Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Independent Air Force

F-15s of the Massachusetts Air National Guard
Over at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid, xbradtc has an interesting post up regarding one man's view of the "need" for an Air Force. You can read that here. (Xbradtc has some interesting thoughts on the topic himself.)

As many of you (some of you?) might recall, I am an Air Force retiree. So you might think that I have a dog in this hunt. While I love the Air Force I was in, I'm not sure it's still the same Air Force. My old service has been in the news a lot lately. And not always in a good way!

There's this concerning the cheating scandal involving missileers (the guys and gals who are responsible for launching ICBMs) and then there was this scandal involving the commander of 20th Air Force.

So what's my take on "Do we need an independent Air Force?"

Well, to tell you the truth, I have mixed feelings. My gut feeling to keep the Air Force as an independent service is based solely on emotion. I do understand that as national defense gets more and more expensive, it's really rather stupid to not look for ways to make our Armed Forces more effective and less expensive.

The real problem is ensuring that the tools of war are wielded by someone who knows how. Doesn't matter if that wielder is wearing Army green, Air Force blue or whatever.

During my time "in harness" I saw a lot of duplication in the various schools maintained by the different services. A computer operator is a computer operator regardless of what uniform they wear. Ditto for a logistics specialist, a military policeman, a computer programmer etc. Yet in my day each service had their own schools for these fields. (Some service's schools were better than others. And no, it wasn't always the Air Force who led the way. I had the chance to work with some Marine software guys. Those guys were sharp and better than a lot of airmen I worked with. Oorah!)

Most importantly it's the generals and admirals who will be leading these forces who need to know what they're doing. A bad general is a bad general, regardless of what color uniform he or she is wearing. As more and more joint commands and assignments have been all the rage over the past twenty years (or so), many officers have learned how their sister services operate.


If it makes sense to re-organize the services (perhaps even eliminating the Air Force), then do it. Hell, the Marines have pilots, infantrymen, tankers and all sorts of different roles. Heck, with the right training they could even drive ships!

Harrumph, let's just put the Marines in charge and let them organize the services. Simplistic yes, but maybe not a bad idea.


Another idea would be to study what our neighbors to the North have done -
The Canadian Forces (CF) (French: les Forces canadiennes; FC), officially the Canadian Armed Forces (French: Forces armées canadiennes), is the unified armed force of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."

This unified institution consists of sea, land and air elements referred to as the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Personnel may belong to either the Regular Force or the Reserve Force, which has four sub-components: the Primary Reserve, Supplementary Reserve, Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service, and the Canadian Rangers. The Department of National Defence provides Parliamentary oversight and is the civilian support system for the Canadian Forces. - Wikipedia
To tell you the truth, some of the inter-service rivalries and infighting have embarrassed the Army, the Navy and the Air Force over the years. That nonsense has also cost the taxpayers an awful lot of money as well over the years.

After all, we have more generals and admirals now than we had in World War II. In 1945 there were over 12 million Americans on active duty. Currently there are slightly over 2 million Americans wearing the uniform, active and reserve. So yeah, we're a little top heavy.


We need to take a long hard look at how to fix the system. If it requires some streamlining and re-organizing, so be it.

Anyway, that's my two cents...

20 comments:

  1. Good points you raise here. I understood why the AAC became the USAF, but times (and budgets) have changed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As much as I'd hate for the Air Force to "go away" (which it wouldn't necessarily do) we need to get more bang for our bucks!

      Delete
  2. I actually believe the Army and Air Force should both be reduced to cadre during peace time, using the Guard and Air Guard to handle the nickle and dime stuff that comes up. The Navy and Marine Corps should be the power projection forces in peace time. As far as the Air Force and Army Aviation being rejoined, I can see ups and downs either way. We would probably get more value out of eliminating a percentage of the staff bloat. As a modest proposal, how about we get rid of 90% of the O-9s, 80% of the O-8s, 70% of the O-7s ans 60% of the O-6's - either eliminating their function all together or moving it down a couple grades. All services. I wonder if anyone would notice. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What would I call the reduction in numbers of the GOFOs...

      ...a good start.

      Delete
  3. I'm waaaay too far into the Glenlivet to comment. Mebbe tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you chime in on this one. Your take would be most interesting.

      I may have more in the near term. This is an interesting topic.

      Delete
  4. As a taxpayer, I'm 100% in agreement. As a military guy, I'm not as convinced, at least for the combined USA/USAF. As for merging other areas (USAF or USN taking over USMC Air, for instance), we'd lose a lot of specialization that each service brings to the table, and we'd have even more parochialism within the force than we do now. Now if you want to just unify the training systems at the basic level, I'd wholeheartedly agree. You could have a computer guy (using the exact same computer systems that his Navy Information Tech brothers in arms are learning. Afterwards, they can attend a service school to give them the advanced training the USAF or USA wants them to get. We already do this with basic flight training and intermediate Navigation training. That's what JPATS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Primary_Aircraft_Training_System) was built for. I'd also agree with merging our individual intelligence services, and not just for the military- for the other organizations in the government as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The loss of specialization does concern me.

      For instance, Close Air Support, most Marines I know want a Marine in that cockpit rolling in hot. They'll take a Navy pilot as a second choice. History is littered with complaints about Air Force CAS.

      Delete
  5. I am in agreement with Pogue on it but OldAFSarge makes a valid point about the unification.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been thinking on Pogue's comment and I may devote an entire post to that angle. But I don't see a downside to how the Canadians do things.

      This topic deserves more attention.

      Delete
  6. Top Heavy!
    The entire federal system is top heavy
    So are a lot of states
    On the other hand where would the SOBs find a job if they were canned?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the whole system seems larded with overpaid bureaucrats.

      If they were canned, I'm not sure where we could put them. How about China?

      Delete
  7. My job in CinCPAC involved training JTF staffs how to do Campaign Planning. I'll confess, I learned a lot more from them than they learned from me, but one thing struck me as common throughout many of the people I worked with. They took Air Superiority as a given. IIRC the last American killed by an enemy aircraft occurred in North Africa in 1942, that's a long time not having to worry about a basic requirement of battlespace prep.
    But juvat, they would say, nobody can stand up to us Air to Air wise, heck, the Eagle has well over 100 kills without a loss and the Raptor is even better, we don't need to worry about that. Yep, unless we're fighting China.
    So, my concern is a Combat Commander who doesn't really appreciate the need, downplaying the priority and not allocating assets to a problem resulting in a disaster. Notice I didn't mention another service Combat Commander, because in this day, I don't believe many USAF Generals appreciate the danger either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup, too often we prepare for the last war. When we were the only combatant with a real Navy, a real Air Force and a superbly trained force. While there were a bunch of goat herders on the other side of the hill. (Bloody dedicated goat herders, I'll give 'em that.)

      I fear we'll be terribly shocked to come up against someone with similar assets unless we start paying attention right now.

      Oh, and another thing, the Chinese aren't going to care about how (D)iverse we are either! Or how politically correct.

      Delete
  8. Oh, and thanks very much for the picture of the light grays. Set's my heart to racin' and my mind to dreamin'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heh, my first thought upon finding those was "Nice. Juvat is gonna love this!"

      Delete
  9. I commented on XBradTC's place. I started out Air Force but, when faced with a hole in the ground, I went upstairs and joined the navy. If we look at the astonishing number of fighter aircraft in the USAF we could probably scream out loud. Why do we have so many? They can self-deploy anywhere so all we need is a couple of hundred and they can destroy any air force in the world and be home the next day. I agree with Pogue above. There is a lot of excess that needs to go. There's a difference between the services and within the services. Even in the naval service we have aviation rates and seagoing rates that provide the same function but differently. The sailors that do the jobs are not interchangeable without some severe drawbacks.
    Nobody ever talks QDR anymore, or, at least not out here in MetroParkCentralis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There definitely is a lot of excess. Procurement is a nightmare.

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)