“Gates Says Air Force Not Doing Enough”. I Say So What?

DefSec Gates Says:

In unusually blunt terms, Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday challenged the Air Force, whose leaders are under fire on several fronts, to contribute more to immediate wartime needs and to promote new thinking.
Gates has been trying for months to get the Air Force to send more unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, like the Predator drone that provides real-time surveillance video, to the battlefield. They are playing an increasing role in disrupting insurgent efforts to plant roadside bombs.

“Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it’s been like pulling teeth,” Gates said of his prodding. “While we’ve doubled this capability in recent months, it is still not good enough.”

Has he fired anyone? If not, then it is just words.

The SecDef should clear out the dead weight and old-style thinking among the Generals and Admirals (like pre-WW2 and WW2 actions by George Marshall).

It is 2008. We have been at war (sort of) since 2001. Why does the the SecDef still need to pull teeth? I am not saying he is a bad SecDef. He just needs to move quicker in the direction he is going. BTW,  I too would be okay with McCain (if elected president) keeping him as SecDef.

Flickr References: CAPSAT and eschipul


14 Responses

  1. Yeah, a little less effort on the f-22 a little more on COIN effective, small footprint machines like the drones. Hi-tech monsters like the f-22 suit America’s 21st century neo-imperialism well, but the short term requires effective, low impact tools like the UMA’s.

    Especially interesting because the USAF has been marketing it’s UMA’s in it’s recruiting commercials.

  2. They should consider using enlisted UAV pilots (call them operators) or starting up warrent officers again and using them for UAV operators. The USAF could take people into the prog4ram after they have served at least a few years elsewhere in the Air Force.

    Also, I think alot of the F-22 is a waste. What about a new ground support aircraft (or just buld more Warthogs). Use a Warrent Officer pilot program if there not enough commissioned officers.

    Alternatively, the Air Force could turn over the ground support and tactical aerial recon role back over to the army.

  3. This reminds me of the debate in the military between those who thought building more carriers was the thing and those that thought building more battleships was the key to victory.

  4. I think it is about building useful capabilities in an economic way. Instead of the F-22, an updated version of the current generation of Fighters could have been devlopet and purchased for a fraction of the F22 program. That would have left plenty of money for More UAV.

    If the AirFoce says it can’t deploy more UAV because they require a highly trained fighter pilot, then use use Enlisted Pilots or Warrant Officer Pilots (they are cheaper and havea bigger pool of candidates).

    More importantly, it would have left plenty of money for a a new frontline battle rifle, additional BCTs and MEUs, more SysAdmin type troops (e.g. Combat Engineers, CBs, Civil Affairs, HUMINT).

  5. There’s no agreement in the military or in the civilian world on what is economically optimum. Since everyone has their own pet theories and projects that they want funding for.

    War is nice since it solves these equations of efficiency and “economy” quite well. It really puts down the no debate sign when people try to argue that their idea will do good things, when tested out in the field, did jack.

  6. “There’s no agreement in the military or in the civilian world on what is economically optimum. Since everyone has their own pet theories and projects that they want funding for.”

    Maybe. Not though when deciding to spend money for on F-22s for future hypothetical conflicts when line infantry in current conflict have inferior weapons (infantry squad is armed with M-4s, 9mms autoloaders, 1-3 SAW) then their opponents. So, the us has to rely upon technology (more $) and gets the 4GW side effects (which are counter productive to the mission). This seems straight forward to me.

    The US National Security establishment (including the Military and intelligence agencies) has essentially 3 main missions (that overlap in some details):

    1) There is the major war fighting mission (e.g. High-Intensity Conflict, state-destroying, 2GW, 3GW, Barnett’s Leviathan concept).

    2) There is also the “small wars” mission (e.g. low intensity conflict, 4GW, COIN, OOTW, state-building, Barnett’s SysAdmin).

    3) There is the domestic defense and security mission (e.g. counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, anti-terrorism, missile defense, counter-WMD, air/land/sea border protection, IT and Communications defense, space defense, emergency incident response, executive protection).

    Each of these domain must be funded. Historically, the US has not funded the “small wars” mission very well and the domestic defense mission has mostly had the high-tech stuff funded.

    I am not a military guy. I am an IT professional.

    Let me say it…I am a technology geek.

    People like me love the technology, we go gaga over the technology – especially when spending other peoples money.

    In the business world (and I am sure the military is the same way), tech geeks have to be very careful to not let their tech lust govern them. The mission and needs of the organization must be met with things like this in mind: lifetime economy, simplicity, usability, interoperability, and especially opportunity costs.

    Note: Things like “satisfying my geek lust for technology” in not an organizational mission or need.

    By Odin I wish it was!

  7. There are few more egocentric professions than that of the fighter pilot. From the invention of pursuit aviation in 1915 to today they are our champions, our Knights In Flying Armor, our top Guns.

    The Air Force today is run by fighter pilots. This is a similar situation to the 1930’s when armies were run by horse cavalrymen. The Fighter Pilot Mafia is not going to accept the obsolescence of manned fighters until somebody with UCAV’s does unto them what the English longbowmen did unto French chivalry at Crecy.

    Meanwhile the other services integrate aviation into their surface (and subsurface) campaigns to get the job done with or without USAF cooperation.

  8. In fairness to the Air Force, they’ve had 20,000 people cut from their rolls just under the G.W. Bush administration — while still providing thousands of airmen for “in lieu of” positions doing jobs the Army doesn’t have enough people to do.

    You know the old saying: When you’re up to your posterior in alligators, it’s difficult to remember your original objective was to drain the swamp.

  9. The thing is, if the AF doesn’t include a more Combat orientated Join Forces structure, then the Marines and Army are just going to cut them out of the loop entire when the AF can’t provide the support that units need.

    AF still has resources and specialized resources at that, but that only means both Marine aviators and Army pilots are getting a higher priority for resources if the AF doesn’t quite want to play ball.

    The Marines didn’t want to play ball with SOCOM either, from my sparse recollections of such inter-service conflicts, but the Marines had a very good excuse that shock assault infantry needs its own special considerations based upon the history.

    The AF has seen drastic reductions in city wide bombing campaigns and air to air warfare. It is unlikely that the future of America’s battles will be decided upon an Air vs Air campaign but on the ground. Air superiority is still necessary, but both the Army and the Marines can handle their own aviation given the capacities of our enemies. So long as the political will and resources are forwarded from Congress’ grubby hands, that is.

    The AF does not have the excuse that their treasured traditions will continue to be the keystone to US military affairs. The Navy will always have their carriers and submarines, in one fashion or another. But the AF is looking at obsolescence if it does not get ahead of the curve, both of the enemy and of their friendly competitors in the other branches.

    Now if they were making a stealth bomber that could also do close air support and equipped to drop EM nukes mid air or an airborne carrier/balloon ship that catapults out UAVs armed with predators, then it might be different. But currently it seems that having enough qualified pilots to rotate a 24 hour patrol on call station for the ground forces is more important than the dogfighting or stealth capabilities of the plane.

  10. Concerning retention in the AF, I was wondering how much bonuses they get compared to the Army and Marines. It’s no good losing experienced pilots for a F 22.

  11. It does not surprise me the Air Force is in this situation. Concerning their officer corp, they are breed to be pilots first rather than be military officers and lead. So, the novelty of flying is comes first versus learning and leading people into battle ( I know, I have gone thru Air Force flight training). Like the previous entries, they have to know how to play together with other services. Doesen’t make any sense to want more money when the other services are losing lives.

  12. I had 4 buddies who became air force officers (though none of us keep in touch anymore) through AFROTC scholarships at UW-Madison.

    Two (engineers) were trained as project managers for weapon systems procurement projects. One became a Navigator on tankers (though I am not sure what he does now). I forget what the fourth trained for – sadly he died in a flight crash of some sort. I never got the details.

    None of them trained to work with other branches. To be honest, only one of the four ever seemed to have leadership qualities. He petty “unconventional”, so he may not have lasted long past his contractual commitment.

    It is the job of the civilian leadership to force change if the military leaders are unwilling. Lincoln did it. Marshall did. After 9/11, Bush/Rumsfeld certainly could have.

  13. Bush and Rummy had too much respect for the military to change it in their own image. Even Rumsfield’s transformations were predicated on Joint Chief agreement and plans. If people didn’t agree, then no work was done.

    If General Franks wanted so and so for an armored push strategy, neither Bush nor Rumsfield was willing to gainsay them and dictate the tactics or strategy of the war.

  14. That’s the cost of too much respect. THe cost of too little you saw in Somalia with Clinton and what not.

    A system that would be really beneficial to the war effort is a combined HUD system interlinked between infantry, wireless, on the ground and close air support fixed/rotary wing craft in the air.

    The Apache and Spectre gunships have plenty of firepower, but they are limited in using it if they can’t distinguish friend from foe, which is not an easy thing when ground elements are attacking or being ambushed. THey have to resort to complicated things such as waving an infrared light in front of SF groups to distinguish them from the enemy, as per the latest Blackfive post about Afghanistan battles.

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