USAF Chief of Staff, Charles Q. Brown Jr. is calling on the service to adapt quickly, or lose its advantage to America's adversaries, who are getting stronger by the day. Credit: Handout.

Chief of Staff General Charles Q Brown Jr, the first African-American to be appointed as Chief of Staff and the first African-American to lead any branch of the US Armed Forces, has come out swinging.

America’s power is in decline, Russia and China are getting stronger, much stronger … and if the United States Air Force does not respond to the challenge, and quickly, the consequences are dire, reports Air Force magazine.

“Our advantage as a nation, as an Air Force, as a joint team, is eroding,” Brown said Aug. 29, noting the service this week will release a paper called, “Accelerate Change or Lose.”

The Air Force has been engaged in conflict — mainly in the Middle East — for the last 30 years, he explained, while “at the same time, our adversaries … China and Russia, have done things to accelerate and or move to impact our advantage.

“And so, our advantage is eroding, so that’s why I say accelerate change or lose,” Brown said during a speech at the virtual National Guard Association of the United States conference, Air Force magazine said. 

The potential consequences of not adapting are dire, Brown said: “Look at losing a great power competition. Look at losing a high-end fight. Look at losing quality airmen, losing our credibility. And, unfortunately, I’m also thinking about how we might lose aspects of our national security.”

Brown outlined four “key factors” that will allow the service to accelerate that change now. The first is the stand-up of the Space Force. 

“We weren’t given any additional manpower to stand up the Space Force,” he said,” And so, as the Space Force stands up, it gives us an opportunity to look at ourselves internally … and make some changes.”

The Covid-19 pandemic and the changes that have been required because of that are another factor, as is the increased focus on racial disparity in the US, Air Force magazine said. 

“We’re taking a hard look at ourselves, not only as a country, but really across the Air Force as well,” he said. 

The fourth factor that is providing the opportunity for change is defense funding, he said. 

Brown believes that “no matter who gets elected in November, the budget has already hit the high-water mark for the Department of Defense,” which means the service must take a “hard look” at itself and “make some tough decisions.” 

Like his predecessor, now-retired Gen. David Goldfein, Brown described the task at hand as a “journey,” one that should leverage partnerships with sister services like the newly created Space Force, partners and allies, and industry, Military.com reported.

“I can’t do this alone; the aspect of this is, we are in competition in our national security and it doesn’t end after my tenure or for several chiefs of staff after me. And so we’re going to be thinking about this on a regular basis.”

Like Goldfein, Brown said the service must rely on those in the ranks, empowering them to make decisions and preparing them for more expeditionary deployments.

The future environment will require multi-capable airmen with fundamental skills who react nimbly in fast-paced situations and who “demonstrate value in the diversity of thought, ingenuity, and initiative,” he said.

As a whole, the service “has got to move faster,” Brown said.

“We got to move at the pace, at least the same pace that our adversaries are moving — and so that’s why we’ve got to adjust … and be willing to change and ready to change in the same way,” he said.

“We must be prepared to address our competitors’ attempts to hold the US Homeland at risk with unconventional, conventional, and even nuclear force,” Brown said.

“As a Service, decisions on our missions and capabilities must be informed by how they fare against our understanding of competitors’ theories of victory, ways of war, and force development strategies.”

Brown most recently led Pacific Air Forces, where he oversaw more than 46,000 airmen operating out of Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam, Military.com reported.

The job afforded him a chance to closely observe China’s military buildup on contested islands within the South China Sea. He also led the air campaign against the Islamic State as head of Air Forces Central Command.