Air Force Must Match Changing Character of War
By Abraham Mahshie
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. is fashioning a fighting force to match what he describes as the “changing character of war,” one where all domains are contested and capabilities matter more than numbers, he told the Atlantic Council on July 1.
As the United States moves away from the Middle East theater and focuses on meeting the challenges of great power competition with China and Russia, Brown questioned the mainstream thinking that America needs to win with quantity of fighter aircraft. Rather, he focused on the mix of capabilities required to overcome a technologically advanced adversary. He also called for a willingness to experiment in the digital realm while staying vigilant to counter rising cyber threats.
“Our future conflicts will be different,” he said, underscoring how Mideast conflicts are winding down.
“Our future adversaries will not allow us permissive access like we’ve been accustomed to in the past, and [we] will be contested at every level, in every domain, and I would submit that we are contested today,” he added.
A technologically more advanced adversary in China or Russia requires a more advanced aircraft.
The Air Force asked to retire a total of 201 legacy aircraft in its 2022 budget request and it will buy 91 new ones, as it looks to posture itself to keep pace with peer adversaries. Planning for the fiscal 2023 budget is underway amid a fiscally constrained environment, and Brown said the service is contemplating what the future force needs to look like.
“It’s easy for us to talk about numbers, and we’re also talking about capability,” he said, giving an example of a comparison between the F-86 and the F-35. “What I really look at is the capabilities required … [as] we look at where the Air Force needs to be about the 2035 time frame.”
Brown posed that the United States Air Force now possesses “some” of that capability, what he described as a mix of air superiority, global strike, command and control, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
“I want to make sure we have the right mix of capabilities with the right numbers to make it come together,” he said.
Worrying About Cyber
Brown admitted that in the last couple of decades, adversaries have looked for America’s military weaknesses and increasingly targeted the cyber domain.
“The internet security environment has changed,” he said. “Our competitors have worked to blunt our capabilities and erode what I would call our comparative advantages that we had as an Air Force, as a joint force.”
The impact of cyber interference by adversaries is one that plays out on a daily basis in the lives of Americans, Brown said, offering by way of explanation all the information that can be manipulated on an iPhone.
“We got to be able to be in a position to move information,” he said. “That’s why the Advanced Battle Management System for us is really how we move information, how we move data, to help improve decision-making well ahead of a crisis.”
The fast and secure movement of information must be able to flow from senior leaders to lower-level commanders, but it also means working when that information flow is disconnected or incomplete.
“It’s better to be better prepared with information upfront, so if you’re disconnected, you have an aspect of kind of what’s going on,” he said. “You want to be able to have the right information, bring those data sources together, and then be able to use various tools to parse through the information you need to know.”
In a recent Kessel Run interview, Air Combat Command’s Deputy Commander, Lt. Gen. Christopher P. Weggeman, described the need for a rapid system of information distribution that is decentralized.
He used an analogy of an Apple Store as headquarters and the end-point devices, such as phones, tablets, and applications to explain the Air Force needs.
“We need an ecosystem that can both be centralized, but [also] rapidly distributed and decentralized, and can work decentralized,” he said. “Whether when we’re connected to the backbone at a high, high, rate of speed; and be highly insightful using AI [artificial intelligence] and ML [machine learning], and be able to do the same when it’s disconnected.”
Then there is the need to “quickly transition between connected and disconnected states; that’s kind of the federated and distributed command and control architecture we need” to be competitive against Russia and China.
Brown said as adversaries test the gray zone boundaries of cyber warfare, the risk for miscalculation rises.
“I personally have been thinking about … the norms of behavior in cyber,” he said. “You look at some of these most recent events that have transpired, because that could lead to a miscalculation.”
The Air Force needs to continue down the path of digital engineering while remaining cognizant of the risks of operating in the cyber and digital environment, according to Brown.
He offered the example of joint all-domain command and control.
“There is value in this rapid experimentation approach because it’s a way for us to disrupt how we do business,” he said.
Brown said new risks must be taken to realize the Air Force of the future.
“We can’t do the same thing and expect a different result if we’re going to change ourselves for the future,” he noted.
“This is an opportunity for us to look at some things that we disrupt, how we do things on a normal basis,” Brown added, while noting his observation of what is done in the tech sector that can be tried at DOD. “It’s an opportunity for us to take a hard look and go experience certain areas, and the aspect of being able to… fail fast, but fail forward.”
Will Adversaries Team Up to Challenge U.S. Space Superiority?
By Abraham Mahshie
Sanctions are crushing Russia’s efforts to counter American space superiority, but analysts have a rising concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin may link up with China’s wealth to develop the weapons that could stop American warfighters in their tracks.
Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond has warned that America’s adversaries are already operating as if space was a warfighting domain, exhibiting ground and space-based weapons capabilities that can target vulnerable American satellites. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told Air Force Magazine on June 29 that satellite survivability and redundancy were his priorities for fending off adversaries, but a closer look at the budget was necessary.
“I don’t think ‘catch-up,’ is the right [phrase],” Smith said when asked about American space weapons compared to adversaries in a Defense Writers Group discussion. “We’re not behind in this area.”
The chairman said his priorities were cost-effective launch and the survivability of satellites and command and control systems.
The dropping cost of launch in America’s domestic capability has had the dual effect of robbing Russia of needed dollars to support its military space program, retired Col. Douglas Loverro said at a June 28 Center for Strategic and International Studies forum on Russia’s evolving military capabilities in space.
They are building the means … to … eliminate U.S. space capabilities.Col. Douglas Loverro, USAF (Ret.)
Loverro, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy from 2013 to 2017, also described Russia’s July 2020 test of a co-orbital satellite that aligned with an American spy satellite and fired a projectile in space.
“They view this as a decisive factor,” Loverro said. “Certainly, they are building the means, as best we can tell, to go ahead and make sure that they can eliminate U.S. space capabilities if war does occur.”
The Russian capability is despite a drop in oil prices that has cut into Moscow’s revenue, coupled with crushing American sanctions related to the invasion of Crimea in 2014. Russia’s commercial space and launch programs have also taken a hit in recent years, depleting resources to invest further.
Loverro said Russia’s 10-year space development budget, released in 2016, called for $53 billion, but Moscow could only afford to commit $10 billion.
“Diplomatically, Russia is trying to reign in U.S. efforts by going ahead and aligning with China and other BRICS nations [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa],” he added, describing UN efforts to limit the presence of weapons in space. “Those are clearly designed to try to slow down U.S. progress in this area.”
Teaming Up with China
Russia and China jointly submitted a UN resolution in 2008 to limit space weapons, but of late, their cooperation has gone further. Recently, the two cooperated on the Chinese space station and signed a memorandum of understanding on a potential lunar base.
Commercial cooperation between two of America’s chief space adversaries can easily extend to military applications, the expert panel argued, even though historical differences may arise.
“Russia has experience on deception in space,” Loverro said. “Russia has experience that is incredibly valuable to a technologically advanced, but operationally inexperienced China.”
As the former head of NASA’s human spaceflight program, Loverro also qualified Russia’s malicious expertise as more in the cyber realm while he viewed China as more advanced in the space domain.
“The combination of those two could be very dangerous,” he said.
Former commander of U.S. Strategic Command and Air Force Space Command retired Gen. C. Robert Kehler spoke to his Cold War-era knowledge between the two communist countries.
“I think it remains to be seen what that partnership really does,” he said.
“During the Cold War, from my perspective, when Russia and China said that they were working together, they were going to cooperate on things, they have never seemed to me to be natural partners,” Kehler explained. “I don’t know it’s going to result in anything that’s meaningful here.”
Loverro offered the last word about the increased proximity of civil space cooperation between Russia and China.
“That represents a very dangerous position for us because Russia has the operational space knowledge, China has the technology and the funding,” he said. “Together, they can be a significant competitor for the U.S., and certainly their ambition remains to be a great space power.”
Smith hedged when asked if the $17.4 billion Space Force budget request was correctly apportioned to meet the threat posed by America’s space adversaries.
“More or less, I think that the Space Force budget is correct,” he said. “I’ve got to do a deeper dive on that to really understand it, but I think it’s moving more or less in the right direction.”
Smith was less certain that a combined Russia-China team was percolating to challenge American space superiority, but he said the U.S. should prepare regardless.
“I don’t think anyone has any idea whether or not Russia and China are going to team up,” he said. “But whether they team up or not, we need to be ready for it. We need to be able to protect our systems, and we need to be able to deter our adversaries from attacking them in the first place.”
New Plan for ABMS
By Brian W. Everstine
The Air Force is adjusting its plans for the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) after a skeptical Congress cut last year’s budget request to develop the new concept in command and control almost in half. For fiscal 2022, officials are asking for less money for ABMS and seeking to buy their first real capability: data link pods that will enable the KC-46 tanker to help F-35s and F-22s share data.
“It is important that we view the development of this command and control support system as something different [from]… traditional acquisition and procurement programs,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin. ABMS, he said, is “different, which is why we’re going to need to be very transparent with what we’re doing [and] how we’re approaching it.
The first ABMS deliverable is Capability Release 1 (CR-1), a new pod for KC-46s that will allow F-35s and F-22s to share data for the first time. The Air Force wants between four and 10 pods in fiscal 2022 to enable data processing and sharing at the “tactical edge,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey D. Valenzia, the ABMS Cross-Functional Team lead.
The second new product planned, Capability Release 2 (CR-2), aims to speed up decision-making for homeland defense missions led by U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. That capability will use cloud computing, fiber-optic networks, artificial intelligence, and other new technologies to accelerate how those defending the homeland take in new intelligence and make command decisions.
“The combatant commands are still challenged with potential threats over the horizon that they need to characterize and make better decisions on more rapidly,” Allvin said.
Perhaps we hadn’t laid out a clear enough path to justify the funds that we were requesting.Gen. David Allvin, USAF Vice Chief of Staff
Requirements for both programs were defined in prior ABMS experiments, and sometime this summer NORTHCOM will lead its own Global Information Dominance Experiment, incorporating inputs from the other combatant commands to further define what is needed next.
Because ABMS seeks to go beyond merely replacing the E-8C Joint STARS platform and instead take a whole new approach to command and control, the Air Force has struggled to clearly articulate what exactly it expects to acquire and how to justify the millions of dollars in funding it has sought. In fiscal 2021, Congress cut the Air Force’s ABMS funding request by 50 percent, forcing leaders to cancel planned experiments and delay initial acquisition plans. Now the Air Force is trying to be more transparent about the timeline for its KC-46 pod and its acquisition strategy going forward.
“There is not a fighter aircraft that comes out on the end of this,” Allvin said. “But, as we learn things through … the design experiments that we’re doing, and that we will continue to do with the capability releases, we’re understanding how we need to adapt our current infrastructure.”
The Air Force Rapid Capability Office, the program executive for ABMS, is expected to have a full cost estimate for CR-1 early this summer and another for CR-2 as requirements are firmed up.
In all, the Air Force is asking for $204 million for ABMS in fiscal 2022, after last year’s $302 million request was cut to $158 million.
“We understood that when Congress looked at it, it wasn’t clear enough, “Allvin said. “That perhaps we hadn’t laid out a clear enough path to justify the funds that we were requesting. So we had to look ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘We need to better align ourselves to be able to articulate more clearly what we want to do.’”
Allvin said this year’s funding request is more closely aligned to specific capabilities as a result.
Of this $204 million, just over half is for the Capability Release 1 pods; most of the rest is for CR-2 to get at “how we can accelerate that command and control process” with technology, Valencia said. A small amount funds “baseline investments in data management,” he added.
As more ABMS requirements are defined, Allvin said, budget requests will likely grow. “But we want to ensure that what we’re asking for, we can articulate as well as possible,” Allvin said. He wants Congress “to have confidence in providing those resources to us.”
GBSD Development Hinges On New Nuclear Posture Review
By Brian W. Everstine
After some lawmakers questioned the need for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, top Defense Department leaders said June 23 that its future will depend on a review of the military’s nuclear posture.
The Pentagon is asking for $1.1 billion to fund the GBSD program in the DOD’s fiscal 2022 budget request, while the first test flight of the Minuteman III replacement is planned for 2023.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III told members of the House Armed Services Committee the long-term “valuation” of the program will be part of the Pentagon’s next Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).
“We’ll take a deliberate and earnest look at where we are and where we need to go in the future,” Austin said.
The Defense Department’s last Nuclear Posture Review, released in early 2018, supported the GBSD program along with other new nuclear programs including the B-21 bomber, the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) Weapon, nuclear command and control, and the Ohio-class submarine replacement.
These initiatives would also be funded under the administration’s 2022 budget request, which also includes $609 million for LRSO in addition to GBSD funding.
Austin said the upcoming NPR will include “deliberate work with the services to make sure that we are meeting the most pressing need.”
The notion that Austin has made any decision on the future of the GBSD is premature, he said.
“I think it deserves the right amount of effort and attention, and we’ll make the best choices,” he said. “But these choices need to be informed by the posture review to make sure we have the right balance here.”
Military officials, including leaders in the Air Force and U.S. Strategic Command, have said modernizing the ICBM leg of the air-land-sea triad is needed and that time is running out. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, testifying alongside Austin on June 23, said he does not recommend taking any money away from nuclear modernization. The recapitalization of the triad, including the GBSD, is “critical to our nation’s security,” he said, and delaying it by up to 12 to 15 years would create a gap.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) repeated during the hearing that USAF officials have told him the lives of current ICBMs can be extended and that a replacement can be delayed into the 2030s. Milley, in response, said his position is that investment in GBSD needs to continue “without delay.”
Latest B-21 Bomber Image Displays Novel New Window Configuration
By John A. Tirpak
The Air Force’s newest rendering of the secret B-21 bomber shows an exotic layout of cockpit windows. The image, the third released so far, offers a new oblique view of the aircraft from below its port side, suggesting a deeper keel and wider weapons bay than that of the B-2 bomber it will succeed. But the air intakes, which have been redesigned, are obscured.
The new B-21 Raider image was published July 6 along with a new fact sheet. The Air Force identified it as an “artist’s interpretation.” It shows the aircraft taking off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it will be flight-tested beginning early next year. The prior official illustrations were released in January 2021 and in February 2016.
The new picture shows a triangular, curved main forward cockpit window and a wide, arcing side window with no apparent interior framing. That departs from earlier views which showed B-2-style windows. Just aft of the side window is the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) badge and stenciling for ground rescue instructions.
The nose of the aircraft confirms a more pronounced “Beak” or “Hawk’s bill” than on the B-2 Spirit, which the B-21 generally resembles. The underside of the aircraft seems to be deeper than the B-2, although details are obscured. When compared with the artist’s rendering released in January, the B-21 seems to have a greatly pronounced chine, or flattened leading edge, which then tapers into the blended-wing fuselage. This chine also marks a departure from the B-2, which has a more classic wing-like chord shape in cross section.
Northrop’s stealthy YF-23, which lost out to the F-22 in USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter competition some 30 years ago, also featured extended chines on the leading edges. The company’s X-47 autonomous carrier aircraft demonstrator featured an extended Hawk’s bill like that on the B-21.
The image obscures details of the B-21’s air intake, which underwent a “major redesign,” according to Program Executive Officer Randall G. Walden. He told Air Force Magazine early this year such a change is typical for a complex new aircraft program. New aircraft often have “installed engine inlet/exhaust integration issues that have to be resolved,” he said. Previous images have shown the intakes as shallow and straight-edged, unlike the B-2’s scalloped, rounded, and deep intakes.
Also absent from the new image is any detail of the exhaust, although it continues to show a tapered, pointed single tail in silhouette.
The image also suggests a two-tone paint scheme on the aircraft, with lighter gray above and darker gray below. There’s a sharp color break below the window, and the AFGSC badge is in dark gray, whereas such markings are in light gray on the B-2, to better contrast with that aircraft’s FS 36118 overall “Gunship Gray” paint scheme.
The January 2016 image also revealed that the B-21 rests on two, two-wheel main landing gear, while the larger B-2 has four-wheel bogeys on each side. The new image suggests a thickening of the outer wing as well.
The new fact sheet released with the image mentions major program milestones and emphasizes the jet’s open-mission systems concept, which will make upgrades easier and quicker to incorporate. It does not provide any details on performance or dimensions but notes that the first B-21 operating base will be at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.
The fact sheet also mentions that the B-21 is part of the “larger family of systems” for conducting conventional long-range strike. This family includes “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic attack, communication, and other capabilities,” the Air Force said. The fact sheet confirmed that the B-21 will be nuclear capable and is “designed to accommodate manned or unmanned operations. … It will be able to employ a broad mix of stand-off and direct-attack munitions.”
The B-21’s name “Raider” honors the Doolittle Raiders who conducted the first bombing of Japan of World War II in retaliation for that country’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The April 1942 strike was carried out by B-25 Mitchell bombers flown off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The designation “B-21” refers to the first Air Force bomber of the 21st century.
The average procurement unit cost of the new bomber is $550 million in base year 2010 dollars; inflated to 2019, the cost is $639 million each, the fact sheet said.
Austin Recommends Assault Cases Not Go Through Chain of Command
By Brian W. Everstine and Greg Hadley
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III recommended the military establish a separate track for prosecuting sexual assault and related crimes, rather than within the chain of command in June, despite objections from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Days later, he promised to back 82 recommendations offered by the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault and Harassment in the military.
The commission’s recommendations focused on four areas—accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim support and care—concluding “there is a wide chasm” between what commanders think is happening in their commands and what service members describe as their experience. “As a result, trust has been broken between commanders and the service members under their charge and care,” the report said.
Despite a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment and assault, “zero tolerance is actually 100 percent tolerance,” one NCO told the commission.
“The military justice system is not equipped to properly respond to special victim crimes,” the report said. “Critical deficiencies” in the workforce, outdated social norms among service members, and a lack of data about crimes remain problems.
“There is a direct link between unhealthy command climates and mission failure,” the report said, suggesting “too many small units have unhealthy command climates.”
More than a dozen of recommendations focus on changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Austin directed Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks to develop a 60-day “roadmap” for implementing those changes, including criminalizing sexual harassment under the UCMJ. Dedicated offices under each service secretary will be established to prosecute “special victims crimes,” including domestic violence, child abuse, and retaliation within chain of command.
The IRC’s other proposed changes for the military justice system include hiring independent, trained investigators for sexual harassment, mandatory involuntary separation in the event of substantiated complaints, new military justice personnel to handle special victim crimes, Military Protective Orders for victims of sexual assault and related offenses, and expedited processing of proposed executive orders related to special victim crimes.
Austin also directed service leaders to “standardize all non-judicial punishments” and to establish a separation process for substantiated sexual harassment offenders.
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand applauded Austin’s actions, but said she would continue to press ahead on legal changes to ensure that Austin’s decision cannot be easily reversed by a successor.
“The fact that we have a Secretary of Defense who says we should take sexual assault and other related crimes out of the chain of command, and that it does not affect good order and discipline and does not affect the ability of command control, is revolutionary and groundbreaking,” she said. But legal changes are essential, she said, explaining: “I just want to do it in the right way.”
Pentagon Cancels JEDI Contract
By Brian W. Everstine
The Pentagon on July 6 canceled the massive and controversial $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract after years of challenges to its award to Microsoft.
The Defense Department said the move comes because the contract, which has been long delayed due to those challenges, no longer meets its requirements. The department is now looking to a new multi-vendor replacement, called the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability. While the Pentagon will reach out to industry for additional providers, “research indicates” that Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are the only providers able to meet requirements, according to DOD.
“JEDI was developed at a time when the department’s needs were different and both the [Cloud Service Providers’] technology and our cloud conversancy was less mature,” acting DOD Chief Information Officer John Sherman said in a statement. “In light of new initiatives like [joint all-domain command and control] and AI [artificial intelligence] and Data Acceleration, the evolution of the cloud ecosystem within DOD, and changes in user requirements to leverage multiple cloud environments to execute mission, our landscape has advanced and a new way-ahead is warranted to achieve dominance in both traditional and nontraditional warfighting domains.”
The Pentagon in October 2019 awarded the JEDI contract to Microsoft, with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Oracle quickly challenging the process of the contract award. AWS, an expected favorite for the award, challenged it in court, saying it was denied because of the Trump administration’s views on then-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Oracle on June 30 filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court aiming to overturn an initial ruling that said potential conflicts of interests in the award did not affect the company’s position.
Microsoft, in a blog post, said it understands the department’s rationale, based on a likely years-long litigation battle. The company said it is confident that it will “continue to be successful” as the Pentagon moves forward for the next contract.
Amazon, in a statement, also said it agreed with the Pentagon’s decision to move on from JEDI.
The delayed progress on JEDI came as the military pushed ahead on cloud-based capability on high-tech initiatives such as joint all-domain command and control and the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, which will depend on secure and fast, cloud-based data for its mission to speed up data sharing and decision-making. JEDI aimed to bring the efforts under one DOD-wide umbrella, while individual services moved ahead on their efforts.
USSF Selects First 50 Officers to Transfer from Other Services
By Abraham Mahshie
Out of a pool of more than 3,700 applicants, the first 50 Active-duty Army, Navy, and Marine Corps volunteers were announced for transfer to the Space Force beginning in July. A second tranche of 350 transfers will be announced in July to match Space Force specialties including space operations, intelligence, cyber, engineering, and acquisition.
The highly competitive process continues the organic growth of the military’s newest service, joining 5,200 Air Force transfers.
“We are overwhelmed by the number of applicants, and the outpouring of support our sister services have provided as we’ve partnered together to design the Space Force,” said Gen. David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations, in a June 30 press statement.
The total manpower of the Space Force is roughly 12,000 Guardians, with some 6,000 civilians and 5,500 military as of June 15. An undisclosed number of Air Force Airmen also continue to support the Space Force in an administrative assignment capacity.
A Space Force spokesperson told Air Force Magazine June 30 that the force is onboarding the first 50 transfers from other services in fiscal 2021, which ends Sept. 30. The July announcement of 350 more transfers will be onboarded in the 2022 fiscal year.
New Guardians will join the force on a staggered approach according to their own individual schedules rather than a single transfer ceremony.
“When we will get to 16,000 depends on a lot of future transfers,” the spokesperson said of the number of Guardians Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond has said will encompass a “lean” new fighting force.
The Space Force is also expected to voluntarily absorb units and mission sets from other services, including the Navy and Army. The timeline for which units will be incorporated into the Space Force and how many service members will be asked to voluntarily transfer is still to be determined.
“It’s being worked and more information will be released in the coming months,” the spokesperson said.
Donald H. Rumsfeld, 1932-2021
By Greg Hadley
Donald H. Rumsfeld, who made history as the first man to serve as Secretary of Defense for two Presidents and oversaw the beginning of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, died June 30 in Taos, N.M. He was 88.
Rumsfeld served as a congressman from Illinois’ 13th District, director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and White House Chief of Staff, in addition to two stints as Defense Secretary. He was a Cabinet-level aide of President Richard M. Nixon before becoming the youngest Defense Secretary ever under President Gerald R. Ford in 1975. He then returned to the Pentagon as the second-oldest person ever to lead it, in 2001, under President George W. Bush.
“I was saddened to hear today of the passing of former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld,” current Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a written statement issued by the Pentagon. “Mr. Rumsfeld had the singular distinction of holding that post for two nonconsecutive tenures, serving as both the 13th Secretary of Defense and the 21st. He also served in the U.S. Navy in 1954-57 as a pilot and a flight instructor, and he continued his service as a Reservist until 1975, when he became Secretary of Defense for the first time.
“Over the decades of his remarkable career, from Congress to the White House to the Pentagon, Secretary Rumsfeld was propelled by his boundless energy, probing intellect, and abiding commitment to serve his country.”
Rumsfeld’s second tenure in the Pentagon coincided with one of the most consequential periods in modern American history. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rumsfeld oversaw the planning and execution of wars in the Middle East that wound up two decades. More than 6,000 American troops have died in the region since, and estimates have pegged the financial cost in the trillions of dollars.
Rumsfeld claimed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction in explaining the Bush administration’s justification for an invasion of the country. No such weapons were ever found, and he would admit years later to making “misstatements” on the topic.
Rumsfeld also became embroiled in the controversy surrounding torture and prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and subsequent revelations about “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In the Middle East, Rumsfeld deployed a strategy of smaller, more mobile ground forces with a reliance on more airstrikes, moves that were dubbed by some as the “Rumsfeld Doctrine.” But as the wars dragged on, he came under increasing criticism, culminating in a number of retired generals and admirals publicly calling on him to resign in 2006. Although President Bush initially defended him, Rumsfeld resigned after the ’06 midterm elections.
“Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was an exceptional leader who dedicated decades of his life in public service to this nation,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. “On Sept. 11, 2001, Donald was there to help lead our nation out of one of our darkest days, including running into the Pentagon to assist the wounded and survivors. I also appreciate his help to lay some of the early groundwork for the Space Force.”