Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Picking on the USAF

I have not been pushing for the end of the US Air Force as a separate branch of the military (unlike a certain twitter-er), but the discussion surrounding a new Chief of the USAF makes me take more seriously that idea.

Here's what the Air Force source said are the "characteristics badly needed" by the next chief:

  • The ability to effectively advocate for Air Force capabilities and who is not apologetic for those capabilities;
  • Someone who is not a "lapdog" to the SECDEF and simply does what the SECDEF says regardless if it is not the best way forward;
  • Someone who understands that "jointness" requires four separate and distinct services, and that the CSAF role is to advocate for the unique benefits and capabilities that the Air Force provides for the nation;
  • Someone who does not "go along to get along" thinking that is "jointness;
  • Someone who can restore the innovative nature of the Air Force -- the last four years saw the chief eliminate those who pushed new ideas, concepts, and technologies in favor of "yes" men (and women);
  • Someone who can get AF acquisition back on track and focus on cost-effectiveness, not simply cost elimination.
 Lapdog to the SecDef?  I guess the air force folks are still bitter that Gates fired the chief and the secretary of the Air Force when they did not respond to the exigencies of the two wars the US was fighting in the 2000's.  Given the F-35 mess (not just a mess in Canada), it is not so clear that the USAF really has gained a clue or two about the problems of budget constraints. 

Yes, a Chief of the AF has to be an advocate for the AF, but the line about jointness seems to ignore that service should not be more important than ... country.  Jointness means doing what is needed for operational success, not what is needed for service autonomy, prestige, whatever. 

It is tough to determine the difference between a "yes" man/woman and someone who actually takes seriously civilian control of the military.  Rummy certainly chose yes-folks for key slots, but Gates?  Only if you think that a USAF chief who thinks about the national interest is a yes-person. 

Oh, and if only the USAF cared about cost-effectiveness?  If only they cared about effectiveness? 

I did ponder on twitter if the next Chief might fix the USAF academy, and the response I got was: unlikely. 

I do understand why USAF folks might be miffed, but since they are still getting heaps of bucks and are not being asked to bear much of the burden of the defense cuts (that would be the folks on the ground), they might want to find a learning curve and figure out what is really necessary and what is really affordable and what is really the purpose of the USAF besides promoting itself.

1 comment:

R. William Ayres said...

For what it's worth, there's a rumor afloat that the AF is going to have to eliminate the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT). Granted, the USAF doesn't really need its own engineering graduate school - there are plenty of those out in the higher ed sector - but eliminating a whole command is a significant cut, at least psychologically (even if it doesn't save a ton of money).