Aerospace Expeditionary Force highlights DOD efforts to support operations with IT

Despite being involved in simultaneous military operations in Iraq, Bosnia, Macedonia and now Yugoslavia, the Department of Defense this week discounted concerns about the high tempo of late and cited the Air Force's new Aerospace Expeditionary Force concept as one of the measures it is taking to lessen future burdens.

Speaking at a Pentagon briefing yesterday, DOD spokesman Ken Bacon said that while the current pace of operations is "sustainable," DOD is taking steps, particularly in the Air Force, that will help lesson strains on pilots and air crews in the near future.

"The Air Force is taking the lead by establishing the Aerospace Expeditionary Force," Bacon said. Despite that effort, he said, "We have a big Air Force, [and] I think we can continue to [sustain simultaneous operations]."

"Always a progressive service, the Air Force continues to innovate," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan, testifying yesterday on DOD's fiscal 2000 budget request before the House Armed Services Committee. "With its Expeditionary Aerospace Force initiative, the service is reorganizing its forces to provide better-trained aerospace forces to U.S. commanders in chief while adding predictability and stability to the lives of our airmen."

The Air Force's AEF concept aims to leverage the capabilities of advanced information technologies and digital communications to allow smaller, lighter and more flexible "force packages" to deploy to hot spots around the world on short notice.

Each AEF will have a mix of fighter, bomber and support aircraft and will rely on a small support staff using advanced air, space and ground-based communications and other command and control technologies to dynamically manage its aircraft in-flight.

By fiscal 2000, the Air Force will field 10 AEFs. Each will enable regional commanders in chief to tailor their forces to meet specific requirements for humanitarian or peace-enforcement missions or for full-scale regional conflicts.

"I have every confidence that the pilots, the commanders, the people who maintain these planes [and] the people who operate the systems in the planes will be able to maintain the operating tempo as required," Bacon said.

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