Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

Developing Aerospace Leaders for the Twenty-First Century

Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

Developing Aerospace Leaders for the Twenty-First Century

Article excerpt

Editorial Abstract: Why is the Developing Aerospace Leaders (DAL) initiative needed? Dr. Thirtle points to a lack of unifying vision and the growth of occupationalism in the Air Force. In this article, reminiscent of Carl Builder's book The Icarus Syndrome, he states DAL's objectives and explains why it is necessary to recapture the "heart and soul" of the service through deliberate cultivation of the aerospace power mind-set.

To employ aerospace capabilities effectively, we'll continue to develop commanders who think in terms of exploiting the whole aerospace continuum-- leaders able to employ forces that produce the desired effects, regardless of where platforms reside, fly, or orbit. These leaders with experience and cross-competence in the increasingly complex range of military disciplines will lead aerospace and joint forces to victory for our nation.

-Air Force Vision 2020

WE LIVE IN a different world today than we did in the past, with a different set of expectations, different security challenges, and a different context of American culture and economy than before the Cold War. The purposeful act of developing aerospace leaders who are focused upon the successful application of aerospace power in this century is perhaps one of the most important and far-reaching functions the Air Force will undertake during the new millennium to address existing challenges.

Whom will we fight? How will we fight? When will we fight? In what medium will we fight? How will we define what fight means from an operational perspective? In light of the many changes the Air Force will encounter during the next few decades with respect to technology and the employment of forces in the battle space, the task of developing top-notch, well-rounded, broadened, and educated leadership will be paramount to ensuring that the Air Force remains the world's best air service. Although the Air Force's emphasis upon quality will never cease to exist (it cannot), the methods and processes by which the service attracts, retains, and develops the future leadership corps are likely to change-indeed, they must. Aerospace leaders of tomorrow will have to be even more broadly oriented than they have been in the past-we will need leaders who have experience across multiple competencies and who can think in terms of exploiting the entire aerospace continuum: from information operations to air operations to space operations.

Can We Meet the Need?

During his first year as chief of staff of the Air Force (CSAF), Gen Michael E. Ryan recognized that the Air Force would need a comprehensive examination of major areas of policy in order to reflect the changing nature of the service.' One of these areas, force development, rose to the top of his list. But why is force development such a priority, given other pressing needs, such as the F-22 program or replacement of the service's aging aircraft fleet? Don't we have great leaders today? Has the Air Force not produced the best leadership that it could possibly produce? Do we not have some of the most comprehensive personnel- and career-development systems in the world? Answers to these introspective questions led the CSAF to further exploration.

As he examined his past experiences, discussed them with senior mentors such as retired Air Force general Robert J. Dixon, and compared them to the Air Force's present and future challenges, General Ryan could not determine whether or not the Air Force (with the same systems and methods used today) would purposefully develop the "right" qualities (leadership and experience) it would require a generation from now. Likewise, he could not tell whether or not the current systems for developing such leaders were as "healthy" as they could be-that is, did the Air Force need to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, flexibility, and clarity of its force-- development process? The Developing Aerospace Leaders (DAL) initiative was designed to address such concerns. …

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