Skip to comments.Air Force firings reveal culture clash
Posted on 06/06/2008 10:58:17 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
By Bob Deans
Saturday, June 07, 2008
WASHINGTON In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to Maxwell Air Force Base near Montgomery, Ala., to address an elite group of majors and colonels attending the Air War College in preparation for promotions to command positions.
For months, Gates had been at odds with Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Gen. Michael Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff, over how to increase the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to spy on insurgents and monitor roadside bomb sites in Iraq.
The Air Force brass, Gates confided, had been dragging its feet.
"I've been wrestling for months to get more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets into the theater," Gates told the war college students. "Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it's been like pulling teeth."
On Thursday, Gates fired Wynne and Moseley, saying that inspections after two embarrassing nuclear arms mistakes in the past year revealed systemic weaknesses in how the Air Force takes care of the country's most dangerous weapons.
Behind the firings, however, lay a more fundamental battle over the future of the Air Force, service officers and analysts said, and a broader divide between a service set up to defend the country against a Cold War threat and a White House bent on defeating terror groups.
"There was a deep cultural rift between the U.S. Air Force and the office of the secretary of defense throughout the Bush presidency," said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, a security policy think tank in Arlington, Va.
"The Bush administration was determined to transform the military into an information-age military, and it defined that goal in terms that didn't have much to do with the goals of the U.S. Air Force," Thompson said. "As a result, year after year there were arguments."
Moseley and Wynne, by some lights, represented an old guard that fought for expensive manned aircraft like the $142 million F-22 fighter jet. Some officials said the two leaders were perceived to be slow to make the transformational changes Gates envisioned to create an Air Force that would rely less on pilots and more on technology to fulfill a mission centered on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
"It wasn't just the nuke issue," said a senior Air Force officer.
Gates is likely to recommend to President Bush that he nominate a former Air Force executive, Michael Donley, to the service's top civilian post, a senior defense official said Friday. Donley, who was acting secretary of the Air Force for seven months in 1993 and served as the service's top financial officer from 1989 to 1993, would replace Wynne.
Additional material from The Associated Press.
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This is news? Like any culture, shit happens when humans are involved.
The Air Force learned its lesson with Wild Bill. Airmen make the difference. Artificial Intelligence is useful when controlled by people.
Are you saying, “Off we go into the wild Blue Yawner”???AF Retiree....
More bang for the buck is good.
I think if someone grew up with the Air Force of the 1970s...and then came to view the Air Force of 2008...they would be totally shocked at the leadership, the vision, the change-the-change-to-the-change mentality, and the business-like management style of today. Companies used to come out to Air Force bases in the 1960s and 1970s...to see how to run a smooth operation. The Air Force gave up and started making tours of civilian operations in the mid-90s and have lost a tremendous amount of creativity...working on creating “centers of excellence” which are mere shadows of what we had twenty years ago.
Across the entire Air Force...they’ve got a broad spectrum of senior NCOs and officers who simply don’t know how their office, division or operation functions. There are senior NCOs out there who haven’t functioned in the shoes of their airman for more than fifteen years. The junior enlisted get daily sessions of “moral direction” rather than train on accomplishing an impossible mission. I can remember exercises in the early 80s that were rigged up for 150 percent of what you’d face...which you couldn’t possibly accomplish everything...yet you learned how to prioritize and set an achievable goal with what you could do. Today...they plan an exercise, which is mostly scripted and like some kind of cake-walk...mainly because so many leaders don’t know that job or the operation.
I spent twenty-two years in the AF...and continual to work in some fashion outside the uniform today for them. The Secretary of the Defense is correct...there is something disconnected and not working right.
Gates is going to eat his words in a few years. Drones are not going to be able to match up with the Chinese PLAF. We'd better hope for lots of USAF Raptors and USN/Marine JSFs. Pilots aren't going away in the 21st century. That's a myth that rivals global warming.
I have seen the briefing where the Army took their own C-12 aircraft and did their own ISR after the Air Force refused to help.
The Army initiated their own ISR program and made it work. The Air Force just isn't listening.
The UAVs are a different story - the UAV pilots are maxed out, and they are tired. They are sitting there in Nevada chained to that 12 to 16 hours a day, and there are not enough of them.
The ultimate solution is to let enlisted and other "fly" the UAVs. Gen Mosley would have nothing of this, neither would Secretary Wynne.
Well, now they are gone.
The other big issue was the Air Force attitude to cut everything (including its own people) for the sake of the F-22.
Great aircraft, but a Budget killer. It is KILLING the Air Force.
The Air Force is cutting contracts left and right to pay for the precious F-22; and is cutting everything to the bone to pay for it. Secretary Gates himself said it contributes "nothing to war on terror" and he furthermore said the Air Force had to "focus on the two wars we are fighting now."
Is it a great fighter? Yeah. Does the F-15 need to be replaced? Yeah.
Do we need more than 180 of them? Not at the cost of bankrupting the entire Air Force budget if Congress won't give the Air Force anymore money.
The Air Force leaders developed myopic tunnel vision.
It was "THE F-22, OR BUST!"
This has to stop.
The Air Force fighter guys in the E-ring didn't want to hear this.
That was the bigger issue as this article pointed out.
Back in 1984 I took a group of managers from my company out to a large Air Force Supply depot to look at their supply operations.
We came away impressed with the efficiency of how things were going.
I wonder what went wrong between 1984 and 2008.
I believe that the military is relying way to much on civilians to solve problems that used to solved by hard working enlisted men.
I was out at the Navy base today and men in uniform were rare to be seen.
However,civilians were everywhere such as the grounds keeping crew in front of the base commanders home.
Well, 'everybody' hates change - especially when you're in a large bureaucracy.
When a team performs poorly — one usually doesn’t fire the entire team - they fire the coaches.
The Air Force “coaches” have had a bad season and ruffled the wrong feathers.
- Air Force “Old School thinking” in a new world scenario - didn’t win friends in the other services.
- The armed nuclear weapons flown across the country UNKNOWN by the B52 pilots.
- Nuclear fuses shipped by error to a foreign customer.
- Foot dragging on building and deploying intelligence gathering and unmanned attack drones in the combat zones.
- Crash of a B-2 stealth bomber, the most expensive bomber in the fleet on takeoff, due to poor communications regarding the hazard and remedy for moisture contaminated sensors.
- Some believe the cover up and discharge of Major Metzger with PTSS disability benefits to the young woman Air Force officer who claimed she was kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan — when in fact it appears she sought and received an abortion for a pregnancy from an adulterous affair........hints of a larger cover up and poor judgment at the highest levels of Air Force command, drew unwanted attention.
Sooner or later — there is enough reason to fire anyone you want fired...
Most of it will probably never be made public.
***The Air Force is cutting contracts left and right to pay for the precious F-22; and is cutting everything to the bone to pay for it.***
Let’s not forget slashing personnel.
Agreed. This is like watching a redo of the old “we don't need guns any more” because missiles are what the air war is about for the future.
And we got F-4’s with no guns and sparrow's that dove off the rails into the ground.
Air Force Catholic Chaplains in Kuwait are the worst!
“Gates is going to eat his words in a few years. Drones are not going to be able to match up with the Chinese PLAF. “
On the contrary, manned planes won’t be able to match up with drones in a few years. The march of technology, specifically artificial intelligence, will see to that. The era of manned combat flight is in it’s sunset. A UCAV with the necessary AI will fly circles around any human piloted plane. It’ll be able to make decisions faster than any human mind, and it’ll be able to handle stresses and maneuvers that no human piloted plane can.
And when all this comes to pass... when “fighter planes” are nothing but robots serviced by teenaged kids, probably able to take off and land vertically from any dirt strip... what need will their be for a separate Air Force? The Army will simply be able to unpack a squadron from the back of a truck, enter a few computer commands, and send them on their way from anywhere. The Navy will be able to do the same from ships.
The Knights of the Air will very soon be an endangered species.
The solution, I think, to getting more USAF UAV pilots trained and on duty is to implement a new "Warrant Officer" grade just like the Army's for its chopper pilots.
The fighter mafia won't have it though...
When Clinton and Gore came along, they cashed in on the "peace dividend" even more, and through Gore's "reinventing government" campaign, military infrastructure diminished even further as more and more civilian managers took over critical command billets, which was then exasperated by the Clinton Administration's insistence that the military try to operate exactly like a business, counting widgets, implementing TQL, and treating combat forces like "customers" rather than combat forces.
The Air Force is now reaping what it helped sow when it enthusiastically embraced the new DOD way of doing business in the 1990s.
I believe that we have the best troops and junior leaders in the services that we had for generations and they really shone during these latest wars. Their leadership and the service cultures are miserably out of sync with them and the future needs of our country.
So now the question is, how do we get the services - all of them - back on track?
More bang for the buck is good. However automated systems are not as flexible as a manned aircraft. UAVs take a lot of development and time.
“So now the question is, how do we get the services - all of them - back on track? “
IMO what we are seeing now is a result of the cuts Clinton made. We lost a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge during the draw down.
“And when all this comes to pass... when fighter planes are nothing but robots serviced by teenaged kids, probably able to take off and land vertically from any dirt strip... what need will their be for a separate Air Force?”
Spoken like a bitter jealous Army grunt. :)
IMO all the services are going to eventually merge. But the airforce is a lot more than a few fighters. They are busily expanding their presence into space.
Now THERE’s a reason to fire Moseley and Wynne.
The liberal think that wars in the future will be fought, not by men on the ground or in the air or on the seas, but from a computer terminal somewhere at someone’s house and men and women will not personally be involved. To GAIN AND HOLD GROUND, you HAVE to have BOOTS ON THE DAMNED GROUND! No damned computer can take and hold territory. It ain’t gonna happen. You can invent all the computers you want. But, to dig the bad guys out of their holes, you have to get into the ground with a shovel and dig. No damned computer is going to do that. The “Bill Gates” fighting of a war is not going to be a war. It is going to be a science fiction movie.
We have had air supremacy for so long, we now take it for granted. Big mistake. Without the best aircraft and pilots we will not keep it. Drones are great for some missions (like ISR), but are nearly useless in air to air combat or heavy bombing. The Russians, Chinese, and even the Europeans (who sell abroad) are not sitten on their laurels here. The danger is that we come to consider low intensity warfare as the standard and then a big conflict comes along and bites us in the a$$. And it will take us far longer to add air wings than it will take us to add Army divisions.
I was an AF officer from 1983 to 2005. My take is that too much that was once done in house in now outsourced. As a result, too many officers are now managers who have never gotten their hands dirty. They just turn to civilian contractors and say “do it”. Also, at too many units, civilians run the show. They look at blue suiters as transitory problems who will go away in 3 years if ignored.
OR lunatic libs supporting ObamaNATION OF ISLAM!!!
You ought to see what Raytheon is working on. Within fifty years the air force weapons will be managed by people with the best hand-eye coordination — and that could be the fat kid who once was devoted to arcade games.
Drop down and give me 20 mouse clicks!
We’ll have to raise Curtis LeMay from the dead and put Strategic Air Command back in operation...then fire 1,000 fighter pilot jock leaders who can’t manage but they can fly.
This will very rapidly change.
I’ll have to disagree with you. I did a tour in Afghanistan where we (USAF) took over from the US Navy in filling US Army positions. The Navy signed up for the mission, did one rotation, then said they were all used up. The USAF is still filling that role, now starting a third rotation AFTER I left. The US Army was supposed to be up to speed by last year, but didn’t make it and the USAF is still there doing the job.
That isn’t a hit on either Army or Navy. The Army is already busting their chops on rotations. They shouldn’t HAVE to fill roles that CAN be filled by either USAF or Navy personnel. If anything, the USAF ought to be looking to aggressively volunteer to fill these positions.
That said, most problems with services depends on the level you are looking at.
The Army has great people going out on patrol. The Army staff is dedicated, but even more rapped up in meetings, briefings and sucking up to the Boss than the USAF.
The USAF has great people flying and maintaining planes. Our staffs vary - some are good, but most are manned below 50%, and only half of those manning it care. The others are killing time. Our GOs are truly awful - had a talk between us at work yesterday, with mostly O-5/O-6s and retired O-6s...consensus was the USAF would function better if we fired 50% or more of our GOs and replaced them with field grade officers. About the only dispute between those present was if the number was 50% or much higher...total agreement that the USAF had seriously declining leadership for the last 10+ years. Everyone agreed that these firings were not nearly enough to solve the problem.
The Navy has great people too - but I’ve done time in a Navy squadron, and the Navy on shore can match anyone’s inefficiency.
Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve been hearing for 20 years how UAVs were going to revolutionize warfare—though they are more common, it hasn’t happened yet. Again, ISR is one thing, but that is just one of MANY AF missions.
Have to disagree with you here. First, the ability to pull Gs is over-rated. It meant something when we needed rear-aspect weapons. With modern missiles, pulling Gs just means you will die all tensed up.
Artificial intelligence has a long way to go. It has promised for years and hasn’t delivered simple target recognition.
I’m also unimpressed by how UAVs are being used. Ground CCs love them because they FEEL like they are in control, but I’ve watched BDE staff spend 6+ hours staring at a drone feed without ever understanding that it had no actionable intelligence, since there was no way of telling the the people being watched were good or bad. But the BDE sure did watch it!
UAV video feeds are to the Army what data-links are to senior commanders in the USAF - feel-good SA black holes. It doesn’t HAVE to be that way, but the Army misuses video feed every bit as often as the USAF misuses data link info.
A former head of Martin-Marietta once said that the cost of a fighter/interceptor was rising so fast that the USAF would only be able to afford one of them by 2054.
See post #38
The F-22, like the F-3, is to be the future. Not an evolutionary change, but a revolutionary change, to leap ahead of our adversaries (and potential adversaries), so that whatever “they” come up with would be no where near what we have. Air dominance ensured for generations.
Fighter force structure studies reveal, as I am sure you are aware as a former E-ring kinda guy, that the fighter fleet is not only old, but falling apart. These jets were built to fly hard for a long time, and they have, and they out-lived their contracted life by many thousands of hours. The fleet is tired and the fleet needs to be replaced.
The studies that have been done, and re-done and re-done, always come back to a 381 requirement for the F-22. This number is needed to accomplish the mission, the mission defined by our national security strategy. The Air Force does not make this strategy, the NSC and the president do. F-15s wont do, neither will the F-16s. Other jets out there and many more in future will have the edge over our great Air Force.
Of course, as a former Pentagon guy, you realize how congressional meddling in the acquisition process results in enormous coast increases when they cut numbers (loss of the cost-per-unit price break), and they piece-meal a program (increased risk to the prime, with most risk to the hundreds, if not thousands, of subs). Increased risk means increased cost.
So, we have a congress that causes the costs to sky-rocket and then this same congress complains about cost.
The F-22 is to be the one that knocks down the door for the less stealthy jets. Thats its primary mission. However, the jet has much more capability than what is generally known, especially in the ISR area. Won’t go into detail, but is it a fascinating jet of huge capability—a 5th generation jet is more than stealth.
Unmanned aircraft, like Predator, is a fine platform for what it does. Slow, long time airborne, limited payload, over a small area. We certainly need more and should get more. Also, we need to let senior NCO fly as well as operate the sensors. No question.
As far as replacing fighters, no way that can happen in the near or distant future (far distant, maybe). You as a pilot should understand thins, as I am sure you do, but the technology isn’t there to allow operation of a unmanned, super-sonic, 3-dimensional working, 360-degree aware jet with judgment (the most important trait).
Maybe someday we will have a fleet of unmanned fighters, akin to Ender’s Game (Orsen Scott Card). But not anytime soon.
The problem between the Sec Def and the Air Force were many, but keep this in mind: We always hear about how we are always “fighting the last war” and never planning for the next. The Air Force, the Pentagon (the train and equip guys), they are the ones planning for the future—hence arguing for the next generation long range strike bomber, the F-22, the F-35, Prompt Global Strike, project X. . .whatever. It takes decades to conceive, design, develop test and field a new system, a system based upon future requirements. So we must be cautious and not focus purely on the “now,” but focus on the now and the future. A difficult balancing process, at best, and congressional meddling and myopic vision of OSD leadership makes things even worse.
The war we are in now is ground-centric and the Air Force can only do so much, and it is doing a lot more than most people realize, both with air assets and airmen on the ground. The Air Force is fighting to provide what is needed in future. A difficult balancing process.
Gates was right in his actions last week, of that I support him fully. But to me he is near-sighted and myopic in focusing on the “now” as opposed to the Big Picture.
In a few years when we find ourselves facing an advanced adversary, that should not be the time we look to the Air Force and ask, “Okay, Air Force, Predators are nice but can’t do the job, so why were you only focusing on the past and not the future. . . .?”
You make an excellent point. Acquisition of large ticket items like fighters isn’t supposed to be for TODAY’S war, but the wars we face 10-30 years down the road. Gates is very short-sighted in blasting the USAF on Predator - particularly since he was briefed on what was possible and made the decision on how to proceed. More important, he is focusing on today’s war - which is good - but he doesn’t seem to want anyone to think or prepare for what lies ahead.
I believe the USAF could easily afford to have most of it GOs fired for failing to lead, but I’m not very fond of Gates either.
I can understand the AF reluctance to have enlisted men decide when to drop 500 lbs bombs on a target.
The solution is to have a few enlisted do the flying, backed by an officer to give them OK to engage
The cuts in personnel, which were supposed to be covered by new technologies that are failing miserably or have yet to be funded to pay for weapon systems is rapidly breaking the force. I have watched my current Squadron (I work for as a simple servant after 25 years in uniform) go from 240 souls down to 148 with a scheduled loss of another 18 this fiscal year. All support career fields are being cut to the point where every Officer, NCO, or Airman in each career field are forced to become an expert on pay entitlements and personal issues while working in facilities badly in need of replacement or upgrade. Although the single room barracks sharing a latrine are much better than the facilities I lived in as a young Airman in 1975. Dont even get me started on how Medical/Dental facilities and services have been cut.
Having served as a SAC aircrew member (KC-135A & KC-10A) I have to agree with Secretary Gates on how the Air Force is a shadow of what it used to be. As soon as SAC was broken up with its bombers and recon aircraft going to the fighter pilot mafia of ACC, the tanker force going to the T-tail mafia of AMC, and the missile force going to AFSC (as I call it lost in space command) we no longer thought like a military service. The Air Staff started pushing Total Quality Management and Covey training changed regulations to instructions restructured the Air Force Special Codes changed uniforms and redesigned enlisted rank were force upon us instead of working and thinking like a military organization. Some how we still manage to accomplish the mission, but with the constant cuts in personnel, longer and more frequent deployments, and 5% to 15% in discretionary budget cuts forecast up through Fiscal Year 2011 it is just a matter of time before we hit a point of mission failure. There are also some very serious concerns about the Democrats taking power in November and you will begin to see many of our folks start to vote with their feet and leave the service should the Obamination win (not that the grumpy old man is any better). We really need to purge the leadership and start thinking and operating like we did back in the 60s 80s or we risk being merged with the Army again (another concern of many of the kids I talk too on a daily basis).
The ranting of a retired Senior Master Sergeant for what every its worth.
But we will let an Enlisted man command a tank.
I just hope my USAF now reconsiders it’s manning levels. I understand cutting personnel and support costs for “recapitalization,” but the cuts were too deep. You can’t cut tens of thousands of personnel and increase the mission without failures such at Taiwan and Minot.
We don't even finish one change before we start the next one.
I'm currently working on the Air Staff. Letting enlisted or non-rated officers fly UAVs has been referred to a "diluting the gene pool."
Twenty-seven years and counting in the USAF here. You have it right. The rank and file call it "management by PowerPoint."
I'm reading so much good stuff on this thread. I makes me feel sane again. I watch all of this crap go on, and the majority of the folks I work with just keep admiring the "kings new clothes."
The civilian thing...amen.
LOL. . .
True story: Many years ago, working with the South African Air Force, they offered to bring me on-board as their first USAF exchange officer to attend their SAAF Air Warfare College.
When this offer was presented to Fogleman, he rightfully referred it to AF/DP (HQ Air Force personnel). They staffed it to a Col (non-rated) who called me and said, and I am not kidding, remember it to this day, “No, we won't send you because you aren't on the schools list, and if we send you, you will be impeaching the process, YOU WILL BE PEEING IN THE GENE POOL.” (Regs ya’know, and it was up to this personnel Col to approve the waiver my Col div chief submitted).
LOL. . .some non-rated personnel geek making the call. . .so I really have a problem when people say pilots run the Air Force, when we all know Personnel does.
Not a slam against non-rated, but just a funny story and one that goes to show that petty non-wing-wearing control freaks add to their part of the problem.