The inimitable John Correll has succinctly stated the challenge facing the Nation’s Armed Forces [“The Counter-Revolution in Military Affairs,” July-August, p. 52]. Correll’s article could be summarized in the words of the great strategist, Pogo, who said, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” That is not a facetious statement.
The fight for dominance of one military service over another is a long one. The Army has long considered airpower as a means of reconnaissance or long-range artillery, beginning with balloons in the 19th century, and continuing into the advent of aircraft in the early 20th century. Visionaries such as [Col. William] “Billy” Mitchell saw airpower technology in a broader and more decisive role. The waning days of World War II signaled a quantum leap that spelled the diminuendos of airpower’s influence, the introduction of ballistic and guided missiles into battle (notwithstanding the use of rocket-propelled ballistic missiles by the Chinese in the 13th century). The fight for service dominance began again post World War II. Maj. Gen. John Medaris and his German scientists at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., capitalizing on the German World War II experience, were pitted against a young new Air Force Brigadier General, [Bernard] Ben Schriever, bolstered by strong aerospace allies, such as General Dynamics and Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation, for control of the intercontinental ballistic missile mission. Politics prevailed over reason. The Air Force was given the task of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, “long-range artillery” in the eyes of the Army, and the battle quickly expanded to include nonballistic guided missiles. The Navy quietly pursued both under Adm. [William F.] “Red” Raborn. Enter the new Space Forces in the 21st century and the interservice battle begins anew.
As long as DOD is organized along separate land, sea, air, and space military forces instead of mission-oriented forces, the competitiveness between the uniformed services will continue with the expense of spending excessive dollars to perform similar missions. Technology is driving warfare as author Correll pinpoints, but the Armed Forces of the United States should support national goals determined by an elected government and not the parochial goals of generals and admirals.
WALK THE WALK
As a person who has had a lifelong struggle with serious mental illness, is a mother, an Active Duty spouse, and an AF veteran, this article resonated with me in a big way [“World: Air Force Orders Ops Pause to Address Suicide,” September, p. 20]. We need to stop preaching resilience while continuing to make it hard to practically seek mental health care without the worry of repercussion at the duty level. We want airmen to seek help and take timeouts when they need it. I can speak to the fear and stigmatization of anything other than bearing troubles with a smile and keeping pain and dysfunction inside. The consequences of seeking help are real and swift, and until one experiences the benefits of long-term therapy, the cons of seeking help often do outweigh the unknown of revealing what our military and civilian culture continues to tells us are weaknesses. I talk about the benefits of mental health care, but also the realities—whenever I can with whomever will listen.
Let’s find a better way to help people rather than preaching one thing and practicing another. Enlisted Jesus [CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright], as my husband lovingly refers to him, is correct. But how do we get there? I think it is by making tangible changes in the way we treat troops that seek help. Thanks for listening.
Like all lifelong airmen, I was completely inculcated into the cult of [Col. William] Billy Mitchell. From my earliest cadet days, I was assailed with stories of Mitchell and his acolytes, [Gen. Henry H. “Hap”] Arnold and [Gen. Carl “Tooey”] Spaatz, who along with others, bucked the system and took on an Army which, in the face of observable certainty, refused to recognize the imperative of airpower. Eventually they succeeded in igniting a revolution which produced the greatest Air Force the world has ever known.
Embracing the ethos of Mitchell meant—my contemporaries and I believed—a willingness to speak truth to power, a conviction that, in the face of overwhelming bureaucratic opposition, one should continue to fight for the best military solutions and capabilities. … We knew we were part of something innovative—that the Air Force was vested in the future and not the past, and that, with airpower, we could change the way our nation fought and won wars. … In short, we believed we were part of an ongoing revolution an airpower revolution.
That airpower revolution is dead!
I’m not sure when it died, precisely, but the commitment to out-of-the-box thinking, the belief that domain experts should determine and direct domain operations, and the certainty that victory trumps tradition, which were the hallmarks of what it meant to be an airmen, are gone. The ongoing Space Force debate [“Editorial: A Space Force For the Future,” June, p. 2] and stand-up have effectively pulled back the curtain and revealed a bureaucracy struggling for little more than to hang [on] to the resources it has.
The topic of an independent Space Force has been around since at least the mid-60s. It gained some momentum after the Gulf War. Operation Desert Storm has been recognized as the first space war. Spaceborne capabilities were a key component of combat operations and vital to the coalition’s success. When the discussions of a Space Force or Space Corps began in earnest, more than a decade ago, the Air Force tried to manage its resistance to change by closeting the conversation in exclusively academic circles, while paying light lip service to the notions of an eventual, singular, Air and Space Force that might someday evolve into the Space and Air Force maybe, someday. Simultaneously, leaders introduced the concept of space-mindedness. Young military space professionals assumed that space-mindedness was analogous to air-mindedness, a way of thinking that appreciates and exploits the possibilities of the domain, while recognizing the challenges and risks inherent therein as a means of seeking rapid victory in combat, or by thoughtful preparation and display of prowess, avoiding conflict altogether.
Space-mindedness would come to mean something else entirely. Being space-minded became code for the appreciation of how spaceborne effects could enable or augment terrestrial operations. At no point were space-minded airmen and other joint leaders required to recognize cislunar [between the moon and the Earth] orbit as a potential domain for conflict in which an adversary might seek advantage by attacking US space assets or even by trying to deny the US access to orbit. If anything, in the Air Force, being space-minded meant little more than that a weapons officer knew his GPS-guided bomb was enabled by a satellite (sometimes).
Since the Trump administration announced its intention to create a separate and independent Space Force, the bureaucracy seems to have gone into overdrive in its efforts to block the creation of a new service, and barring that, to insure that any new organization is as impotent and transitory as possible. The counter-revolution began with the Air Force’s partner, the Air Force Association, attacking the concept of an independent space service through its think tank, the ironically named Mitchell Institute. Unable to mount a compelling argument for maintaining the Air Force’s management of the space domain, the Mitchell Institute instead created an internally contradictory and deliberately unobtainable series of steps that would have to be taken before the creation of a new service. When this approach proved insufficient, the former Air Force Secretary dropped an unsupported and undetailed cost assessment designed to shock the Congress, a startling $13 billion price tag to stand-up a new Space Force, using nothing but existing DOD resources. Congress’ reaction was predictable, scale everything back and keep Space within the department of the Air Force. While that cost estimate is now widely discredited, it has largely achieved its purpose.
Today, a small cadre of airmen space professionals is shuttered out of sight in the bowels of the Pentagon, building an organizational plan for a space service within the Department of the Air Force. Their deliberations are not public and are being directed and guided by senior airmen, who no doubt have the best of intentions, but for whom it must be acknowledged that there exists at least some conflict of interest. They continue to work for the senior Air Force leadership, who are themselves wary of losing quality service members and other precious resource flexibilities to a new Space Force and who are already on record, formerly or otherwise, as opposing the concept.
Adding to the conflicted nature of these planners is a Stockholm Syndrome-like determination in many space officers to avoid any accusation of disloyalty to the Air Force. The question, “Which team are you on” has become common when discussing this subject inside the Pentagon, ironic since all DOD service members and employees are on the same team.
While still in uniform, I received a call from a contract employee on the Secretary of the Air Force’s staff who stated that some of my previous work was “off message” and that “I needed to be sure I knew what I was doing.” Colleagues have relayed similar experiences, with one reporting that a wing commander had stated “the only airmen allowed to have an opinion on Space Force are the Secretary and the Chief of Staff.” Any Air Force space-minded professional, operating in this environment, is forced to choose between their informed sense of how best to protect US interests in space and their aspirations for their military career.
In the final analysis, this is much larger than the just the Space Force debate. If the US Air Force intends to stay the dominant airpower on the planet, then it must learn to again embrace the gutsy, risk-taking, mission-focused, innovative, and visionary approach to airpower preached by Mitchell.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE FORCE
Having worked in the organizational histories section of the Air Force Historical Research Agency for most of my 37 years working for the Air Force, I have three organizational changes to recommend as I prepare to retire [See “Air Force Magazine, 2019 USAF Almanac: Major Commands,” p. 63].
The biggest organizational change I can recommend to improve the Air Force is to consolidate the inactive Air Force Logistics Command with Air Force Materiel Command. I can think of eight good reasons to do so: 1. Air Force Materiel Command uses the emblem of the inactive Air Force Logistics Command, and the consolidation would justify the use of one command’s emblem by another. 2. The two commands were not active at the same time. 3. The two commands have had similar functions. 4. The consolidation would enhance the heritage of the command by giving it many more years of active service. 5. The consolidation would enhance the heritage of the command by giving it more honors. 6. Tactical Air Command has already been consolidated with Air Combat Command, for similar reasons. 7. Military Airlift Command has already been consolidated with Air Mobility Command, for similar reasons. 8. There would be no cost involved.
A second organizational change I recommend is to inactivate the 9th Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base [N.C.] and activate an inactive numbered air force in its place. The reason is that the current 9th Air Force is constantly confused with the original 9th Air Force, also at Shaw, and now designated as the United States Air Forces Central Command. The newer 9th Air Force has had a relatively short active life, compared to other numbered air forces, and United States Air Forces Central Command is still functioning as a numbered air force, and not as a command. The United States Air Forces Central Command (original 9th Air Force) is assigned, like the newer 9th Air Force, to Air Combat Command. I recommend not only that the newer 9th Air Force be replaced with one of the inactive numbered air forces with more heritage, but also that United States Air Forces Central Command be redesignated to its original name, 9th Air Force, an honorable name it had beginning in World War II and for generations and decades afterward.
A third organizational change I recommend, to solve the problem of how to combine into one numbered air force the functions of 24th Air Force with 25th Air Force (they cannot be consolidated since they have been active at the same time for many years), is simply to keep the one with more heritage and temporarily inactivate the other one, for possible activation for other functions later. The 25th Air Force has far more heritage than the 24th Air Force, so the logical course of action would be to inactivate the 24th Air Force and keep the 25th Air Force active. The 25th Air Force has a very long and distinguished history and was once even a major command, Air Force Intelligence Command. Keeping the 25th Air Force active while inactivating the 24th Air Force would be much more cost effective, and more reasonable, than inactivating both the 24th and 25th Air Forces and activating another inactive numbered air force in their places.
I think implementation of these three recommendations would improve the organization of the United States Air Force.
Just saw Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory’s article stating that A1C William Pitsenbarger was the first enlisted airman to receive the Medal of Honor. While it’s certainly good news about the movie, to be strictly accurate, Pitsenbarger was not the first enlisted airman awarded the MOH. Obviously Ms. Oprihory means the first USAF enlisted man, but there were other AAF enlisted recipients in World War II.
WRITE TO US
Do you have a comment about a current article in the magazine Write to “Letters,” Air Force Magazine, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1198 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters should be concise and timely. We cannot acknowledge receipt of letters. We reserve the right to condense letters. Letters without name and city/base and state are not acceptable. Photographs cannot be used or returned.