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General Charles Q Brown | September 1, 2022

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Event Summary by Jake Hochstein

On September 1, Professor Peter Feaver and AGS hosted General CQ Brown Jr., the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. General Brown has served over 35 years in the United States military and has served as commander of the Pacific Air Forces, United States Indo-Pacific Command, and many more important and prestigious positions. General Brown was appointed by President Trump and confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate for his current role in June 2022.

General Brown covered a wide array of topics, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the rise of China, the departure from Afghanistan, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Air Force, among other topics. On Ukraine, General Brown remarked on the resilience of the Ukrainian people and specifically highlighted the courage of President Zelenskyy. General Brown acknowledged how strong leadership can come from surprising places and how Zelenskyy’s atypical path to leadership has been equally unlikely and amazing. For the role of our Air Force in the conflict, General Brown stressed how we are ready for how any changes in the conflict may necessitate changes in America’s role.

General Brown also focused on the rise of China and acknowledged the possibility that our Air Force could one day lose its unrivaled air superiority. The United States has not been fought without an advantage in the air since Korea, but General Brown remarked that although this may change one day. Although that day may not come for a long time or come at all, General Brown highlighted how we are constantly looking at new ways grow and strengthen. One specific program he acknowledged was our collaborative combat aircraft. Professor Feaver jokingly likened the program to Marvel’s Avengers and how the heroes are aided by AI suits in combat and General Brown said that the reality was not totally different. Collaborative combat aircraft serve as a force multiplier, in the words of General Brown. On Afghanistan, as the one-year anniversary had just passed, General Brown reflected that what he remembers most is how proud he was of his men. As the situation on the ground constantly changed and directions from the White House and Pentagon were updated, his men remained resilient and proactive. General Brown said that the amount of people we were able to withdraw was remarkable and that it would not have happened without the quick-thinking of individuals on the ground.

General Brown also spent a good deal of time discussion the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Air Force and broader military. General Brown was the first African American to be appointed chief of staff and stressed how important it was to younger African Americans to see him in that role. He remarked that he firmly believes that “young people aspire to be what they see” and that he hoped his appointment could inspire others. During the Q&A session, General Brown was specifically asked about a reaction video he posted in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. This had happened during the waiting period after his appointment but before his confirmation as Chief of Staff, a period where people generally lay low and try to stay out of the headlines. General Brown though told us that he felt it his duty to speak out and that even if it had affected his confirmation, he would have been able to move forward without regret.