Event Summary: Air Force Strike Command’s Role in the Changing Strategic Landscape

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Lieutenant General Anthony J. Cotton recently spoke to faculty and students about the role of his organization within a changing global environment. He serves as the Deputy Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command and Deputy Commander, Air Forces Strategic-Air, US Strategic Command, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The Lt. Gen. earned a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and received a Master of Science, Administration from Central Michigan University. This virtual event was sponsored by the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy, the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, and the Woodruff School for Nuclear and Radiological Engineering. 

Lt. Gen. Cotton began the conversation by highlighting that the US is in a time of transition. The US is currently shifting foreign policy, at the strategic and operational level, from counterterrorism to managing great power relations, specifically China and Russia. All government agencies are changing directions to tackle the new problems that the world is facing. Additionally, Lt. Gen. Cotton emphasized that the US does not have a sanctuary in this complex environment and must adapt, making this transition necessary and inevitable. The freedom of impunity has been lost, indicating the drastic changes in foreign policy strategy. However, because of this necessity, the Air Force is in a period of improvement. Many planes and pieces of equipment are aged and need upgrading. Some planes are receiving major upgrades and being phased out, such as the B-1 and B-2 strategic bombers being replaced by an all-encompassing B-21, while others are continuing to be in operation for many more decades, like the B-52, which has been in service since 1955. Lieutenant General Cotton stressed that the US must replace aging systems with modern programs, as not only does the US rely on our strategic bombers, but our allies do as well. Because of these new mission needs, A new portfolio of tools and weapons needs to be created, with the US continuing to lead the world in defense. 

He went on to speak about COVID-19 and how the Air Force has been impacted by the virus. The Air Force began preparing for a potential outbreak in February of this year, both with administrative and logistical planning, as well as wargaming potential scenarios. Because of this planning, missions, such as recent NATO show-of-force exercises, are continuing and maintaining success. Weapon systems are still highly reliable, and the adaption to teleworking has been effective. Nonetheless, there are still challenges that the Air Force is facing. In his leadership capacity, Lt. Gen. Cotton oversees two-thirds of the nuclear triad: nuclear-armed bombers, and ICBMs (Inter-continental ballistic missiles). These systems require 24-hour alert status, which, coupled with the limited group of airmen and women trained to operate them, continues to be a challenge, but one that the Air Force has been able to overcome. As Lt. Gen. Cotton puts it, he views his people as the best tool his organization has. He highlights the sacrifices they’re willing to make in order to fulfill mission requirements, as well as the flexibility, dedication, and expertise that they bring on a daily basis.  

Lieutenant General Cotton said there are many newfound benefits to virtual work and looks forward to attending more events such as the one hosted by CISTP. The Lt. Gen. leads over 33,700 professionals that operate at several air force, active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve wings. As the Air Force Global Strike Command and Deputy Commander, he works alongside Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in combat support, strategic deterrence, and global strike capability.  

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  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Christopher McDermott
  • Created:10/20/2020
  • Modified By:Christopher McDermott
  • Modified:10/20/2020


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