Air Force Academy Grads to Keep Competition From Becoming Conflict

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2021) -- Since the end of World War II, there've been many other wars -- but not another global war between great powers. The balance and stability that's existed for more than 75 years is now at risk and for recently-commissioned young officers out of the U.S. Air Force Academy, it'll be their job to maintain a now fragile world peace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said.

"We are now in the 76th year of the great power peace following World War II -- and the structure is under stress," Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said while speaking to more than 1,000 cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement ceremony today in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "We can see it fraying at the edge. With history as our guide, we would be wise to lift our gaze from the never-ending urgency of the present, and set the conditions for a future that prevents great power war."

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Right now, Milley said, the United States is in great power competition with nations like Russia and China. That competition must not escalate, he told cadets -- who will soon be out in the force as second lieutenants.

After four years at the Air Force Academy, he told them, they move from being students, sons and daughters, to being servants of the nation -- ready now to shoulder the burden America places on them.

"Your parents see their sons and daughters on the field before you, but your nation sees lieutenants, sees airmen, sees space Guardians, who will lead our Air Force and our Space Force as pilots and navigators, engineers, intelligence officers, special tactics and combat rescue officers -- each one critical to the joint force mission."

The threat landscape that exists now, Milley said, includes artificial intelligence, robotics, human engineering, hypersonics and long-range precision fires that all provide capability beyond what has ever existed in human history.

As defenders of the nation, Milley said, the new officers will need to be agile and adaptive -- they will not have the luxury of time their predecessors might have had to make decisions. The new face of warfare, he said, moves too quickly and changes too unexpectedly. He challenged them to be ready for that.

"The country that masters these technologies, combines them with doctrine and develops the leadership to take advantage of it -- the side that does that best -- is going to have a decisive advantage at the start of the next war," Milley said. "It's your challenge to be on that side. You will lead us as a nation, not just as an Air Force or a Space Force."

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