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June 05, 2008

Secretary Gates drops a bomb on the Air Force
Posted by Moira Whelan

Airforce The news that the Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff were forced to resign is pretty big news and could speak to a lot of activity that’s been happening at the Pentagon under the radar.

First and foremost, they were sacked in a very public way for Air Force standards. Both were attending Corona, which is a big gathering of generals. One was summoned to Washington, the other dealt with at the base in Ohio where the conference was taking place. They were separated and dismissed…in front of every single top dog in the Air Force.

Others are more plugged in than I am, but the Air Force and DoD have been doing battle for some months, and it isn’t the first time that Secretary Gates has made his frustration public. He was pretty blunt about feeling the F-22 was a waste of time while the Air Force still pushed it, as well as about the Air Force’s failure to step up deployment of drones.  He’s said that getting the Air Force to think and act in new ways is “like pulling teeth.”

The most interesting thing to me is that Gates took really decisive action here. On one hand, he seems to be keeping things in line in a pretty rough environment. On the other hand, it makes you wonder what else isn’t getting done if the Air Force chiefs have been able to run their own rogue operation for so long unchecked.

Hopefully Gates will use the next few days to make his expectations of the Air Force leadership clear, because right now, the rumor mill says that everyone is just ducking for cover.


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The Air Force was found guilty of the sloppy handling of nukes and their associated hardware over a long period of time.

I think this is about the delay in the big TSAT program -- which needs to get approved before Bush goes out the door else it will be canceled by the Democrats. You can't get surveillance UAVs if you don't have the comms to carry the transmission.

It would be interesting to compare Sec. Gates' position and role in the Bush administration with that of former Sec. Rumsfeld. In a number of respects Gates has taken a very different approach, but in terms of the amount of autonomy he has at the Pentagon he seems just as strong a Secretary of Defense as Rumsfeld was -- in effect, a deputy President. This is noteworthy in an administration that has tended to keep its cabinet officials on very short leashes.

Of course any Secretary of Defense would be the logical point man for personnel changes lower down in his department. But the abrupt dismissal of both the Air Force's secretary and its senior general is a major change. No administration would undertake such a thing lightly, and I'm not sure many administrations before this one would have left the Secretary of Defense to handle it by himself, with no White House comment at all.

I wonder if the recent political flap about the Air Force buying fuel tankers produced by EADS as opposed to Boeing is one of the reasons why Gates is cracking down on the Air Force leadership?

Any chance that this is a Fallon moment? When I heard Air Force, I thought the branch of our military that would be called upon to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and/or "terrorist" training camps. Is it possible that there was resistance to such a plan, so this unprecedented dismissal of the military and civilian leadership of the Air Force is to get the right folks into place to manage such a strike?

Hate to be so tinfoil hat, but with this administration such a strike is still possible. Nixon had Kissinger around to instruct the military to ignore him if Nixon decided to launch the nukes in his last days in office. Is there such a person now, or are we just at the mercy of a president who may be called upon by God and Cheney to act against Iran now?

This is not a Fallon moment. This is a managerial moment. Mosely and Wynne are not policy advisors to Bush, so their opinions on policy are not relevant. They are supposed to be managing the Air Force, equipping it and preparing it to fight. They've failed miserably (or the people below them have, and the buck stops at the top.)

Fallon was an operator. If he does not agree with policy, and refuses to develop or implement the required operations, then that's a problem. You can't have the man who would implement the policy on the ground openly disagreeing with the policy. This was not the issue yesterday. This is a problem of poor management, or, more accurately, robust mismanagement.

In other words Fallon was a Combatant Commander and the Air Force is merely a facilitator.

Thanks Amyfw and Don Bacon. I watched the Newshour last night and it did seem likely that Gates was reacting to the "robust mismanagement" of the Air Force. The comments by the Time reporter about Gates' mentioning General Boyd's comments regarding leadership at the Air University last month, and the reaction of some of the powers-that-be, made me look up the speech. It does look like Gates wants to make dramatic changes to the AF and how it does business in the time he has left as Sec Def.

RE Iran, I'm still worried and looking at any sign of an attack, but appreciate your perspective on this particular case.

The "Fallon moment" wasn't even a "Fallon moment." Fallon was fired for being a self-aggrandizing poppinjay. He was let go by the very man who brought him on board to serve as an independent voice.

This is what's so odd about these discussion threads. The reality isn't good enough. We must delve into conspiracy theories.

No one would get fired for, first, allowing nuclear weapons to inexplicably go from Minot AFB to Barksdale, and, then, failing to ensure this sort of thing didn't happen again (Tawain). Gates warned the USAF that if it did, and an inquiry convened showed that promised reforms didn't change the culture of that command, then heads would roll.

When heads roll, everyone assumes it's because USAF doesn't want to attack Iran; it's all about F-22s, communication contracts or blah blah blah.

Whatever. All I know is that we have a SecDef who is willing to instill some modicum of accountability for civilian and uniformed leaders of the military. Early in the WRAMC controversy, he fired a MG and then his boss, Army Secretary Fran Harvey.

He's like that.

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