independent combat—collaborative combat aircraft that are uncrewed that are—he’s, basically, managing that formation. He’s the quarterback or the play caller for that formation. And that’s the vision that we’re working toward.
So there’s a long way to go on this but we’re well on that path now, and I think the—
SCHAKE: That’s exciting.
KENDALL: —the general trajectory is pretty clear.
SCHAKE: That’s really exciting and innovative.
I’ve heard you talk about the lessons you worry China might be learning. Why don’t you reprise that? Because I think that’s a really important caution for all of us, that as we look at the war in Ukraine we’re drawing a set of lessons that our adversaries might be drawing very different lessons.
KENDALL: What I’d first list is the lessons that I’m hoping China is learning, and I think they’re very valid lessons to learn.
I mean, the first one is that the economic consequences of an act of aggression can be very severe and they can be very lasting. That’s still a work in progress and, hopefully, that’s one lesson that China would learn when they contemplate any act of aggression.
Another is that your military may not be as good as they’re telling you, and, certainly, President Putin was really misled by his military about the level of capabilities that they have. And there’s enormous amount of uncertainty in modern warfare between peer competitors about how well things are actually going to perform when they’re actually placed into use at scale.
Another one is, of course, that the war you anticipate may not be the war you get, that the short decisive war you expected that’s going to last a matter of a few days may drag on for a year or more and be much more costly than you expect.
So I hope those are lessons, and I think they’re all valid, that China is taking away from the current conflict. What I’m concerned they may be doing is looking for ways to avoid those negative consequences and it all is a question of how committed they are to an aggressive objective that they might have and whether they approach it from the point of view of whether they need to rethink that objective or they need to think again about how they achieve it and making sure that their military is truly capable of doing what they want it to do. So we’ll see.
SCHAKE: So some lessons I am worried the Chinese might be learning are that, first of all, if you have nuclear weapons the United States won’t risk its own soldiers in the battle space, and so they might be able to pry us away from our allied commitments.
A second lesson I might be tempted if I were the Chinese to draw is that if you move fast enough you can get out ahead of the ability of free societies to have our policy discussion and orchestrate our attitudes.
But I would be really worried if I were the Chinese, looking at the collapse of the Russian military, right. We thought this was one of the—maybe even the second best military in the world and turns out they’re not even the second best military in the former Soviet Union. (Laughter.)
KENDALL: That’s a great phrase. I like it.
SCHAKE: And if you haven’t been fighting, the ability to adapt, which is such an important war-winning attribute of Western militaries, right, the description you gave of a crewed fighter orchestrating battle with uncrewed, we haven’t seen any of that kind of operational sophistication out of the Russian military.
KENDALL: It’s true.
SCHAKE: And, yet, you sound really nervous about the Chinese military. And so can you give us a sense of what you see the Chinese doing well that should convince us we should be a lot more worried about China than Russia has proven?
KENDALL: What China is doing is—what they have done is they have shifted dramatically from the force that they had at one time to the force that they have today. The first thing they did was they took their army and they made it much smaller and that freed up a lot of resources to do other things.
The next thing they did was create their strategic rocket forces, if you will, which is, basically, their collection of precision long-range missiles—nuclear and conventional—and the point of that was to have weapons that could target the high-value assets that the United States depends upon. It’s forward air bases, which we have a handful in the Pacific. It’s aircraft carriers, of which we have a handful. It’s command and control nodes.
It’s also satellites. There’s an anti-satellite capability that’s in there as well, and we depend upon all those assets, which all exist in relatively small numbers, to project power. And if you can defeat those assets then you’ve, basically, defeated our ability to project power.
The other thing they did was create a strategic support force, which gives them a much more larger space-based capabilities as well as cyber capabilities. So they have done something that reorganizes and postures their military for the purpose of being able to defeat the United States in particular and our allies, of course, and it’s a fairly significant shift.
They’ve also been unconstrained by culture in terms of what I’m going to call a stovepipe interest across services in the modernizations that they’ve done. They’ve done some very creative things, innovative from the operational side as well as innovative technically.
One of them that we get—we hear a lot of conversation about is hypersonics. They’ve invested fairly aggressively in hypersonics. They’ve done some other things to integrate their forces so that they work well together.
Now, all of this is totally unproven—your point earlier about how, you know, the Chinese military hasn’t been in a conflict for a very long time. They’ve, certainly, not tested these kinds of capabilities in a conflict at any scale or at all. So there are a lot of unknowns and they should be very aware of that. They should be very wary of the uncertainty.
There’s also a lot of uncertainty about our capabilities. We have a lot of capabilities we don’t advertise. So they may be taking the lesson that you’re concerned about. Hopefully, they’re learning the lessons that I would—I think are more valid that we’d prefer them to learn.
You also mentioned nuclear weapons, and I think that nuclear weapons and the existence of nuclear weapons is something inevitably the decision makers take into account on all sides.
SCHAKE: They should.
KENDALL: And they should. And so I’m not terribly troubled by that. I do think we need to think carefully about our nuclear posture and I think the administration has done that, and that’s a good path forward.
SCHAKE: So, several years ago there was concern about Air Force stewardship of its nuclear program. Are you—do you have any concerns now? How has the Air Force remedied those—the problems that existed?
KENDALL: I was in the Pentagon during the Obama administration when some of these things became manifest and we really reacted very strongly at that time to try to strengthen that part of the force structure both in the Navy and in the Air Force.
I would be irresponsible to say I’m not concerned about those things. I will always be concerned about those things. Nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous and the security with which we protect them, their reliability, all of those things, are very high priorities.
For several years I chaired the Nuclear Weapons Council in the Pentagon in my previous role you mentioned, and I’ve had a lot of experience in this job and in that one with the people who take care of and manage our nuclear weapons.
It is one of those things that just demands constant attention and occasionally something goes wrong. We’ve had a couple of things go wrong in the not too distant past. And you have to have discipline. You have to have very strong leadership.
You have to have good standards and you have to maintain things at a level of readiness and a technological level that’s consistent with the devices that you’re managing and handling.
I will never tell you that I’m a hundred percent comfortable and things can happen, and we will have to take corrective action again, I’m sure. But it’s a very high priority for us.
SCHAKE: So you mentioned capabilities we have that we don’t advertise, and the Air Force—the Department of Defense rolled out a pretty spiffy advertisement for the new bomber.
SCHAKE: Do you want to talk about that at all?
KENDALL: Yeah. We had the unveiling of the B-21 recently. I was there. It was an interesting event.
Northrop Grumman, the contractor, whom I’m recused from working with, by the way, because of previous association, basically, had the—took the opportunity with, obviously, our approval because of the security concerns to rule out, you know, the existence of a bomber.
There’s a commercial somewhere. I saw a meme on the internet of a used car salesman standing next to the B-21, a Pentagon on the roof and saying, oh, there’s a lot of deterrence in that baby. (Laughter.)
Yeah, there is a lot of deterrence in that baby. It’s a formidable platform. I was in the Pentagon when we started the program. I never ever allowed anybody I worked with as a political appointee in particular to say—to be overly optimistic about a program’s future or the fact that a program is doing well.
All programs have risk. All programs can get into trouble, and we have a long way to go still on the B-21. It has not flown yet.
But so far the program has been executed reasonably well. There have been some small slips in schedule, but the program office that manages it and the contractor that’s been doing it have been performing pretty much as expected. So we’re pretty happy with that.
That’s not a prediction about what’s going to happen tomorrow. We may still have delays. As we get into flight testing we may discover things. But so far the program is executing reasonably well.
SCHAKE: So what year was it when you were in the Pentagon that the program started? Because I’m about to shift to talking about acquisition impediments to warfighting.
KENDALL: Sure. We did the milestone B, the decision to enter EMD, and did the competition, awarded it shortly—I think it’s 2016. It was shortly before I left the program.
SCHAKE: OK. Not bad then.
KENDALL: And we had done some work before that to refine the requirements and do preliminary design work. So it’s a pretty standardized program in terms of how long it’s taking. We didn’t do flying prototypes. The EMD program—the average—most people don’t know this. I’m going to go back to my previous existence in acquisition.
What do you think, in the audience, the average length of a program in DOD is? Anybody want to—
SCHAKE: Guesses? Come on. Come on.
KENDALL: It’s under seven years. Yeah. There’s this conventional wisdom—there’s this Washington cocktail myth of programs taking fifteen or twenty years. The only program I can name that takes that kind of—took that kind of time is the F-35.
Our average program takes just under seven years to go from, you know, the decision to commit to development for production to getting your first articles. So it’s not nearly as long as people tend to think it is.
SCHAKE: So now that you are responsible for the Air Force acquisition, is there anything you wish you had done when you were undersecretary for acquisition technology?
KENDALL: There are some things I’m glad I did. One of them was the structure of the B-21. There are some other things I’m glad I did like to start the Aerospace Innovation Initiative, which produced the X plane prototypes that are the next-generation air dominance platforms. There were a number of things that my staff and I have got to work on right now to, I think, repair some damage that’s been done in the period I was out.
There’s a—I don’t want to get too into this with this group, which is not a(n) acquisition group. But I’ve been doing this stuff for about fifty years and there’s a cycle of you’re taking too much risk, you’ve got to be much more conservative, you’ve got to plan more carefully, you’ve got to have—you know, everything—all the risk reduction done that you can imagine before you start to develop.
And then there’s the cycle of you’re not taking enough risk, you’ve got to go faster. You know, the threat’s moving too fast. Then we go back and forth between the two.
So we—I tried to hit when I was—the seven years I was in acquisition I was trying to kind of hit the sweet spot there in between those two extremes and I think we did reasonably well. The data shows that.
But that was followed by a we’ve got to take more risk phase, and what happens when you take too much risk is you end up taking longer and one of the things that was created—because you have big problems and you have to go fix them and that takes time and it takes money.
One of the things that was created, actually, before I left the last time was something called mid-tier acquisition, which was a program structure which was assumed to take five years. It was a constraint. And so we started a lot of programs while I was out of government that were designed to take five years and what they produced
was a risk reduction prototype, and the idea at the time this was put in place was that you go right from there to continued production.
And what’s happened in practice is that when you get there you have to start development over and do another several years of development. So instead of seven years you’re looking at twelve, and we’ve got quite a few of these in the Department of Defense right now that we’re trying to clean up.
SCHAKE: So in addition to being the secretary of the Air Force you are the secretary of the Space Force, and I notice that the Department of the Navy sometimes struggles between the competing demands of the Marine Corps and the Navy.
SCHAKE: How are you adjudicating the competing demands of the Air Force and the Space Force?
KENDALL: The fiscal guidance I get from the Department of the Air Force covers the Space Force and the Air Force and then I have to make an allocation between the two. And so I have the flexibility to move money between the two services. And then when we go to OSD as we get further into the process and OSD reviews things they can move money around among the entire department.
And it’s driven by needs. It’s what do we need the most and it’s not really—I think the idea of fair share is ridiculous. It’s really about what does the department need. And so you start with that and then you figure out what you can afford within your resources based on your overarching priorities.
So that’s what I do in the Department of the Air Force, and that has led to moving some money both ways. From my initial allocation over the process I’ve moved money, in one case, from the Space Force to the Air Force and—but more often the other way around, from the Air Force into the Space Force, and there’s a couple of good reasons for that.
I sometimes refer to the Space Force as a large unfunded requirement. The way to think about this is that the United States had a merchant marine and it woke up one day and decided it needed a navy.
SCHAKE: I love that analogy.
KENDALL: Thank you. (Laughs.) But it’s a very different thing that what we had. We had a set of space assets that were designed for peacetime. They were designed to work in an environment in which they weren’t threatened, that you could operate with impunity.
We relied on relatively small constellations of very high value, high cost, but highly capable systems for a number of things, and those are all targets to an adversary. And we recognized during the Obama administration that space was a contested domain and we changed our strategy to say that, and we started the analysis and the thought process of figuring out what did that mean in practice—what are we going to have to actually change.
There’s a defensive side to this, which is about resilience. It’s about having space capabilities that can survive attack, basically, and continue to operate at an acceptable level, and there’s a piece of it that’s about our ability to deny the other side the things that he has in space that are threatening to us, in particular, Chinese or Russian systems that threaten our joint forces. And we just cannot allow them to have targeting from space as well as some of the other services they depend upon if we’re going to be successful with the joint force.
So we had to figure out what those things are. The first of my seven operational imperatives is the future space order of battle. You know, there are—one of the things that I try to do, in general, is to think longer term about where are we really heading.
It’s not too hard to figure out initial steps and going in, generally, the right direction. But you need a clear roadmap of where you’re trying to get to. So that operational imperative is about defining that and it has an offensive as well as a defensive component.
So that sort of laid out what we need to do. But none of that warfighting capability was funded in previous budgets, and we also have current architecture, current space assets, that we need. We rely on GPS. We rely on our existing missile warning and tactical and strategic communications. We rely on the systems that the intelligence community has.
And so we’ve got to sustain those. We want to keep those and we’ve got to make a transition over to the things we’re going to need that’ll be more resilient and more capable on the offensive side.
So there’s a lot of work to be done there and it’s going to take resources to do that, and they’re going to have to come from other parts of our budget, obviously.
SCHAKE: And as the chief recruiter for the Air and Space Forces, how are you thinking about recruiting challenges? You and the other service secretaries wrote a public piece about civic responsibility and the nation needing to lean in.
What’s the nature of the recruiting challenges you’re seeing in the Air and Space Force and how are you thinking about addressing them?
KENDALL: Yeah. We’ve had a series of issues that have kind of come together that have created some problems for us.
The Air Force—first of all, the Space Force really has no problem with recruiting. It’s very small. It’s less than ten thousand people, and so—and it’s an attractive place for people to go for a variety of interesting reasons.
The Air Force’s active duty is three hundred and thirty thousand people so there’s a big difference in scale. But the Air Force active force, basically, met its recruiting goals this past year. It did better than the other services. The Reserve and Guard components of the Air Force didn’t do quite as well. They fell short, but not by large numbers—not by dramatic numbers.
But it’s something we’re paying a lot of attention to. We’re about a month—about one quarter into the next year at this point and things are looking better. But we still have, again, more work to do. There’s a reduced propensity to serve, in general, in the nation and we can have a longer discussion about why that’s the case. There’s a combination of factors.
We’re sort of past the big spurt in interest in national service and military service that came out of 9/11. That was some time ago now. We’ve got a more polarized country. That was one of the points, I think, of the op-ed that we did together was, you know, we all want this country to be secure. We all want to be able to deter conflict.
So there’s a common apolitical interest in this, and one of the things I enjoy about being in the Defense Department is that it’s very easy to work with both sides of the aisle and the committees that support us because everybody up there is interested in our success.
But we’re going to have to work harder. We’re going to have to demonstrate that we’re attractive. We went through COVID and one of the impacts of COVID was that our recruiters couldn’t go into schools, and an awful lot of our recruiting is face-to-face interactions with teenagers where we get to inform them about what the military has to offer and answer their questions. So we couldn’t do that.
We’re back in the schools now so that’s helpful, and so that’s one of the reasons, I think, things are getting better.
The economy has been another factor. There’s been a huge demand for labor out there. So we don’t have a labor impetus for people looking for an income, right, that’s driving them. But we still offer amazing opportunities for people and a very important, you know, area to work, something you can be very proud of having done, and whether you end up staying—you know, I’m going to do a recruiting commercial now.
SCHAKE: Do it. Do it.
KENDALL: You know, whether you’re interested in staying in the military for a full career or just want to come in for a few years you’re going to be with a great team of people who are highly committed to the mission that they have.
It’s a great environment to be in. You’re going to be surrounded by people who share the interest in what you’re doing. You’re going to work on high-tech things in either the Air Force or the Space Force. You’re going to learn leadership skills and you’re going to do things that will help you develop as a person and mature as an adult, in general.
So there are a lot of great reasons to come into our military and we’re working very, very hard and have been for some time to make the military much more welcoming for people who come from any part of America, whatever ethnicity, gender, you name it. OK.
We want Americans, all Americans who can serve and have the interest in serving, to come in and we want them to have a good experience. We want them to come into a culture which is welcoming, which helps them develop to their full potential, and then—and serve effectively.
That’s a major contributor to our readiness, getting the most out of everybody that we have in the service and also attracting all the human capital—the breadth of human capital—that’s available in the United States.
So we’re working very hard on that. We’re making progress on that. There are a number of areas where we know we need to improve but we are making progress. We’re making—putting a lot of effort into this.
So if you have any young people you know—I think there were a few in the room—I think we got a few serving people in the room who could stand up and do this, too—please encourage people to serve.
You know, my own son came in. He was in college—he was struggling a little bit—and it made a remarkable difference in his life. He came out of it much more mature, much more able. He stayed in and he did one deployment.
There’s still a lot to be said for spending some time in the military. I’m encouraged that the—I just talked to a number of new congressmen this morning. A number of them had prior service, and so I think the—there may be a little bit of a shift happening there in our politics. It used to be almost a requirement that you had to be in the military at some point to serve in politics. We kind of went away from that.
But, anyway—you know, I can go on and on. I’ll stop there. (Laughter.) And if anybody wants a contact or anything like that I’d be happy to give it to you and we can come out of here with a few more people in the Air Force and Space Force.
SCHAKE: So the remainder of our time is yours with Secretary Kendall. May I ask you, please, to as give us your name and your affiliation and to be brief?
And I realize I am in violation of my own rule because I started out without saying, hi, I’m Kori Schake. I lead the foreign and defense policy team at the American Enterprise Institute, and I’ve already asked my questions.
Who would like to ask the secretary a question?
Q: Jeff Bialos. I appreciate your remarks. Pleasure to see you again.
Two totally unrelated concepts.
One is on the budget. You know, we’re in an uncertain era here right now and one can—while there’s not much appetite for defense reductions, really, on the Hill, I can well imagine we could end up with a situation with a CR or, worse yet, the Obama-era sequester. How damaging would that be to the kinds of initiatives and things you’ve talked about on China and otherwise if we end up with those restrictions? I’m not going to ask you to prognosticate what’s going to happen but what’s the consequence to the national security if it does?
Second, on your last watch in the Pentagon a whole number of steps were taken to encourage innovation, you know, in acquisition—DIU, you know, a consortia, all these things. Having now been in for a while as the secretary of the Air Force have you seen much evidence that those—most any of those things have really, you know, translated into, you know, things in the force?
SCHAKE: Good questions.
KENDALL: All right. Jeff Bialos is a good friend and I did not plant those questions. (Laughter.)
Jeff, I can’t anticipate what will happen. We are worried. OK. There’s a potential for gridlock in this Congress, I think, that’s reasonably high and I feel very—I think fear of that kind of gridlock was what led to the compromise that got us the appropriation, you know, passed by the previous Congress, and we’re delighted that that happened and really applaud that they were able to come together across the aisle and make that happen.
So ’23 is—you know, we’ve got ’23 but we’re already well into ’23. I think we’re going to have a good story and I think we’re going to have a compelling argument for the budget we submit, and we can have a healthy discussion about that when it comes up in ’24 and we can do something we haven’t done for a great many years, which is pass a budget on time.
KENDALL: It is incredibly debilitating, as you know well, to the department to not get its money on time. We’ve gotten in a mode now where we, generally, assume the first quarter is going to be a CR. I lived through sequestration in ’13 in the Pentagon. It was devastating. We dug a huge hole in the readiness of the force, I think, in some ways we’re still trying to dig our way out of.
The impact on innovation is dramatic. You can’t increase the funding for research and development accounts, which, as you’re going through those development programs, you need to do to make reasonable progress. So it’s very inefficient.
You can’t increase production rates. You can’t start new programs. It’s devastating to the force because, you know, there are impacts on readiness in the force in a whole number of accounts. We’re living in an era of relatively high inflation. So if we’re capped at last year’s levels we’re going to pay a price for that.
So there are all sorts of negative things that happen. A year-long CR would be totally devastating to the department. It would be a disaster for national security. I can’t say enough about that.
Your second question—there’s been something called the valley of death that gets talked about a lot in Washington, and the idea of the valley of death is that we start things over here in the technology world and we don’t get them into the hands of users and into production, and the perception is that there’s some problem with where we’re looking for the technology or the ways we’re doing the technology.
My own view is that that’s really looking in the wrong place. The reason things aren’t getting across the valley of death is because we’re not prioritizing them and paying for them. It’s about prioritization and it’s about money. It’s cheap to start things. It’s very cheap to go out and do an experiment with something or to do a little technology demonstrator or do one of a prototype.
It is expensive to do a thousand of them and put them into production and field them to the force, and the reason more things don’t come across that valley is because of the resources and the prioritization necessary to get them across.
What General Brown, in particular, and I are doing because—you know, it’s true a little bit in the Space Force but more in the Air Force—is we are consciously reviewing all of our technology programs and we’re going to make early judgments about them.
We’re going to say, OK, even if you’re successful is this important enough to us or valuable enough to us that we’re going to fund it and field it. If the answer is yes, we’re going to program that money and put that money in the budget to do that.
If the answer is no we’re going to stop the project because we’re just wasting money on that, and there are plenty of things we actually need to spend money on to improve that we can identify.
So we’ve got to be better disciplined. We’ve got to be more conscious of how—we’ve got to be more involved in the early stage planning of our technology investments, particularly our prototyping investments, to ensure to ourselves that if they’re successful we’re really going to want them.
Now, there are cases where we’re really exploring ground that we haven’t ever explored before and we don’t know if we’re going to want that or not. We’ve going to have to try it out for a while before we do that. But most of the time we can project forward and say, if I get this done and it’s a reasonable price do I want it or not, is it going to fit, and then make some decisions about that. So that’s really where, I think, we need to focus.
There’s a relationship between that and your first question, that, you know, if you don’t have the resources, if you don’t have an appropriation, you can’t bring them across the valley. You don’t have the authorization or the appropriations that are required to do it. So that holds us back that way as well.
Does that help?
SCHAKE: And I would reinforce the point about the damage of Continuing Resolutions. My AEI colleagues, Mackenzie Eaglen and Elaine McCusker, have done the math to show that the combination of not passing the budget and the rate of inflation basically zeroed out the $28 billion additional add up that Congress gave in the last cycle.
So it’s a huge damaging effect on our military. So the most important thing Congress could do to help—
KENDALL: Yeah. Timely appropriations.
SCHAKE: —soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and space guardians is pass a budget on time.
KENDALL: Completely agree.
SCHAKE: Other questions, my friends?
Q: Good afternoon. Scott Cooper. I’m a retired Marine and a CFR member.
I’d like to continue on the acquisition reform path, if you would, Mr. Secretary, understanding CRs, but that’s also something you don’t control. Within the building, if you could have one or two reforms to acquisition and you could wave a wand, whether it’s authorities, FAR, or what have you, what would you change?
KENDALL: That’s easy, because I’ve been arguing for it for a long time. We need the ability to start as soon as we see a need or as soon as we see an opportunity. We need to stop waiting a year and a half or two years to get something through the Congress and get permission to start.
We used to have this—one of the reasons I’m back in government is I spent the first twenty years of my career as a cold warrior and I have a visceral understanding of what it’s like to have a peer competitor, someone who’s working hard to field the ability to defeat you from the point of view of military technological superiority.
We are in a race for military technological superiority with a formidable competitor. In that environment you don’t want to waste time. It’s your most precious asset. You can get more money but you can’t get more time.
And so we—when we see a threat develop, we see something in intel that says, uh-oh, we have a problem—and I could give you some examples from the Cold War—we want to start on the counter to that immediately.
Now, to a limited extent we can do that. It’s not zero right now. But if we need a new capability that requires a program we have to go through—get approval from the Congress through—because it’s a new start, right.
We have to put a line in the budget. We have to go through the whole budgeting process, go defend it, wait for the CR to be over, and then we can start, right. That’s giving away a lot of lead time to our adversaries.
So if I could do one thing I would fix that. I would give us more flexibility. We could either do it through a dedicated pot of money, which kind of Congress hates, or we could do it through increased reprogramming capability, which would eliminate almost all that time when we can show the priority.
But that’s the number-one thing for me and it’s—other than that, in the acquisition world the department has, generally speaking, the latitude to structure programs as it needs to. Most of the things we’ve done, quite frankly, in what’s called acquisition reform don’t do anything to create a better engineer or a better program manager. They just shuffle around the chairs of how we do things.
At the end of the day, getting things fielded is about the work of those people and the incentives we provide for them to do it, and we’ve got all the tools in the world to manage that. But the one thing that I will come back to is if we could just start right away.
My two examples from the Cold War are explosive-reactive armor, which we didn’t see coming. And the Soviets fielded it and we saw it when they actually were training with it, and it was designed to defeat some of our anti-tank guided munitions. So we immediately had a bunch of obsolete munitions that we had to change.
The other one was the—(inaudible)—jammer, and we detected intelligence that they had a(n) anti-ship cruise missile with a specific type of jammer on it that was going to defeat our defense system so all of our ships were at risk. And, again, we didn’t detect it until it was, you know, basically, being fielded.
So those sorts of things are happening now and we need to be able to react very quickly when they do. Equally important, I think, is the ability to take advantage of new technology. When you have something that gives you an opportunity or you come up with an idea or a concept that applies new technology in a novel way, get started.
You know, we’ve talked about my uncrewed combat aircraft earlier—the collaborative combat aircraft. You know, we’ve come up with that as part of our concept for next-generation air dominance and we need to get started with it.
Now, we have limited tools. It’s not zero, right, but I would like to have much more authority to do those sorts of things.
SCHAKE: Other questions? Yeah.
Q: Thank you. Sam Visner with MITRE and the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Thank you for your comments today.
What might you see is the future of the use of our expanding commercial space capabilities in terms of our warfighting capabilities and your seven operational priorities?
KENDALL: That’s a great question. There are two fundamental things happening with commercial space that are important.
One is the design approach that’s being used, the proliferation of—I won’t name any specific companies but you can think of some of them—some are very prominent right now in the news—where people are fielding not a few satellites but thousands of satellites. So these large-scale architectures which require mass production technologies and techniques that we traditionally haven’t used.
So there’s some very fundamental things about design and engineering and manufacturing that we need to take into account as we build more resilient architectures.
The other thing is the actual capabilities that are being fielded and taking advantage of them, and that covers imaging and communications, in particular, where we can take advantage of commercial capabilities that are dual use, basically, and harness them to our purposes.
Now, we have to be worried about what the other guy does as well so we have to be worried about both sides of that equation. But both of those are changing the game. There’s still some uncertainty about how the market is
going to sort itself out in the commercial space. But it’s quite clear that there’s some real opportunities there and some things we can do, and we’re seeing some of that play out in real time in the current conflict.
SCHAKE: Yeah, over here.
Q: Thank you. Missy Ryan from the Washington Post.
I have another procurement-related question. I think, you know, another possible lesson that China or other countries could draw from the current conflict in Ukraine is that the United States and its allies and NATO did not have sufficient quantities of certain defense items on hand and also did not have the ability to surge production quickly enough to be able to provide them in real time to Ukraine.
So and I know that the Defense Department is scrambling to surge production of items include Javelins and artillery. But, you know, there’s still a shortage of other things like air defense.
What would you do to be able to improve the ability of the United States to surge production of key items, knowing that you might not know in advance what are the things you’re going to need in a future conflict?
KENDALL: That’s a good question also.
We need to as part of our planning, and we’re doing this now, take into account future needs like you mentioned, right—the need for increased production capacity, the need for greater stockage. It’s true particularly in munitions. It’s also true in things like spare parts.
We, basically, tend to design, field, and procure for peacetime continuous use over this life of a program in peacetime. We’ve got to think much more carefully about our wartime needs and what they’re going to be like, and you can’t count on a short war every time.
And we saw this with ISIS. We saw it with munitions there where we were getting—preferred munitions go first, right—the precision higher cost ones, in many cases. Then you go to less precise, less sophisticated weapons that you can buy in greater quantities or may have in greater stockage, and you’re seeing that play out in the Ukraine now to a certain degree. So it has to be a conscious part of your planning process.
I spoke to the—there was a Capitol Hill House Armed Services Committee group that looked at supply chains and I spoke to them before I came into government, and one of the fundamental things I told them about supply chains was that I don’t worry so much about peacetime disruptions. We’ll recover from those. We’ll fix those problems.
Worry about wartime capacity and worry about when you’re stressed and you really need it whether you’re going to be able to get what you need or not, and I think we should be really focusing on that much more than we have been traditionally. That’s changing now but we still have a ways to go.
And the tradeoff tends to have been historically do I forego—you know, I’ll use an Air Force example—five new fighter planes in order to have another production line somewhere or do I really want the five new fighter planes. Traditionally, we’ve tended to buy the fighter planes. I think we’ve got to rethink that.
SCHAKE: Can you say a little bit about potential allied cooperation in that regard?
SCHAKE: Have you got interesting thoughts on that?
KENDALL: Yeah. One of the things—it’s part of integrated deterrence, basically, and I just had a conversation with Secretary Austin about this this week, actually, and how we as our planning need to think more carefully about the contributions allies can make and integrate that more into our planning, including their capacity to produce.
You know, we’re taking advantage of some of that now. Some of the packages that we’re providing Ukraine are sourced across multiple nations and are not necessarily like items but they’re things that contribute to the fight in the same way.
Some of our partners that I’ve talked to are watching what’s been happening in the Ukraine conflict and realizing that they need more capacity of their own, too, and that’s a good thing. It’s the collective capacity, at the end of the day, that matters, and if there’s—and a strength of that is if there’s a need in a certain—or a conflict in a certain region some of our partners who are not necessarily directly involved in another region who don’t have the same, you know, immediate need at least can help us fill in a gap there.
So that’s a big part of it as well.
Q: I was just going to use my loud, intimidating mom voice.
Hi, Secretary Kendall. Nice to see you, and, Kori, great, great conversation.
Your comments about integrated deterrence—
SCHAKE: Introduce yourself.
Q: Oh, sorry. Jenna Ben-Yehuda, Truman National Security Project.
The comments both about integrated deterrence and also commercial space have me thinking about the reality, right, that some of what the actors that we’re talking about when we talk about integrated deterrence are no longer nation states, right. Starlink is a great example of that.
And so how do you think about private sector actors, individuals, in particular, who come to mind who may not be as rational as we might have thought they were providing massive capability not necessarily as a vendor with whom we have a directed relationship but as their own show, as it were?
How do you think about that both as capability and creating strategy of cooperation and coordination? And also on the flip side, there will be some who have similar capabilities but who are adversaries and, you know, operate both outside of a state frame and a traditional kind of terrorist lens?
KENDALL: Another close friend who I didn’t plant a question with, but thank you, Jenna.
Those are all valid things to be concerned about. Kori has written some things about how economic competition is really the heart of the competition that we have with China in particular, and she’s right, and a manifestation of that is the commercial companies that are affiliated with the U.S. and have some strong relationship with the U.S., I’ll just say, that we can depend upon, you know, to be supportive. And the other side of that, of course, is companies who don’t have that and who are going to be inclined to support somebody else, right.
And if you talk about China in particular it’s hard to draw a line between their commercial capabilities and their government or their military capabilities. The U.S. is more—a clearer line. But we need to take advantage of our economic capabilities and integrate those where we can within, obviously, the constraints of our system.
But we got to be aware of what others can do and I think there are untested questions, things that we haven’t really explored yet, where if we get into a situation where someone we consider an adversary is using commercial capabilities for military purposes against the U.S. and I’m thinking space-based targeting, in particular, you know, how do we respond to that? What are the actions we can take?
And I’m just an organize, training, and equip guy for the Air Force so I’m not going to try to answer that question.
SCHAKE: (Laughs.) Yes, right there.
Q: Hi. Caroline Pestel, DOD, currently at the National Security Council.
You’ve spoken a bit about, obviously, the Air Force and the Space Force. But thinking here about the joint force, I mean, arguably, everyone can agree on the need for jointness as a concept. But how, from your seat, are you practically driving jointness with the other services—particularly the Army and the Navy, since I know you’ve released quite a bit with the commandant?
And then can you—do you see the idea or the precedent of all services being created equal, particularly in terms of budget, as a sort of bureaucratic inertia that ought to be overcome in order to build the joint force for future fights or sort of what is your reflections on that?
SCHAKE: Please feel free to take spears from all of your service counterparts.
KENDALL: Yeah. Thank you.
I’m not going to deny the existence of inertia in the Department of Defense. OK. (Laughter.) I’m not going to—I probably shouldn’t quote her but a very senior defense official and I have had a conversation about the existence of inertia and how hard it is to overcome. It’s not a minor thing.
That said, we have to work together. The whole idea of joint all-domain command and control, the whole idea that there’s a joint warfighting concept coming out that you’re probably well familiar with that talks about how we integrate forces, we have got to have the discipline to move beyond some of the stovepipes and parochial interests.
What I’m doing—I have some of that inherent in the structure that I have because I have two services, and the Space Force exists, largely, to provide services to everybody else in the joint force and to protect the joint force from threats from space from other people. So it is by its nature an incredibly joint-oriented organization.
The Air Force, obviously, is involved in gaining air superiority and doing strikes so it’s not quite as integrated. But we recognize the need for this and one of the things I’ve done to try to move us forward is to create a single individual who is responsible for integration across the air and space, for integration of C3 Battle Management—Command, Control, and Communications in Battle Management—and make sure we have an integrated design and that anything anybody is working on is going to plug into that architecture and work in it effectively when it’s built, and his responsibilities are for the Air Force and the Space Force and for the joint
force and for our allies. We’ve got to take all of that into account and lay out a roadmap and a technical definition of what we’re going to build that ties everything together.
I know that Secretary Hicks and others in OSD—secretary of defense’s office—are trying to move in the same direction. Secretary Hicks has created a chief data and architecture data in—somebody help me with this. Chief data officer, basically, but there’s more to the title than that. I can’t remember.
And Bill LaPlante, the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, has created a position to look at integration, and the CIO in DOD has done the same thing. So we’re all going to have to work together and the hard part of that is getting some people to stop what they’re doing and do something else.
My experience with this, and it’s extensive, is that everybody agrees on jointness, everybody agrees on interoperability, until it costs them a penny, and then they want somebody else to change instead of them. So we’ve got to overcome that and that’s going to take people making some hard decisions.
I’ve got that problem within the Air Force, within the department, and I’ve empowered someone to make those decisions and define what we need and tell people who aren’t doing that or doing something else stop. We’re not going to do that; we’re going to do this.
But it’s hard. It takes intensive management, and one of the things I’m doing is that myself and the two service chiefs, General Brown and General Saltzman, are going to be reviewing this guy’s—this project, if you will—on a quarterly basis and the main reason to do that is to reinforce those types of decisions and then tell people that you don’t have any choice. You are going to do this because that’s the only way we’re going to interoperate and work together.
SCHAKE: Next, right here in front.
Q: Good afternoon, sir. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time. I’m Fred Roggero—
SCHAKE: Introduce yourself, please.
SCHAKE: Introduce yourself, please.
Q: Yes. Fred Roggero, retired Air Force.
And just a short commercial. Thank you very much for your support of the military fellowship program here at the Council. I’m an alumni and there are several other alumni in the room, too, and we thank you for a fabulous year with the Council.
My question is when I hear China, China, China as a priority I also hear logistics, logistics, logistics, and I’m quite aware of the issue that you have as you look out there and your tanker air refueling fleet—
Q: —is sixty years old plus. The new tankers that are currently coming on board are thirty-plus years old in design.
And so as we go ahead how do you encourage those traditional industries in aviation to look at other things like blended wing body technologies and things that would improve your capability to do that fight in China? How do you blast them out of the comfort zone of 767s and A-330s?
KENDALL: Well, I wasn’t going to make any news today but you’re going to give me an opportunity to do that.
SCHAKE: (Laughs.) Eric Schmitt is going to regret having just walked out the door. (Laughter.)
KENDALL: One of the outgrowths of the past year of work has been the decision to do some analysis on three what I’m calling cross-cutting enabling capabilities: electronic warfare, munitions to get to the question earlier about production and actually what’s in the munitions portfolio as well, and mobility.
And the reason for those is several fold. The electronic warfare one is a long neglected area of warfare that we need to pay more attention to in general anyway and it cuts across the various operational imperatives, to a certain degree.
Munitions is also at the heart of—having a solid munitions roadmap that includes the production capacity we need as well as the right suite of systems for the targets we’re going to have to deal with and the way we’re going to have to deal with them is important.
And then mobility. Mobility is driven by the threat changes. It’s driven by what the threat is doing to reach out to increasingly long ranges to engage our aircraft. And so, traditionally, we could take a commercial derivative aircraft, turn it into a tanker or a transport. In the case of transports we, generally, have built purpose-built aircraft like the C-17. But they, essentially, look like a commercial aircraft. They’re not designed with a high premium on—or a high set of requirements for survivability, for resilience.
The threat’s taking that freedom away from us. So we are looking at—and it’s too early to have any results on this yet—we’re looking at a next generation of capability. And you mentioned blended wing body. That’s one of the very prominent candidates. It would—that doesn’t exist in the commercial world yet. It may at some point but it doesn’t yet. We are doing some early design work on that and possibly moving towards a prototype as a DOD program.
But there’s more to come on that. That’s a work in progress. We recognize the need. We’re considering the current tanker modernization, which is basically recapitalization. But I think we’re going to have to move beyond that to the next generation and it’s going to have to survive in an environment that the current fleet hasn’t had to worry about.
SCHAKE: One last question, all the way in the back.
Q: Hi. Jessica Carroll, Shift5.
Secretary Kendall, thank you so much for your continued commitment and emphasis on integrating commercial technologies and innovative technologies into solving some of the Air Force’s hardest problems.
(Within ?) this past year—which seems weird to say; it’s only January—so a few months ago you talked about how your most kind of concerning area was cyberattacks against Air Force weapons—cyberattacks against Air Force weapons. What do you see as the greatest threats? And how are you looking to, essentially, use or integrate your operational imperatives, probably most like the OI seven, into solving those issues, especially in the face of such a formidable adversary like China?
KENDALL: The question was about cybersecurity and the comments I’ve made earlier about that threat to our weapon systems and to our ability to go to war and what we’re doing about that.
Also mentioned was operational imperative number seven, which was a look at all the things that the Air Force and the Space Force depend upon in order to go to war. And the intent there was to look at not just our military systems but also things like the transportation system, our pay system, you know, all the things—human resources, medical—all the things that if we’re going to send a force forward and employ it we have to use to manage that force. Logistics system is, certainly, a big part of that.
Many of these things, obviously, connect to and are interactions with the commercial internet and are part of kind of our overall national infrastructure. So the intent was to look at all of those things and determine if they were—if they had vulnerabilities that really needed to be addressed.
We didn’t finish that work. There’s still work to be done there and this is true, certainly, for the Department of the Air Force but also, more broadly, for DOD. And my concern is that, you know, we can buy the greatest aircraft in the world but if I can’t move a part forward or I can’t get fuel to them or I can’t do—get the people to them that are going to need to be operating them it’s not of any value to me. I’ve lost that value. So we’ve got to pay attention to that.
We have achieved some things there. We’re assessing all of our weapon systems, many of which are legacy systems that were built before cybersecurity threats became as severe as they are today.
So we’ve got a lot of work to do there and it’s one of these somewhat, at least, nebulous areas where it’s very hard to know what your posture is. So job one is figuring out what level of protection we have, how much risk we think we’re running.
One observation I have from having lived the entirety of the—I started out with the slide rule. I’ve lived through this whole thing. OK. (Laughter.) Is that we have come a long way in cybersecurity. Early days of the internet it was the Wild West. Anybody could get into anything.
We’ve gotten a lot better but the threats have gotten a lot better, too, and our adversaries—our challenging adversaries—are pretty capable in this area and they’ve put a lot of resources into it. So we’ve got to be as careful of that. And, again, it’s a—Richard Clarke has written a book about this—but resilience is an important part of the equation.
You’re going to be attacked. Some of those attacks are going to be successful. But can you recover? Can you recover quickly and get back to full operating capability? Or do you have backup where that even if your one system goes down you have another one you can rely on?
We got to design that kind of thing much more into our systems than we have traditionally, and I think a lot of people recognize this and we’re moving forward. It’s another area, like we talked about earlier, where in historic budgets when we didn’t have a peer competitor to worry about we could sort of focus on other things and neglect these to a certain degree. We can’t do that anymore.
The one cultural change I’m trying to achieve—and I tend to not try to do that too much because I know it’s incredibly difficult, takes a long time—but one cultural change I am trying to achieve is the collective awareness in the Department of the Air Force of the fact that we could actually have a conflict and we could actually have to go fight. We could actually have to go fight against somebody who’s very capable and gets up every day trying to figure out how to beat us.
And one side benefit, if you want to call it that, of what Russia has done it has woken an awful lot of people up to the fact that aggression by major powers still happen and they can happen relatively suddenly, and it is, I hope, a wakeup call for all of us. It was, certainly, a wakeup call for Europe.
I was at Cyber Command just before the war started, and I walked out of the building with General Nakasone and I made a comment to him that sometime in the very near future, probably over the weekend or in the next few days, the world’s going to have an emotional event. It’s going to see something it hasn’t seen for a very long time.
And then I got on an airplane and went skiing in Colorado, where I got up every morning, looked at my phone to see if the war had started or not so I would know whether I was coming back to Washington or going skiing. I got three days of skiing in.
The Ukraine events should be a recognition for all of us that these sorts of things can happen and they can have serious consequences, and effectively deterring them and responding to them when they do happen is incredibly important and that requires a careful prioritization of how you put resources together, a lot of thought and a lot of efficiency on how you design your forces and support them so that when they need their funding for the year they actually get it—you know, Jeff—and that this stuff is not something you can talk about as an academic exercise.
It’s real, it’s serious, and we have to do the right things to be successful or we take great risk. And I’ll stop with that.
SCHAKE: So, my fellow Council members, first, let’s reflect how grateful we should be that we are part of an organization where the secretary of the Air Force will want to come and have a conversation with us.
And second of all, won’t you join me in thanking the good and great Frank Kendall, secretary of the Air Force? (Applause.)