▶ Watch Video: Hon. Frank Kendall, U.S. Air Force secretary, celebrates USAF’s 75th anniversary

The Air Force is celebrating its 75th year this month. Throughout its history, the Air Force has distinguished itself with innovation and cutting-edge technology. As the world continues to change and technology continues to develop, the Air Force is facing new challenges. 

But it is the escalating tensions between China and the U.S. that has Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall III concerned. 

“They’ve been fairly open-minded and innovative, technically reasonably sophisticated. They’ve identified what they think are the high-value targets for them to attack. It includes things like aircraft carriers, our forward air bases, and our satellites in space. We have a formidable problem that we have to address,” Kendall told “CBS Mornings.” 

Kendall has more than 50 years’ experience working with the Department of Defense — serving as a U.S. Army officer before he made his way up the ranks in the DOD. He was sworn in as Air Force secretary in 2021.  

It is because of his years of experience, Kendall said, he can distinguish what a threat China is to the United States. 

“I spent the first 20 years of my career worrying about the Soviet Union. So, I know viscerally what it is like to have a peer competitor. We have one. If I were to characterize China, I would say it’s more of a severe competitor than the Soviet Union was,” said Kendall. 

Like other military branches, the Air Force is also struggling to meet its recruitment goals.

Kendall said the Air Force is scheduled to meet its active force recruitment goal but will not meet its reserve and guard goals. Kendall said the Air Force is focusing on communicating the benefits that joining a military branch brings to try to help improve recruitment numbers. 

“Basically the opportunity to serve in the military, particularly for me, the air force or the space force, is a tremendous opportunity. And we need to communicate that to people,” he said. “You get a chance to do interesting, exciting, important work, you get to serve your country and prepare for a career in the service or outside of it in a very positive way. So we’re actively upping our recruiting game.” 

One of the military branches that fall under the Air Force is the Space Force. Kendall said the branch has around 8,500 members and has been pretty active in its three years. 

“It’s very important. The mission is critical to our national security. The programs that they do and services they provide as well as the ability to contest for control of space which is becoming increasingly necessary. It’s a really important mission,” said Kendall. 

But the Air Force secretary said unidentified objects, as interesting and unknown as they are, are not a major threat to the country’s national security. 

“I have real threats that I worry about every day, and they’re severe threats. I’m aware of, I don’t have direct responsibility for investigating these phenomena. I’ve looked at the reports, I’ve seen what’s been there,” he said. “There are things that we haven’t been able to explain. But I think that the important thing for us to do is do some real technical investigation of what they are and try to resolve these.”