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Civilian leaders converge at Air University for SECAF National Security Forum

  • Published
  • By Phil Berube
  • Air University Public Affairs

Civic leaders from across the country converged at Air University May 10-12 to engage in discussions with military members and government civilians about key national and global security strategic realities and challenges.

The venue for the conversations was the Secretary of the Air Force’s National Security Forum hosted by Air University’s Air War College.

“Our Airmen and Guardians face unprecedented challenges from strategic competitors who are investing in ways to inhibit our power projection capabilities,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “Engaging with civilian counterparts and community hosts throughout the country, including those who joined us here at the National Security Forum, is vital to increase understanding and support for our department. These relationships are instrumental in addressing quality-of-life matters for our teams and families, fostering appreciation for how we train at and around our installations and building advocates for the transformation the Air and Space Forces require for the future fight. I’m grateful to each participant for the time they’ve taken to learn more about our missions, and the dialogue they’ve engaged in to support our teammates.”

During their time at NSF, 88 civic leaders engaged with U.S. and foreign national military officers and civilian staff and faculty from Air University. The professional relations developed, and the open and honest discussions shared over the course of just a couple of days, can potentially reap dividends well into the future for both the military and civilian communities.


“This event immerses civilians from various backgrounds into the defense sector,” said Col. Donald Sandberg, AWC’s NSF director. “Similarly, the NSF exposes military leaders to the perspectives of the public they serve and improves the critical civil-military bond.”

The civic leaders, representing diverse backgrounds and occupations, attended lectures and seminars where they were encouraged to offer their perspectives and insights on national security issues as seen through civilian lenses.

“Attending NSF was an incredibly valuable experience. All of the conversations we had in our West Space Seminar group were thought provoking, engaging and insightful,” said Vanessa Herman, vice president, Government and Community Relations, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. “I walked away with a better understanding of our history with Russia and China as well as insight into how current events are shaping the trajectory and Space Force mission.”

For Herman, the experience also exposed her to international collaboration.

“Our group had students from Australia, Germany and Norway who provided insight into their countries’ investment in space and willingness to partner with the U.S.,” Herman said. “I walked away from this experience with a better understanding of the complex issues relating to national security our armed forces deal with on a daily basis. Also, I am confident there are several ways RIT, and other institutions of higher education, can partner with Space Force to assist with recruiting the best and brightest Guardians to help conduct global space operations that keep our nation safe and secure.”

This candid discourse is more important now than ever before as the nation and its partners and allies face an increasingly complex and unpredictable global strategic environment.

“Attendees now have a better understanding of the national security challenges facing not only the United States but also our partner nations worldwide. The forum’s full-spectrum approach to learning ensures we meet this goal through lecture environments, senior leader engagements, small-group discussions, and hands-on aircraft tours,” Sandberg said. “Civilians unfamiliar with the military will leave having been immersed in everything from tactical military operations to civic-military relationships, to hearing and ideally challenging military perspectives on national defense matters.”