July 1, 2012

What Pay Gap

I feel compelled to comment on “The Long March of Military Pay,” presented on the “Chart Page” in the May issue (p. 34). The chart tracks military pay raises relative to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from 1972 to present.

The information presented appears accurate, but it is also irrelevant. That’s because, since 1982, the government’s Employment Cost Index (ECI)—which measures private sector pay growth—has been used as the baseline for military pay raises, not the CPI. The CPI measures relative purchasing power, not pay comparability.

Thus the concluding statement, “Today, military pay exceeds cumulative inflation by nearly 10 percentage points,” leads an uninformed reader to a misleading conclusion and ought to be put in a more accurate perspective.

I served as chief of the Compensation Policy Branch at the Air Staff in the early to mid-1990s. In that capacity, I was the Air Force’s flight lead on the “pay gap” and the pay raise process. Early pay problems in the volunteer force were addressed with double-digit raises in 1981 and 1982, which were generally acknowledged to have restored military pay to levels “reasonably comparable” with private sector pay, but multiple Administrations and Congress capped military raises below private sector pay growth, as measured by the ECI, in 12 of the next 16 years.

By 1999, the cumulative military pay raise shortfall had reached 13.5 percent—which was predictably accompanied by a retention and readiness crisis.

The executive branch and Congress subsequently approved military pay raises at least .5 percent above private sector pay growth for most of the last decade. Those actions, together with housing allowance improvements, have restored general pay comparability.

What they have not done is create a nearly 10 percent “excess” in military pay growth as implied by the chart and accompanying information, which is based on an irrelevant comparison to the CPI.

The challenge now is to sustain military pay raises equal to private-sector pay growth during projected periods of budget austerity. Past experience in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s has been that tight budgets drove caps on military pay raises, and that those caps continued until they undermined retention and readiness.

Col. Dan Koslov,

USAF (Ret.)

Alexandria, Va.

Colonel Koslov is correct that the Consumer Price Index and the Employment Comparability Index measure two different things. Data in the “Chart Page” came from the Congressional Research Service. CRS did not—and we did not—claim “a10 percent excess in military pay growth,” only that, by 2001, pay “reachieved the purchasing power it had in 1972” and that, today, “pay exceeds cumulative inflation by 10 percentage points.” It says nothing about pay comparability. Thanks to Colonel Koslov for clearing up any misunderstanding. —the editors

Elevating the Reserve Components

In reading [Amy] McCullough’s April article [p. 28], “Seeking a Total Force Balance”: As we “balance” the Total Force, we need to look at missions and organizational structures for the Guard, Title 32, versus Reserve, Title 10 (Active Duty is Title 10).

With respect to mission allocation, we have mismatched the Title 10 roles with viable Title 32 roles. The Guard is more suited for airlift, agile combat support, and RPA type operations domestically and abroad. The Reserve needs to absorb fighter, bomber, and tanker operations. This is due to their USC Title 32 versus Title 10 status. For example, training missions aside, the “operational” fighter missions and deployments are purely Title 10. For Noble Eagle for example, the Guard pilots have “hip pocket Title 10 orders.” Why? Because in the event of a scramble, the governor has no operational authority for Noble Eagle missions and the chain of command flows up to the NCA. So why does the Title 32 component have a purely Title 10 mission? We have a Title 10 reserve component that does not have a big footprint in the Title 10 fighter mission. Instead, you have the Title 10 component with a large footprint in the airlift missions. Here, the states do have viable missions that could be flown in some type of Title 32 status and have a more direct relevance to state missions. Same goes for combat support units. If you asked the state governors along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts what they would rather have after a hurricane: airlift, RPA providing poststorm damage assessment, a civil engineering squadron, OR fighters (that probably evacuated to another base) sitting alert? I think the answer is obvious.

Looking beyond the current association models, I propose we adopt the Navy-Coast Guard model for the Army and the Air Force.The Navy does not have three components. It only has two: Active and Reserve. We need to elevate the National Guard and Air National Guard from [being] a service component to [being] its own service. But, like the Coast Guard, they would transfer to the Department of Homeland Security. So in the end, DHS would have Guards for land, sea, and air. This leverages their unique capabilities given the restrictions of posse comitatus on the Title 10 components of Active Duty and reserves. The Guards assume the missions of Homeland Security with an appropriate force structure, and homeland defense missions would remain with the DOD services. For the Air Force and the Air National Guard, this would open new possibilities for cross department associations on the future force structure.

Lt. Col. John Fair

JB Charleston, S.C.

Famous or Infamous

As one of the original pilots and later wing commander of the SR-71 program, [I thought] it was great to see the Blackbird family brought back into focus in the “Airpower Classics” section of your May issue of the Air Force Magazine [p. 152]. However there were a couple of points I would like to address. You stated that the progenitor (nice word) single-seat A-12 was a larger aircraft, when the opposite was true. The empty SR-71was about five feet longer and three tons heavier than than the CIA’s A-12. It also carried five tons more fuel. The normal maximum weight of the SR was 140,000 pounds (60K for the plane and 80K for fuel).

The Blackbirds were very stealthy before most folks knew what the word meant. Original RCS [radar cross section] testing of the plane showed a return of approximately one square meter.

There were a total of 19 Blackbirds lost, of which 12 were SR-71s, five were A-12s, and two were the ADC version of the Blackbird, the YF-12. In nearly 25 years of operational flying, no Air Force crews were lost in the Blackbird program, but of the four individuals who were lost, two were Lockheed flight test engineers and two were CIA pilots.

On a separate issue, the listing of Brian Shul in the section of the article which dealt with “Famous Fliers” has generated a landslide of negative comments from former crew members. As the designated “Godfather” of the program, much of that mail came to me. I appreciate and respect the medical challenges that Brian overcame to return to flying status after his crash in SEA, but the Blackbird program presented new and totally different challenges. He remains the only SR-71 pilot removed for “cause” in the history of the program. His squadron commander and wing commander had a long and appropriate list of negative activities to justify that action. He hardly qualifies as a “famous flier” by Blackbird standards. He is not a member of the Blackbird Association.

I would have put Lt. Gen. Bill Campbell on the famous flier list. He was by far the best and smartest pilot in the program and his flying career outshone all of us.

Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Halloran,

USAF (Ret.)

Colorado Springs, Colo.

21-Gun Salute

I wish to comment on the “Airpower Classics” column of the June 2012 issue that I just received today [p. 80].

Having served during the initial integration of the E-3 into the Air Force, I’ve always respected the aircraft and the crews that have flown and do fly her. I grew up in a Navy family, my father serving for 28 years, beginning during World War II. During his service, my father flew as PIC, pilot in command, during two separate tours with VW-1. This unit was tasked during the 1960s and into the 1970s with the airborne early warning duties for the Pacific Fleet. And for this mission, they flew the EC- and WC-121 Super Constellations—the very same aircraft that the Air Force flew for the very same mission. What I take exception to regarding the E-3 is the unwritten inference that this aircraft was somehow the first of its kind in everything I’ve ever read about the aircraft. In fact, in the “Airpower Classics” column I mention, there is one small comment under “Interesting Facts,” mentioning that the E-3 “replaced the EC-121 Warning Star aircraft.”

In reality, AWACS was created by the very aircraft the E-3 replaced! Airborne warning and control is not very far from airborne early warning, and as for control, I can put you in touch with many Navy crewmen who did exactly that in the skies over Vietnam, and I dare say you can get many responses from Air Force crews, too. The fact is, the EC-121 (and its Navy-only sister, the WC-121) was designed to provide airborne command and control over the battlefield. The Navy was the first purchaser and user, and the Air Force obviously was impressed enough to purchase plenty of its own.

I have spent countless hours researching the airplane and its predecessors. They include the P2 Neptune and the PB4Y Privateer. But what has bothered me for some time is that there is very little ever said about these aircraft and the crews that flew and died in her. And I have never seen (though I admit you may have run one before I became a subscriber) any tributes to the -121, Navy or Air Force. Actually in ANY publication!

I guess it just bothered me that so little was said about the fact that the E-3 took over a job that was really developed and perfected in the -121. Certainly though, the capabilities of the E-3 far surpass those of the -121, but quite simply because the capabilities the E-3 relies on did not exist when the EC-121 was developed. Then again, neither was secondary radar and IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), but the EC-121 was upgraded with both as those systems were developed. The thing that caused the EC-121’s demise was the very same thing that killed the P-51, P-47, B-29, B-50, etc.: piston engines versus jet propulsion. Otherwise, we might still see the Super Connies in the air. As a side note, Lockheed did convert one EC-121 to turboprops, but it never went beyond the first airframe. There was also an EC-121 that carried a dish, à la E-3, many years before the E-3 did!

TSgt. Scott Bates,

USAF (Ret.)

Sheridan, Wyo.

More information about the EC-121 mission—and its perils—can be found in “The Fall of the Warning Stars,” from Air Force Magazine’s April 2005 issue, p. 78.—the editors

Playing in Other People’s Yards

[The] May issue of Air Force Magazine, p. 32, has a photograph of an airman guarding a C-130J at Accra, Ghana, Africa. What I found very interesting is that the airman was not wearing combat gear, and more disturbing was that she had a weapon without a magazine clip installed. Was her intent to use the weapon as a club or was this just a photo opportunity?

SMSgt. Richard MacGillivray,

USAF (Ret.)

Highland, Calif.

The photo of the Ghanian airman was taken on the flight line during an exercise, African Partnership Flight. The exercise was conducted at a facility owned by the Ghanian military, not USAF. It is not uncommon for host nation guards, in an exercise, to have unloaded weapons, per host nation protocols. For example, in this photo of a flight line gate at Korat RTAB, Thailand, at Cope Tiger 2012, the guard has no magazine in his weapon.—the editors