Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown expressed support Thursday for meeting the National Defense Strategy, for expanding to 386 squadrons, refining and modernizing joint warfighting capabilities while safeguarding “the well-being of our Airmen and families.”
“I am committed to the Air Force achieving irreversible momentum towards implementation of the National Defense Strategy and an integrated and more lethal joint force,” Brown told senators during a hearing to consider his nomination to be the next Air Force Chief of Staff.
Throughout the hearing, Brown provided crisp answers to questions about his background, areas of importance and a range of specific issues. He offered insights for how best to balance the need for modernizing the Air Force while continuing to use legacy systems; how to manage development of the B-21 Raider strike bomber and introduction of the KC-46A Pegasus tanker; maintaining readiness; and the future of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, among other topics.
Another item of importance, he said, is controlling “sustainment costs” associated with the F-35 Lightning II, the Air Force’s frontline, 5th generation fighter.
“To compete, deter and win, we will need to generate combat power faster than our adversaries,” he said in presenting an overarching standard that will govern his approach and decision-making.
“If confirmed, I am an advocate for early and constant collaboration between operators, acquisition professionals and industry partners to unleash innovation and spiral development so that the warfighter has access to the most capable and state of the art assets, sooner than later,” he said.
Asked by Sen. Deb. Fischer, R-Neb., if he agreed the land-based nuclear deterrent needs to be modernized, Brown replied, “Most definitely. Further delay is not an option.”
In response to a question from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, about the need “to pay close attention” to ensuring development of the B-21 remains on time and on budget, and for resolving on-going problems with the KC-46 “so we don’t have to come back here talking about massive overruns and delays,” Brown again was direct.
“Senator, that is exactly my goal if confirmed, to ensure they stay on track.”
Brown’s appearance marked a major step in his becoming the Air Force’s highest-ranking military officer. If confirmed by the full Senate, Brown would succeed Gen. David L. Goldfein as chief of staff.
He offered support for the U.S. Space Force, the first new military service since 1947, for the continued use of the A-10 and for the strategic importance of the Arctic.
Brown discussed support for ongoing efforts to modernize the Air Force’s acquisition process and to forge strong relations with companies that supply critical weapons and equipment.
“For me personally, building a relationship with the CEO of Boeing so we can have frank dialogue, particularly if it gets off track, with the goal to keep it on track so we can get it in the hands (of Airmen) as quickly as possible,” he said. Boeing manufactures the KC-46.
During the hearing, senators also pointed out difficult challenges that face any officer serving as chief of staff.
“You are very familiar with the challenges facing the Air Force today in the Pacific and how the Air Force should be implementing the National Defense Strategy,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said. “If confirmed, you will also face challenges to improve readiness while also modernizing and expanding force structure. In order to achieve the stated goal of 386 squadrons the Air Force will need to increase and sustain modernization efforts over a number of years.”
“On top of that, the Air Force must simultaneously recapitalize most of the bomber fleet and all the land-based missile fleets. These are daunting challenges.”
Brown acknowledged the challenges.
“I expect there will be tough decisions regarding legacy programs and future modernization. If confirmed, I would continue carefully considered risk assessments balancing the Air Force’s support to current Combatant Command requirements while investing in capabilities that prepare us for future competition, conflicts, and challenges,” he said in his opening statement to the committee.
At the same time, Brown noted his long tenure serving in senior commands has prepared him for this new assignment. He currently is the commander of Pacific Air Forces. He is a decorated pilot who has held key commands and served as a military advisor at the highest levels.
If confirmed as Chief of Staff, Brown will play a central role in fully integrating and connecting warfighting operations that allows information to be collected, analyzed and shared across all domains – air, sea, land, cyber and space – and among all services.
A command pilot with more than 2,900 flying hours primarily in the F-16 Fighting Falcon, including 130 combat hours, Brown held key roles in operations against Libya and in the air war against the Islamic State. Across his career, Brown has commanded a fighter squadron, two fighter wings and U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Prior to his current assignment, he served as the Deputy Commander, U.S. Central Command.
In addition to Brown, the hearing also featured testimony from Kenneth J. Braithwaite, who is nominated to be Secretary of the Navy, and James H. Anderson, who is nominated to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.