State of USAFA: Lt Gen Silveria discusses respect, new visitor center during address
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charlie Rivezzo)
By Ray Bowden/April 12, 2018
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Lieutenant Gen. Jay Silveria hosted his first State of the U.S. Air Force Academy address April 6 in Polaris Hall to update local civic leaders and Airmen on the school’s activities.
“I want the community to consider that this is their Air Force Academy and I want the Air Force Academy to be part of the local community, and to be part of the Front Range,” he said.
Silveria told the audience that the achievements of cadets highlight the quality of the Academy.
“The cadets are absolutely unbelievable in their sophistication and their breadth and their depth,” he said.
Silveria discussed tolerance and the value of diversity, using last fall’s event of racially-incendiary graffiti found at the Academy Prep School as an example of disrespect no one should tolerate.
“Many of you saw me on CNN back in September addressing racial slurs that were put on some boards in the Prep School,” he said. “It ultimately turned out that one of the individuals thought to be a victim was the perpetrator. But true to our message of dignity and respect, that individual is no longer with us.”
While events like this are wholly unwelcome, the general said, they give Airmen and cadets an opportunity to think about how diversity makes the Air Force stronger and more lethal.
“[The incident at the Prep School] allowed for some sober reflection across our Academy,” he said. “It allowed for us an opportunity to open up discussions about race relations and about interpersonal relations in general.”
Silveria also spoke about last year’s troubles in the Academy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office that resulted in a staffing overhaul and cast the school in the media spotlight. His words to the audience coincided with his continuous message to all at the Academy that “One sexual assault is one too many.”
“First and foremost, I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating, I’m disgusted and outraged by any instance of sexual assault here or in the U.S. Air Force as a parent, as a military commander and as a human being,” he said.
Silveria said a desire for full accountability drove the Academy’s previous superintendent to call for a command-directed investigation of the SAPR office that caused some staff members to be removed.
“We’re being diligent about hiring new professionals to replace those in the office and we’re continuing to scrutinize our efforts,” he said. “But you also want to do that with transparency.”
Universities across the U.S. are confronting sexual violence, Silveria said.
“It is a societal issue … And I expect us to be part of the national dialog in that,” he said. “We are open to all ideas, we are open to all ways we can take this on directly.”
New Visitors Center
The general invited several Colorado Springs and El Paso County officials to the stage while he talked about plans to build a new visitors center.
“The Air Force is in negotiations with a privately owned company to begin development on 57 acres [near] the Academy’s North Gate, Silveria said.
Taking the stage with Silveria were City of Colorado Springs economic development officer Bob Cope, Colorado State of Economic Development Commission board member Chris Franz, El Paso County Board of Commissioners president Darryl Glenn, Colorado Springs City Mayor John Struthers, and Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority executive director Jariah Walker.
“The proposed lease includes an agreement between Air Force and Blue and Silver, LLC to construct a new $35 million visitor’s center which will increase the visibility and accessibility of USAFA to tourists and community members in Colorado Springs.”
Construction is slated to begin in 2019 and completed in 2023.
“I’m proud that we’re a part of this and I think it’s going to be incredibly beneficial to not only the Air Force Academy but the city of Colorado Springs and really, truly the entire region,” Silveria said.
Silveria spoke about how the Academy uses its $40 million undergraduate research budget, a level of funding rarely seen in undergraduate studies.
“Most institutions spend that money in graduate-level and doctoral-level research,” he said. “We’re spending $40 million on undergraduate research.”
Some of that research includes the Academy’s FalconSAT program which has cadets and faculty members designing and launching satellites into orbit for a wealth of purposes.
“We’ll have another satellite launch in early fall and we’re controlling right now one satellite that’s in orbit,” Silveria said.
The general also discussed a move that began last fall to enhance the sports-fan experience at Falcon Stadium.
“We implemented a strategy at our football games to increase our fan experience to help drive the purposeful engagement with our sponsors and media channels,” he said.
A complete expansion and renovation of the team locker rooms at the stadium should be complete in September, Silveria said.
Also expected in September are a $30 million contract to build new facilities for the Air Force’s CyberWorx Office, and a contract to renovate and modernize the Cadet Field House, he said.
Other projects include renovations on the Planetarium and the Cadet Chapel, the most-visited man-made attraction in Colorado. The Cadet Chapel is expected to close for renovations later this year and remain closed for four years.
Class of ‘18
The Air Force needs innovative lieutenants with a warrior ethos who possess impeccable character, Silveria said.
“They need to be more capable than ever and more lethal than ever to take on the challenges of our current battle spaces [and] complex battle spaces,” he said. “I’m confident that the class of 2018 is ready to take on those challenges.”
Today’s cadets will someday lead the Air Force, Silveria said.
“In the not-too distant future, as I say often, they’re going to replace us,” he said. “In 2049, a cadet that is somewhere at this Academy right now is going to take over as the superintendent.”
For all its achievements, Silveria told the audience that the Academy needs to grow and evolve.
To this end, Silveria said the Academy’s Class of 2018, scheduled to graduate May 23, is comprised of more cadets to be selected for pilot training than ever before, with 438 graduates slated for pilot training and 69 scheduled to for remotely-piloted aircraft training.
Silveria became superintendent in August.
“I would freely admit that transitioning from a 32-year combat-oriented career into higher education has been nothing but a personal journey,” he said. “And thus far it’s been rewarding beyond anything that I expected. Serving here is a privilege and this job is crucial.”
Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOEAwcmk2D4 to watch the recorded State of the U.S. Air Force Academy address.