As DOD Leaves Germany, Spangdahlem Left Hanging
By Brian W. Everstine and Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory
The Defense Department’s plan to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany will not affect Ramstein Air Force Base, the Air Force’s biggest base in the region, but raises long-term questions about the future of Spangdahlem Air Base, which will lose its F-16s and fighter mission if the closure is completed.
Plans to move tankers and special operations forces there were canceled with the July 29 announcement by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John E. Hyten, and U.S. European Command boss Gen. Tod D. Wolters. Among 11,900 jobs to be moved under their new plans, 6,400 would return to the U.S., while the remainder would be relocated elsewhere in Europe.
The plan calls for moving the 480th Fighter Squadron and other parts of the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem to Aviano Air Base, Italy, where they will “better increase security along NATO’s eastern flank and help preserve peace,” according to U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
Rotating units ‘in perpetuity in multiple locations … dramatically improves our operational capability to more effectively deter and defend.’Gen. Tod Wolters, head of U.S. European Command
The announcement threw the Spangdahlem community into an uproar, forcing 52nd Fighter Wing officials to take to social media to assure Airmen and civilians there that ending the fighter mission does not foretell closing the base.
The 480th is Spangdahlem’s only flying unit and the U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s only suppression of enemy air defenses fighter squadron. Wolters said Spangdahlem’s 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron would also move to Italy. The 52nd Fighter Wing includes a single squadron plus a medical group, mission support group, munitions maintenance group, operations group, and other agencies, comprising about 5,000 personnel. The Air Force did not provide details on how such a move would impact force support at the base.
“We know that many of you are concerned about [the] announcement, but please be reassured that these changes are not immediate, and from the highest levels of our military, leaders are keeping families in mind and working to ensure any decisions for moves are made in advance so members and their families have time to prepare,” base officials wrote in a Facebook post after the announcement.
The last time Spangdahlem saw major reductions was in 2013, when the 81st Fighter Squadron—the last A-10 unit based in Europe—departed. In 2010, the 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons were combined to form the 480th Fighter Squadron.
Meanwhile, two wings that had planned to move to Spangdahlem will now stay put. Both the 100th Air Refueling Wing and the 352nd Special Operations Wing will remain at Mildenhall Air Base in the U.K.
Twenty-four thousand U.S. military personnel will remain in Germany.
Esper estimated the cost of the move to be “several billion dollars … spread out over time.” Costs would include military construction and permanent change-of-station moves for Airmen and their families.
U.S. European Command is broadly restructuring to better address the objectives of the National Defense Strategy and its focus on adversaries such as Russia and China. The U.S. Army is moving its 4,500-member 2nd Cavalry Regiment home to the U.S., rotating Stryker units to the Black Sea region, and moving a lead element of the Army’s V Corps in Poland.
Longer term, Esper said the U.S. strategy is to shift from permanent basing to “dynamic force employment,” enabling the military to proactively move troops as missions demand. DOD is also rethinking its brick-and-mortar infrastructure amid fears that permanent bases could be vulnerable to attack. This line of thinking is the same as the Air Force’s bomber deployments that have become prevalent in the Pacific.
Esper said the Pentagon has observed higher readiness levels from “the deployment of rotational forces from the United States … whether it’s the BCTs [brigade combat teams] going from the United States to Korea, to Poland, or the bomber task force” than for forces based in Europe. “And while they are deployed, they are able to sustain a much more fixed focus on their mission and their capabilities,” than similar units permanently stationed abroad.
Wolters said that rotating units “in perpetuity in multiple locations … dramatically improves our operational capability to more effectively deter and defend.”
To support that, the Air Force is investing in bases across the region, including facilities in Poland, Estonia, and Romania.
President Donald J. Trump said in June he intended to pull U.S. forces from Germany as a punishment for its failure to more rapidly increase defense spending. “Germany’s delinquent, they haven’t paid their fees, they haven’t paid their NATO fees,” he said, referring to NATO’s stated goal for member nations to invest 2 percent of their gross domestic product in defense.
“They’re way off, and they’ve been off for years and they have no intention of paying it. And the United States has been taken advantage of on trade, and on military, and on everything else for many years,” the President said. “Germany owes billions and billions of dollars to NATO, and why would we keep all of our troops there?”
Esper, Hyten, and Wolters did not refer to that dispute, couching the reductions as part of an overall strategic shift. They said both EUCOM and U.S. Africa Command will relocate their headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, with EUCOM joining NATO’s headquarters in Belgium, and the ultimate destination for AFRICOM headquarters not yet decided.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that the U.S. had consulted with allies ahead of the announcement, underlining “the continued commitment by the United States to NATO and to European security.”
But in Washington, lawmakers from both parties criticized the decision. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who had offered a failed amendment to the 2021 defense policy bill to block such a move, condemned the plan as a “grave error.”“It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression,” Romney said in a statement.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, also criticized the administration’s plan. “Not only does the plan fail to consider major logistical issues, questions about deterrence and implementation of the National Defense Strategy, and concerns about implications for U.S. efforts in Africa and elsewhere, but also it will almost certainly result in significant costs to the Department,” he said in a statement.
But Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, defended the administration. He said on Twitter the Pentagon’s plan is consistent with his view that the Pentagon needs to “maintain a strong forward presence, sustain force projection, and take care of our military families.”
New Space Force Doctrine
By Rachel S. Cohen
The Space Force rolled out its inaugural space power policy, solidifying the interdependence of civil, military, intelligence, and commercial space as the U.S. tries to return to the moon; push farther to Mars; and protect its satellites from attack.
“Preserving freedom of action in space is the essence of military space power and must be the first priority of military space forces,” the new doctrine declares. The capstone policy document, released Aug. 10, is the product of a year’s work.
Congress created the Space Force in December 2019 to elevate space power to be on par with air, land, and sea power. Its five core missions are to create a safe environment for the U.S. and its partners on orbit, enable combat operations around the world through GPS and communications, move resources around space in new ways, transfer data more easily, and keep track of debris and activity in space.
The new doctrine argues the Space Force needs seven kinds of experts to achieve its missions, which include:
- Orbital warfare, including changing orbits and firing weapons for both offense and defense
- Electromagnetic warfare
- Battle management
- Space access and systems sustainment
- Engineering and acquisition.
“Given the development and maturation of space power, and what we’re facing from a strategic [and] operational environment, it’s really starting to force us to have to look to build more depth,” said Col. Casey M. Beard, commander of the Space Delta 9 operations organization at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., in a press briefing.
The Space Force could begin to pull together teams to deal with high-value assets, offensive and defensive operations, intelligence and surveillance, and cybersecurity. Those force packages could be more responsive and creative than what is possible in daily space operations today.
To do that, the Space Force must better understand a range of questions, Beard posed the questions: “What are the skill sets that are needed? What are the qualification standards that are required to be able to conduct those? How do they interact with one another?”
With space connected to every other domain, the implications and considerations of the application of space power could be huge. For example, attacking a satellite doesn’t have implications only in space; it could also have far-reaching consequences for air, land, and sea, affecting location, timing, and communications. Attacking ground controls could disable satellites’ ability to share intelligence. And, if an adversary were to shoot at or jam a U.S. spacecraft, how might the U.S. respond?
“The United States Space Force must be joint-smart from its inception, and it must help produce a space-smart joint force,” the doctrinal paper said.
Unlike typical combat operations in Earthly domains, which favor kinetic attacks such as missile strikes, space lends itself to more subtle electronic warfare, either to interrupt signals or invade networks.
“The [electromagnetic spectrum] is the primary conduit through which the control and exploitation of the space domain is achieved,” the doctrine states.
Cameras on orbit have unfettered access to the Earth below, unlike land, sea, and air surveillance methods that don’t have such a broad range and face more restrictions in what they can photograph. Space is harder to reach and return from, and requires immense energy to move around on orbit.
It’s harder to hide in the cosmos, too.
“There is no forward edge of the battle area behind which military spacecraft can reconstitute and recover,” according to the doctrine. “Spacecraft remain in orbit through peace and war where they are potentially at risk from adversary counter-space capabilities and the hostile space environment.”
Still, even as the doctrine frames space as increasingly hostile and potentially violent, it also calls on the military to be responsible stewards of the final frontier. That means setting an example for the safe and open use of space even as service members study military writers such as Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz for insights into how to fight beyond the atmosphere.
“Just like all forms of warfare, the prosecution of space warfare and the potential generation of collateral damage is judged against the principles of military necessity, distinction, and proportionality,” the publication said. “Military space forces balance our responsibilities for operational readiness with the safety and sustainability of the space environment for use by future generations.”
Space Force officials plan to publish other doctrinal documents to outline more specific operational goals and tactics. Work will begin on the operational-level publication within the next year, and the military will review and update the final products every few years.
“Agility, innovation, and boldness have always been the cornerstone traits of military space forces,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond said in a release. “We must continue to harness these traits as we build our new service and a new professional body of knowledge.”
USAF Revives 15th Air Force
By Rachel S. Cohen
Air Combat Command consolidated its fighter, rescue, and command-and-control enterprises under a new numbered air force in August, aiming to help military leaders wield those forces more effectively.
Merging the 9th and 12th Air Forces into the new 15th Air Force will help train, upgrade, and develop tactics for those forces more holistically, said ACC Commander Gen. James M. “Mike” Holmes during an Aug. 14 Air Force Association event. The two organizations encompass numerous types of aircraft, from fighter jets to strike drones to surveillance planes and search and rescue helicopters.
Fifteenth Air Force will take over management of the wings that fell under 9th and 12th Air Forces. That frees 9th Air Force and 12th Air Force to focus on providing troops as Air Forces Central Command and Air Forces Southern, respectively. The combination will be one of Holmes’s last initiatives before retiring after more than three years running Air Combat Command. Last year, ACC combined its intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, cyber, weather, and other units into a consolidated information warfare command, the 16th Air Force.
Taking over in March 2017, Holmes commanded the bulk of the Air Force’s combat assets and personnel, focusing his efforts on creating a more forward-thinking force ready to compete with advanced militaries, mirroring those of Russia and China, while fending off the Islamic State group.
Reorganizing has helped push down responsibility to give commanders more freedom to do what’s best for their Airmen and to be more creative in taking the fight to their adversaries. That was evident in how the Air Force responded in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which slammed into Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in 2018, and to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
“I’m happy with this refocus in Air Combat Command on pushing authority, responsibility, and decision down and allowing our people to have autonomy, mastery, and purpose in what they do,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic hindered ACC’s push to ready its units for a potential new conflict, so the command split Airmen into “blue” and “silver” teams to minimize the number of people each Airman might be exposed to on a regular basis.
Building readiness happens more slowly when young Airmen need to spend more time building their expertise, and when busier-than-expected combat operations take aircraft away from maintenance and upgrades. Still, Holmes said ACC is about as ready to respond to a crisis as it was before COVID-19.
“We have to produce more pilots and navigators and special mission aviators and air battle managers and all the people that operate in the air across Air Combat Command, because every year we don’t produce them is another year that there’s a hole, and we won’t have enough,” he added. “It’s going to be a challenging couple of years.”
He also argues the Air Force has to be ready to sacrifice some of its older platforms to make way for more advanced technology, even if it means changing how things are done. Congress should try not to hinder that process—because of parochial concerns or otherwise—by blocking the retirement of systems whose time is up, he added.
“Both on the fighter side and our ISR flight plan, on what’s the future of the mix between space and cyber and manned and unmanned aircraft, to bring them the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tools that we need going forward, there are some decisions that need to be made there that the next [ACC commander] will get to help make,” Holmes said.
Those decisions could be choosing to ditch certain platforms or giving the go-ahead to develop new ones.
When Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly earns his fourth star and takes over ACC, he will also inherit ongoing challenges to combat discrimination in the ranks and in policies, issues that came to the fore over the summer.
“If I was going to stick around longer, I would really love to be more a part of these efforts to help us reach closer to our ideal of being a place where we can take people from anywhere in our country—from any racial background, from any economic background—and give them an equal opportunity to work hard and move out and become the best person they can be,” Holmes said. “We’ve made great strides, but … I can’t escape the fact that we still have a ways to go, and I would love to have the opportunity to keep working on that.”
New Vice Chiefs for USAF and USSF
By Amy McCullough and Rachel S. Cohen
President Donald J. Trump nominated Lt. Gen David W. Allvin to become the next Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, and Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson to become the first-ever Vice Chief of Space Operations, the No. 2 post in the U.S. Space Force. If confirmed, each would receive a fourth star.
Allvin has been director of strategy, plans, and policy on the Joint Staff since January 2019 and would succeed Gen. Stephen W. “Seve” Wilson as Vice Chief. Wilson, a command pilot in B-52 and B-1 bombers with more than 4,600 flight hours—including 680 in combat—is expected to retire this fall after more than four years as Vice Chief, the longest anyone has held the post.
Allvin is also a command pilot with more than 4,600 flight hours in a variety of aircraft. He is a senior member of the United States delegation to the United Nations Military Staff Committee and previously oversaw strategy and policy at U.S. European Command in Germany, held various leadership positions for NATO in Afghanistan, and was a leader in the tanker and training communities. He was also a C-17 and C-130J test pilot.
Allvin’s experience in joint assignment is extensive, including six of the last 10 years, and indicates the Air Force will continue to emphasize how it values joint experience—a top priority of recently retired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
Thompson became vice commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) in April 2018, having held the same position previously from 2015 to 2017. When AFSPC became the Space Force in December 2019, he continued in the post; this nomination establishes Thompson within the Space Force’s new leadership structure.
Thompson, a career space operator, previously directed space assets for Air Forces Central Command and held leadership positions in operations and planning at U.S. Strategic Command. He has been a public face of military space operations as the Space Force gets up and running and the Pentagon starts treating the domain as a possible place of conflict.
“He is responsible to the Chief of Space Operations for the U.S. Space Force in carrying out space missions and integrating space policy, guidance, coordination and synchronization of space-related activities and issue resolution for the Department of the Air Force,” according to Thompson’s official biography.
Jolly Green II Begins Aerial Refueling Tests
By Alyk Russell Kenlan
The Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter completed its first aerial refueling on Aug. 5 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Air Force and Sikorsky pilots flew the HH-60W Jolly Green II at 110 knots and connected with an HC-130J tanker during the initial test. Aerial refueling “is essential for the combat search and rescue mission since it greatly extends the operating range of the aircraft and thus allows the unit to extend their rescue capabilities over a larger battle space,” said Joe Whiteaker, 413th Flight Test Squadron Combat Rescue Helicopter flight chief.
The aircraft has already gone through an array of other tests, including defensive systems capabilities and handling in different types of weather.
“It’s rare for a test pilot to have the opportunity to test a new aircraft replacing the one he or she flew operationally and to be the first one to do something like this,” reflected Maj. Andrew Fama. “It was an honor to be the pilot to fly this mission and work with a truly professional test team.”
John Biscaino, Sikorsky’s test pilot, said “the aircraft performed flawlessly during the testing and met all of the program objectives.” Future missions will seek to identify and iron out any remaining issues before the Jolly Green II replaces HH-60G for good.
The Air Force plans to purchase up to 108 HH-60Ws, which will replace the HH-60G Pave Hawk. Jolly Green II’s primary mission will be search and rescue operations in hostile environments, but it also will be used in disaster response and civil search and rescue.
USAF, USSF Senate Confirmations
By Brian W. Everstine
The Senate on Aug. 6 confirmed a series of Air Force and Space Force leaders to new roles, including new bosses at U.S. Northern Command, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and staff jobs in the new service.
The recent confirmations include:
- Lt. Gen. Glen D. VanHerck to the rank of general and to be the commander of NORTHCOM and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. VanHerck currently is the director of the Joint Staff.
- Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark to be the next superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Clark is the current deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration.
- Maj. Gen. Sam C. Barrett to the rank of lieutenant general and to serve as the director of logistics for the Joint Staff. Barrett is the current commander of 18th Air Force.
- Maj. Gen. Nina M. Armagno to the rank of lieutenant general and to serve as the staff director for the Space Force. She is currently the space programs director in the Air Force’s acquisition branch.
- Maj. Gen. William J. Liquori Jr. to lieutenant general and to be the deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, requirements, and analysis. He is the Space Force’s current director of strategic requirements, architectures, and analysis.
- Maj. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman to lieutenant general and to be the deputy chief of space operations overseeing operations and cyber and nuclear forces. Saltzman is Air Forces Central Command’s deputy commander.
- Maj. Gen. Stephen N. Whiting to lieutenant general and commander of Space Operations Command. He’s the deputy commander at headquarters Space Force, previously the deputy of Air Force Space Command.
‘Hack-a-Sat’ Spurs Cyber Interest
By Alyk Russell Kenlan
Hackers took control of a Department of Defense satellite on Aug. 9 as part of the final challenge in “Hack-A-Sat,” a competition run by the Air Force and DOD’s Defense Digital Service intended to spur interest in aerospace cybersecurity.
More than 2,000 teams comprising 6,000 people participated in qualification events in late May, and eight teams survived to take part in the final competition Aug. 7-9, where they vied to seize control of a working satellite and take a photograph of the moon.
“Space is an increasingly important contributor to global economies and security,” Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics said in a release. “Letting experts hack an orbiting satellite will teach us how to build more secure systems in the future.”
Teams could be formed from any number of people, so long as they included at least one U.S. citizen or permanent resident and did not include anyone on the Department of the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals list. Both independent groups and teams sponsored by academic institutions and companies were eligible.
The Air Force and DOD collaborated with DEF CON Safe Mode, an annual hacking convention that meets in August to run the competition. This year’s event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lauren Knausenberger, Chief Innovation Officer for the Department of the Air Force, announced a blanket purchase agreement in March worth up to $75 million to allow Air Force and Space Force program managers to hire hackers to test the security of its systems.
RQ-170 Practices Evading Air Defenses with Stealth Aircraft
By Brian W. Everstine
Some of the Air Force’s most secretive aircraft flew together in August to test the service’s methods for destroying enemy air defenses, and to see how well older planes work with newer airframes.
The 53rd Test and Evaluation Group’s exercise ran from Aug. 4-6 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., bringing together the F-35A, F-22, and F-15E fighters, B-2 bomber, RQ-170 reconnaissance drone, a Navy E/A-18G electronic attack plane, and command and control systems from various testing and operations squadrons.
Together, they represent some of the most critical capabilities for penetrating adversary’s air space and gaining the upper hand against sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles and jamming weapons.
The experiment tested the F-35’s ability to suppress enemy air defenses in order to help the stealthy B-2 and RQ-170 to sneak through unharmed. Scenarios also partnered the fifth-generation F-35 and F-22 with the fourth-generation F-15E and others to test how aircraft can wield new and unique electronic-attack capabilities, according to a USAF release. Tools such as signal jamming can help the Joint Strike Fighter move more freely in contested environments.
The test included tactics, techniques, and procedures established at the service’s Weapons and Tactics Conference and never before tried in flight-tests. Among them were the use of advanced airplanes in support of the B-2, complex ingress tactics using stealth, new means of passing data and other communications between fourth- and fifth-generation jets.
Combat Controller Receives Silver Star for 2013 Battle
By Brian W. Everstine
Master Sgt. John Grimesey, the flight chief of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Field, N.C., on Aug. 14 received the military’s Silver Star Medal for his actions during a 2013 firefight in Afghanistan. He saved the life of one Soldier and killed more than 30 enemy fighters.
Grimesey initially received the Bronze Star Medal for the battle, but the Air Force later upgraded the award as part of a service review of valor medals.
On May 25, 2013, Grimesey, then a senior Airman and combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, set out with his team to clear a village in Ghazni Province so Afghan police could establish a presence. American and Afghan forces were working together when one team ran into a large group of Taliban members. The Taliban came between the partner forces and killed and injured Afghans, including the police chief.
A rocket-propelled grenade exploded near Grimesey as he looked around the corner of a wall, giving him a concussion. He sustained other injuries as well. Nevertheless, he returned fire and saved an Army Special Forces Soldier hit in the attack by dragging him 25 feet away from enemy fire.
“I snapped into a problem-solving mode,” Grimesey said. “The situation was dire and the only way to solve it was to rely on my extensive training and attempt to break down the large problem into small chunks. I had to prioritize with what I was being faced with.”
Grimesey then organized support from Army units in the area and called in multiple airstrikes from F-16s and an AC-130, ultimately killing 31 enemy fighters and saving his team of U.S. and Afghan forces. They recovered the Afghan commander’s body.
“You may not call yourself a hero, Master Sgt. Grimesey, but I do,” Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife said at the ceremony. “Because of your actions that day, families and friends did not experience loss. The men whose lives you saved will continue to positively impact those around them, creating a chain of reaction that ripples across generations.”
During the ceremony, Grimesey also received the Bronze Star Medal with the second oak leaf cluster with Valor for his “quick and precise” response to another ambush in Afghanistan in 2017. He is starting his medical retirement process.
F-15EX to Base in Oregon, Florida
By John A. Tirpak
Kingsley Field, Ore., will be the schoolhouse for the new F-15EX, the Air Force’s updated version of the Eagle fighter, the service announced Aug. 14. The Air Force also floated other potential Air National Guard operating locations that could adopt the F-15EX and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.
Kingsley is where the Air Force conducts F-15C/D training today. The first production version F-15EXs will be delivered there in 2022, and Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore., will host the first operational F-15EX unit beginning in 2023, USAF said.
Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will flight-test the first eight jets starting in early 2021. Eglin aircrews are training with Boeing and an F-15EX simulator this year. The initial phase of combined developmental and operational tests, which will check whether the software and cockpit controls work well together, should take about a year and a half.
“Airmen from the 96th Maintenance Group will undergo familiarization classroom academics and transfer to hands-on training upon the aircraft’s arrival,” the Air Force said in a July 29 release. “These newly qualified technicians will become the trainers for the maintenance group.”
Other ANG bases now operating F-15C/Ds—Barnes Airport, Mass.; Fresno Yosemite Airport, Calif.; and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans—will phase out the older jets for either F-15EXs or F-35As, the Air Force added. The service did not indicate when it will make those decisions. Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., could also receive the F-35A.
The War on Terrorism
As of Aug.17, 2020, 95 Americans had died in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, and 99 Americans had died in Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, Syria, and other locations.
The total includes 190 troops and four Defense Department civilians. Of these deaths, 87 were killed in action with the enemy, while 107 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 572 troops wounded in action during OFS and 231 troops in OIR.
Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, 1925-2020
By John A. Tirpak
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who twice served as U.S. national security adviser and was an adviser to six U.S. Presidents, died Aug. 6 at age 95.
As a major general, Scowcroft was military assistant to President Richard M. Nixon and, as a three-star general, served Nixon as a deputy assistant for national security affairs. He was national security adviser to President Gerald R. Ford, and later to President George H.W. Bush, who he also served as chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. He advised President Barack H. Obama in choosing a national security team, and headed or served as a principal in many Washington, D.C., think tanks over about 40 years.
Scowcroft promoted a “realist” U.S. foreign policy, weighted toward reliance on alliances and coalitions, and famously opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, although he remained on good terms with the White House in its aftermath. He maintained collegial and cooperative relations with other advisers, and he was skilled at building foreign policy consensus. He is credited with inclusion and building trust among the various elements of the foreign policy team, and transparency about goals, yet kept a low profile and did not publicly discuss his advice to the President.
Scowcroft attended the U.S. Military Academy and was commissioned into the Army in 1947, transferring to the Air Force when it became a separate service that year. He earned his wings in 1948, but after an accident took him off flying status, staff assignments dominated his career, which included working at times for the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Headquarters, U.S. Air Force; and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. Along the way, he earned both a master’s degree and a doctorate in international relations from Columbia University.
He taught at both West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
After serving as Nixon’s military assistant, Scowcroft became a deputy assistant for national security affairs, working with National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. He replaced Kissinger in November 1975. He retired from the Air Force a month later, after 28 years of service.
In the George H.W. Bush White House, he helped manage U.S. policy regarding the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union. During the 1991 Gulf War, he advised Bush to end the conflict after Iraq was ejected from Kuwait, warning that to press on to Baghdad would lead to a long, open-ended, and costly occupation that would hurt the U.S. financially and in terms of its international leadership. Though Bush later acknowledged being criticized for not “finishing the job,” Scowcroft’s advice proved prescient.
Scowcroft chaired or served on numerous blue-ribbon panels and presidential commissions regarding foreign policy. He was also vice chairman of Kissinger Associates, founded the Forum for International Policy, and was president of The Scowcroft Group.
He supported the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan but opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, warning in a 2002 Wall Street Journal op-ed that it would hurt U.S. standing in the Middle East and cost the U.S. its international support for the war on terrorism. He later said that a premature withdrawal from Iraq before its new government was stable would turn into “a strategic defeat for American interests with potentially catastrophic consequences.”
Scowcroft co-authored “A World Transformed” with former President George H.W. Bush about the end of Soviet communism, and was the author, with President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and David Ignatius, of “America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy.”
Presented with over a dozen honorary doctorates during his career, Scowcroft received the Medal of Freedom in 1991 from then-President George H.W. Bush.