Tuning Up the Airpower Message

A new RAND study takes a deep historical look at US public opinion about the Air Force and airpower from the early 20th Century to today, as well as how the service’s “narrative” about itself has affected attitudes. Study author Alan Vick, a senior political scientist at RAND, notes the early 20th Century marked a period of great enthusiasm for aviation, which drove airmen to develop new narratives to make the case for “air centric military strategies.” The “social currency” was very high in the period from just before World War I (1910) to the aftermath of World War II (the late 1940s), then declining by the end of the 1950s. After the Air Force was established as a separate service in 1947, it was viewed “as the most important branch of the military” during the 1950s and early 1960s, with the advent of jet fighters, bombers, supersonic flight, and satellite technology. However, since then, attitudes about the US military series have narrowed. Vick concludes that USAF’s service narratives are not a primary driver on public opinions, for the most part, but the service should see engagement opportunities in technological breakthroughs and creating solutions for problems of concern to the American public. (Read the full study; Caution, large-sized file.)