Reorienting the AirForce? Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, June 10, 2008
That may be exactly what Sec. Gates is doing with the appointment of the new Air Force Chief of Staff:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates took action Monday to dramatically reorient the leadership of the Air Force, calling for the nomination of the first non-fighter or bomber pilot to lead the service since its inception after World War II.
His recommendation that Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who began his military career as a cargo pilot, be nominated by President Bush as Air Force chief of staff marks a significant shift in Air Force leadership.
Over time, the move could lead the service to give more emphasis to missions that support ground wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as cargo flights and in-air refueling, over more traditional roles like air dogfights.
As I'm sure a couple of our more frequent commenters can tell you, fighter pilots have dominated Air Force leadership since the inception of the service. Schwartz appointment breaks that domination (I refuse to call it a glass ceiling) and puts a trash hauler in the right seat.
But senior defense officials said that Gates wanted to make a dramatic move to signal a clear break with the past. One official said Gates was looking for an Air Force chief who did not come with a fighter pilot's "call sign" nickname.
Officials said that in bypassing the "fighter mafia" for the chief of staff position, Gates is sending a message that the Air Force needs to focus more on Iraq and Afghanistan, where he has struggled to get the service to provide more unmanned reconnaissance drones.
Schwartz does come with some Special Ops experience as well, having piloted C130 gunships. So it appears that, like the Army (where the integration of the reserves into the total force has finally been forced by events), there's a reorientation going on in the Air Force.
Frankly, I think this is a very healthy thing for the Air Force. New blood, new ideas and a new direction to help the Air Force better define its future role in unconventional warfare.
And, while we're at it, a word about the "resignation" of the former AF chief of staff because of a nuclear incident:
... Gates said he was trying to instill a deeper ethic of accountability in all the military services.
The services must be "willing to admit mistakes when they are made," he said. "That is the only way to fix them — and it is the only way to ensure that they don't recur in the future. . . .
That ethic of accountability exists at the lower ranks where action is taken if required. However, it is nice to see it extended to the level where such an example is clear to all ranks and makes the point that everyone is accountable.
I'm getting to really like and admire Gates and his style of leadership.
It’s sad, but perhaps not unsurprising, that the path one takes in the Air Force (as well as the other branches) too often results in an inability to be a team player and see the other paths as having anything other than lesser importance and value.
It should never have come to this, where Gates has to replace leadership because they wouldn’t do what they were asked/ordered to do. When exactly did ’when a higher ranking officer gives you an order, grit your teeth and follow that order to the best of your ability’ go out of style? It shouldn’t matter if one grew up in fighters, if the boss wants you to focus on Afghanistan or tankers or cargo planes, then that’s what you focus on... or you resign.
How does the Air Force go forward now? Good question. We do not have the Soviet threat today as we have in the past, with the nuke threat and the kind of odds so heavily against us that the Soviets could bring to the table. So the "Nuke-em till they glow" and the "Fighter Pilot heaven - the many v. many furball" types of conflict have melted into the past. Now we are in the age of counter insurgency but we cannot overlook possible mini-Soviet type encounters with Iran, North Korea, and more importantly China. When you have air superiority, you are free to do as you please under a friendly sky - a sky that can even bring big time help. Without that air superiority - you are screwed. To purge our entire Air Force of the Fighters and Bombers typical of the glory years of the past may not be the long term best interest of the nation but there definitely needs to be a realignment within the leaders of the Air Force for the requirements of today. The Army and Navy have had to come to terms with their new roles and now it is the Air Force’s turn.
Check out the web site, "In From the Cold", which I have NO connection to or any interest in, it has a very nice article on the problems that the USAF faces. I believe the authors are former USAF members. One of the postings talks about the ethical lapses that the USAF has faced over the last two decades and their effects.
The USAF is wed to the F-22, which is sad, because in the immortal quote from Flight of the Intruder, "Fighter pilots make headlines, bomber pilots make history." The USAF doesn’t seem to be able to shake its obsession with having the most hi-tech FIGHTER in the world, even at the expense of the multi-role F-35, and damage to our allies and fellow services who are a part of the F-35 program or at the expense of the tanker, or transport communities...the USAF has NO Electronic Attack capacity, and after 2010 will have no GUARANTEED access to one! Yes, the F-22 is very stealthy and the F-35 quite stealthy, but the overwhelming majority of aircraft in inventory will remain non-stealthy F-15/16’s. But these subsidiary communities all take a backseat to the drive to produce 300-plus F-22’s.
I hope that the new leadership in the USAF can force a more balanced approach on the Fighter Community, the F-22, certainly, but also reconnaissance, EA, and other portions of the entire force package must be considered.