Blue Suit Absence in Joint World

From 2006 to early 2010, the Air Force did not have a single general officer “in any of the top 11 positions at the Pentagon,” said retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, the Air Force’s former intelligence chief. Those positions included the Joint Chiefs Chairman, vice chairman, Joint Staff director, and the eight directors of the staff’s offices, he said on Feb. 22 at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. That absence and the dearth of “blue suits” heading a regional combatant command—only five cases out of more than 100 assignments since 1947—has made it difficult, if not impossible, to get the service’s message across, said Deptula during the symposium’s panel discussion on this subject. “We are moving in the right direction with joint staff assignments, but we are still behind the power curve,” said Deptula. He added, “We need to aim at, aspire to, and fill combatant commander positions.” On the same panel, Lani Kass, who served as a senior policy advisor to now-retired Adm. Mike Mullen when Mullen was Joint Chiefs Chairman, said the lack of top-level joint assignments is an “existential issue” for the Air Force that must be addressed. “It’s not something that we are inculcating in our airmen and our actions speak louder than words,” said Kass. “We do not fight as services, we fight as combatant commanders and we are not well represented where those decisions are made,” she added.