MPW Summit 2020: Talking Air Force and Space Force
Barbara Barrett, 25th Secretary, Department of the U.S. Air Force Interviewer: Pattie Sellers, FORTUNE
Hello and welcome back to day three of Fortune's most powerful women summit amid hologram, senior writer and M. P. W. Summit co chair. I hope you're feeling inspired because I know I am and it's because all of you are members have been here with us through these past three days. Um You have all been a breath of fresh air and it's great to feel so connected. I think we all really need it. Especially right now. We appreciate your participation. All the questions, the comments, advice and tweets and we want to continue the interactivity later today we're going to pay tribute to one of the most powerful women of our time. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We know that some of you may have your own memories of RPT including photos and we want you to get those ready. We're gonna be asking you for those later on and share them online. Now, before we get started a reminder that M. P. W. Summit isn't on the record event unless otherwise noted. if you'd like to tweet about it, please use our hashtag fortune mp W. We'd like to thank our partners for helping to bring us all together here at the summit. Our knowledge partner, Deloitte, our premier partners, Goldman Sachs, 10,000 women, Heidrick and struggles, johnson and johnson sales force PPG and work date as well as our partners, Us Herman Miller insignia. Um Guardians and Target, thank you for making this event possible. Now we want to start off today by talking about some pretty high tech and high states, the security of our air and space. Barbara Barrett is the 25th Secretary of the U. S. Air Force and she is responsible for overseeing almost 700,000 men and women and leading the way on the Air Force's digital transformation Secretary, Barrett jones Mp W. Summit share patty sellers, patty, welcome everyone Some of you know Barbara Barrett who has been a long time and loyal member of the most powerful women community. I think I've known Barbara as I've always called her for close to 20 years, I'm going to call her Secretary Barrett today. Um She was born on a farm in rural western pennsylvania and grew up to be a lawyer. Ceo a corporate and nonprofit director, an instrument rated pilot, a trained astronaut, a U. S. Ambassador, an adviser to six U. S. President, a president of a major business school, a teacher at Harvard, a mountain climber to the top of Kilimanjaro, a Montana ranter, a co owner with her husband, Craig Barrett, the former Ceo and chairman of Intel um what travel and leisure named The # one Best Hotel in the World And now she is the 25th Secretary of the Department of the Air Force in charge of the US. Air Force and the Space Force. So Barbara Barrett welcome. My first question is what on earth has driven you to such heights? Well you know the sky's the limit. No it's not anymore. In fact in today's world the sky is no longer the limit. It's pretty exciting to see what we're doing in aviation and in space and I'm just uh not driven as much as I'm motivated to because there are such great opportunities in today's world. It's really an exciting time to be alive when you think about the breakthroughs that have been made in science and technology and the new capabilities that we have. I think it's really an exciting time and why wouldn't you go do whatever the opportunities are that represented? So Barbara, uh two days ago, the first day of the most powerful women's summit, I had the pleasure in the honor of interviewing Kathy Warden, whom you know, the Ceo of Northrop Grumman. And I asked her if I should ask you any particular question and she said, what was Barbara? Barrett thinking When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, was the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. You were a teenager. Did you have dreams back then of being what you are today? Oh my, no way! I would have never dreamed. First of all, Cathy borden, great leader, great company. Uh, so it's appropriate that she would be a part of the fortune most powerful women team. Uh when I saw Neil Armstrong take that first step by that grainy black and white television visuals that we had and Buzz Aldrin behind him, I thought that it was, it was fantastic. The humans were able to walk on the moon. We knew what a risk it was. We we didn't know then whether you would fall into dust and it would envelope that first step. He could have just disappeared. But in fact it was the first step to inspire young men and women across the country and around the globe. And so it's, that was maybe one of those giant leaps as armstrong described it. That motivated and inspired, intrigued and and I think laid the groundwork for great uh progress since then a couple of years later. I think after that you were interesting with Sandra Day O'Connor, I believe. Is that right? Yes. You've got the back club amazingly. Well, yes, what are you seriously there As early age? I want to get to what you're doing at the at the Secretary of the Air Force now, but I do want to stay in your career for a minute because it is truly so extraordinary. And what were you thinking when you were um you know, in college or interning for Justice O'Connor about what you wanted to do with your life? I was hoping to make a living. I was motivated to just, I was motivated by necessity. My father died when I was young. I was support for my mother and six kids. My mother fell apart when my father died. We lived on a farm. Uh it was subsistence farming, so we had a necessity to figure out how are you going to make a living? Don't count on anybody else, you've got to go do it. So I was working as many as five jobs at a time, including uh that was a great job though and I became a government intern in the state senate, where santa O'Connor was the first woman in the country to be the majority leader of any state House or senate. And I got the privilege not just to get credit hours and get paid, but also to see and work with one of the great leaders of our time. And uh this week of all weeks, we think about what it took to those early women on the Supreme Court. Sandra O'Connor the very first and ruth Bader Ginsburg West Indies as as the second and how much they did for women, Federal Connor. But for me a great job in roll the old saying that you can see it, you can be it. I don't think that was the same quite yet. But because I saw Sandra O'Connor in action and saw how she led. It inspired me to think that, oh, we're girls, women, girls can grow up to be women who do what Sandra O'Connor was doing, leading people establishing government policy, helping the life get better for a lot of people because of policies. It was an inspiration to me and I know you're you're still friends with her today. So um so tell us what you are, what your goals and your priorities are and your mission is as secretary of the Air Force. And tell us basically what is this new space force. Well, uh let me tell May I, I'll tell you one quick story about Sandra Day O'Connor before Justice O Connor turned 90 in March and it happened to be the day that the United States Space Force was launching a major uh making major launch. So I sent a photograph of the launch and a note to justice. So bad that a lot of for many people's birthday, 9 90 little candles would have been appropriate. But we thought maybe one giant cancel would be more appropriate for Sandra Day O'Connor. So we with the rocket launch on her birthday. That's wonderful. That is wonderful. So please tell us what you're doing, what you're focusing on at the Air Force and the Space Force. The United States Air Force Department of the Air Force, which is comprised of both the Air Force and the Space Force are big missions are big priorities within the national defense strategy. We are to build the Space Force number one big mission. This is the first new uh military service In 73 years. So build a Space force, Get that done right. Second, major parties to modernize both the air and space forces to equip the the forces with what they need to give more modern equipment because we've got to be able to fight in the modern world. And the third key priority is to grow strong leaders and resilient families. We want the Air force to be a great place to work. So our third priority is growing those great leaders and having resilient families. It's often said that it's actually dramatic these days that you recruit the individual, obtain the family. We need to make sure that the families also are treated well in the United States military. And the final of our four priorities is building better relationships with our allies and our partners around the world. The world against us. We lose, we have to be working with allies and partners around the world, protect America's interests and those of our allies. So are four under the national Defense Strategy. Those are four key priorities. That first one you ask about the Space Force. That is, what is it? It's a brand new military service like the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and Marines and the Coast Guard. This is the sixth major Service of the United States, the sixth Military Service. And why would you need the Space Force? It's sensible to ask. But when we think about what, how much of America's way of life today, depending on face, it's huge. I've often said that when you think about it before your first cup of coffee in the morning, you've probably used space that you may not know about it. You may not have seen the connection because what often your alarm clock maybe linked to GPS system. You may look at the traffic, you may look at the weather. All of those are going to be space assets. Probably your power water are probably connected through space control. Near if you use an A. T. M. Or if you take a look at traffic, farmers monitor their crops, were looking at the wildfires through space lenses. Uh much of what we do today, uh, from ATMs to missile warning systems. It's all happening because of space assets. But our space out sets were built at a time when we thought it was a benevolent environment. As my predecessor Heather Wilson said, it's as though we built a glass house before we knew about stones. So we now have assets upon which we depend, but they are vulnerable. They aren't protected. So we are looking at ways to protect them to replace them with things that are more easily protect jam proof. And then if we are also need to be attentive to the fact that we can be something other than a victim in space, we cannot be so vulnerable to that we can. Secretary Barrett. To that point, I'd like to bring up on Tuesday bipartisan House panel issued a report called Future of Defense Task Force and noted that the pentagon is behind on real innovation and called on the Department of Defense to speed up investments in artificial intelligence among other new technologies and actually proposed using uh the Manhattan project as a model. Uh that is convening America's best minds to advance uh innovation at the Department of Defense. What do you what's your deal that? I think that's great. It's just what we need. We absolutely are consumers of technology. Are we behind? Well, uh huh. A lot of what we talk about may not be the most knowledge. Even a lot of things that we aren't um publicizing as you would hope we would. Um but we're constantly engaging new technologies, artificial intelligence, of course, augmented reality virtual reality. We're working working on hyper sonics were we're leading in many technologies but we are not leading in some and we have to be constantly moving forward and working to be in the lead on all of these processes. So we're retooling a lot of what we do to find new ways of getting faster, more agile and being bold. Uh we're doing lots of fun things and acquisitions to have, you know that the United States Air Force half works. Um Our Innovation center was just rated one of the 100 most innovative places to work. It's the only government entity on that list with the Air Force is innovating and engaging a lot of those new technologies that you described. Well, that's terrific. Unfortunately we are out of time. I can't believe how quickly this land and Secretary Barrett keep on innovating, keep on leading the way and thank you very much for being with us. Great pleasure. Thank you so very much.