Accession Number:



Air Force Strategic Planning: Past, Present, and Future

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Research Report]

Corporate Author:

RAND Corporation

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



For a relatively young service, the U.S. Air Force has a remarkably rich intellectual history. Even before the Air Forces official formation, the development of airpower has been dotted with such visionaries as Billy Mitchell and Henry Hap Arnold. The trend continued after the services formation with such airmen as John Boyd, Richard Moody Suter, and John Warden, who were years, if not decades, ahead of their time. At the same time, however, the Air Forces long-term plans have not always proved particularly farsighted or even notable. Indeed, many of the Air Forces senior leaders are skeptical of long-term strategic planning, and some even doubt its utility altogether. The general dissatisfaction with the state of Air Force strategic planning comes at a time when the Air Forcelike its sister servicesfaces congressional pressure to dramatically reduce its headquarters staff. Given the time and energy required to produce these documents, it raises the question Is strategic planning worth the effort After laying out a methodology to answer both questions, this report tells the history of the Air Forces relationship with strategic plans, particularly those produced in the postCold War years. It describes how different Air Force leaders have used these strategic plans to define the services identity, protect the services budgets on Capitol Hill, carve out new roles and missions, and shape the services future. More importantly, it accounts for how different Air Force leaders developed, packaged, and sold these documentswith varying degrees of success. Ultimately, this report argues that, indeed, the Air Force still needs strategic planning but perhaps not in its current form.


Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]