July 1, 2009

Eliminate the Air Force

“The Air Force should be eliminated, and its personnel and equipment integrated into the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. … The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps are at war, but the Air Force is not. … Yes, airpower is a critical component of America’s arsenal. But the Army, Navy, and Marines already maintain air wings within their expeditionary units. The Air Force is increasingly a redundancy in structure and spending.”—Paul Kane, Marine Corps Reserve public affairs specialist and former research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, New York Times op-ed, April 21.

Eliminate the Academies

“Want to trim the federal budget and improve the military at the same time? Shut down West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy, and use some of the savings to expand ROTC scholarships.”—Thomas E. Ricks, former Washington Post reporter and author of several books on the armed forces, Washington Post, April 19.

Russia’s Humiliation

“On Russia, we have tended, since the end of the Cold War, to benign neglect, except when we need them for some particular thing. I think we have severely underestimated the humiliation that Russia and Russians felt at the demise of their position in the world.”—Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to Presidents Ford and George H. W. Bush, Wall Street Journal, May 1.

Exotic Distraction Theory

“For too long there was a view, or a hope, that Iraq and Afghanistan were exotic distractions that would be wrapped up relatively soon—the regimes toppled, the insurgencies crushed, the troops sent home. Therefore, we should not spend too much, or buy too much equipment not already in our procurement plans, or turn our bureaucracies and processes upside down. As a result, the kinds of capabilities that were most urgently needed by our warfighters in the theater were for the most part fielded ad hoc and on the fly, developed outside the regular bureaucracy and funded in supplemental appropriations that would go away when the wars did—or sooner.” —Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Air War College, April 15.

Threats From Weakness

“Historically, most security challenges have come from state strength, from aggressive, powerful states overstepping the bounds of international norms and international law. We are now in a world where many of the security threats we face will come from state weakness and the inability of states to meet the basic needs of their population. … State weakness and failure may be an increasing driver of conflict and of situations that require a US military response.”—Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 29.

Threats From Vets

“DHS/I&A assesses that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups in the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.”—Report by Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Assessment, April 7. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano initially stood by the report but denounced it on April 24.

The Withering of Strategy

“The military never gained full control of nuclear weapons, and increasingly in the 1950s lost primacy in nuclear strategy to the new think tanks and to the private sector. At the same time, the services adopted business models of management and to some extent leadership that reflected a growing partnership with American industry. (Significantly, William Westmoreland was the first active duty Army officer to graduate from the Harvard Business School.) The services also embraced operations research, systems analysis, and economic theory partly to defend themselves against Robert McNamara and his whiz kids. Nonetheless, the services began to use those disciplines, along with the traditional supports of science and engineering, to manage their institutions, formulate policy, and eventually to wage war. The result was the withering of strategy as a central focus for the armed forces, and this has been manifest in a continual string of military problems.”—Richard H. Kohn, professor of history at the University of North Carolina and former chief of history for the US Air Force, World Affairs, spring issue.

Heavy Traffic on the High Frontier

“In 1980, only 10 countries were operating satellites in space. Today, nine countries operate spaceports, more than 50 countries own or have partial ownership in satellites, and citizens of 39 nations have traveled in space. In 1980, we were tracking approximately 4,700 objects in space; 280 of those objects were active payloads/spacecraft, while another 2,600 were debris. Today, we are tracking approximately 19,000 objects—1,300 active payloads and 7,500 pieces of debris. … Based on the last 10 years of launch activity, we conservatively project the number of active satellites to grow from 1,300 to 1,500 over the next 10 years. We also estimate the overall number of tracked objects could increase from 19,000 to as much as 100,000.”—Air Force Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, joint functional commander for space, US Strategic Command, House Science and Technology Committee, April 28.

Flying With Doolittle

“Early on, everybody thought leaving the flight deck of the carrier was the biggest challenge of the trip. As it turned out, it was the easiest thing, and I had a special advantage because I was sitting next to the best pilot in the world.”—Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Jimmy Doolittle’s copilot on the 1942 raid on Tokyo, at the 67th reunion of the Doolittle Raiders, April 16-18.