The Air Force Global Strike command commander spoke to more than 300 industry, government, media and academic leaders at Rand Corporation’s fifth annual West Coast Aerospace Forum in Santa Monica Dec. 6.
Gen. Timothy Ray was the keynote speaker at the event coined “Nuclear Forces and 21st Century Strategic Deterrence” with a program theme of “An Air and Space Force Designed for the Future.”
“Long-range precision strike is critical in competition,” Ray said. “We are the only allies who bring this capability. When bombers move, the world watches while our (intercontinental ballistic missiles) remain on alert 24/7/365.”
With a renewed focus on great power competition as outlined in the National Defense Strategy, Ray spoke on multipolar opportunities for deterrence with nuclear states, nuclear-enterprise modernization and innovation.
The challenge of modernization comes with the balance of keeping conflict at bay today while also recapitalizing the aging fleet of bombers and missiles built decades ago.
“Our challenge is to maintain the capabilities that no one else can in the short term until new bombers and ICBMs arrive,” Ray said while also addressing the need to modernize the nation’s nuclear command, control and communications capabilities.
Ray spoke of the new MH-139 helicopter set to arrive in the command for testing in mid-December, noting that acquisitions officials saved $1.7 billion in the program for taxpayers. The MH-139 is the first major acquisition in the command’s 10-year history.
The WCAF event is designed to bring Air Force leaders and top national security experts together to encourage debate, discussion and public interaction, according to the program’s website.
Other speakers included leaders from the Department of the Navy, the U.S. Defense Department, Headquarters Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, Air Force Space Command, think tanks and academia.
On funding, Ray said predictable funding is absolutely necessary but that “we cannot spend our way out of competition.”
“We must innovate, building margin for the wings and Airmen,” he said.
The Rand Corporation is a nonprofit research organization and the views and opinions of its members do not reflect those of the U.S. military.