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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Case For Abolishing The Air Force

 The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 10, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

The U.S. Air Force was founded in 1947, right after the heroics of American flyers during World War II, and with the Cold War looming. But a new book argues the Air Force, as a separate branch of the military, should be abolished.

In “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force,” author Robert Farley says that while the U.S. still needs air power, that power shouldn’t be segregated — it should be part of the Navy or the Army.

Farley, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to make his case.

Interview Highlights: Robert Farley

On the problem with a separate Air Force

“The creation of the Air Force, which started in 1947, erected unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between the missions the military most often does. Pretty much everything the military does on a daily basis requires some sort of conjunction between air power and sea power and land power. And we created the air force with the idea that air power could do a lot of the jobs by itself. And I think that idea was wrongheaded in 1947 and I think we have much more evidence that it’s wrongheaded today.”

“The capabilities that we’ve allocated to the Air Force we have largely allocated by choice, rather than by any chance of natural design. So for example the Army doesn’t have any capability — besides helicopters, doesn’t have any capability of medical rescue. But the reason it doesn’t have that capability is essentially because the Air Force took that responsibility away from it.”

On the timing of his proposal

“I think actually right now is ideal in terms of thinking about potential for military reform. We’re winding down the two wars we’re having right now and we are re-orientating toward an entirely different form of military preparedness, which is in terms of what we’ve heard about the Pacific pivot … and it seems to me that right now when we don’t actually see a lot of conflicts on the immediate horizon, it’s a great time to think about how we might reform our military services for the future.”

On the idea of the Air Force projecting power around the globe

“It’s an argument that people commonly make as to why we need the Air Force — that we need the global capability to strike anywhere in the world. But it’s interesting that when we look at how we’ve actually used that strike capability in the past, and how we’re using it right now, very often our global strike is through tomahawk missiles that are launched by U.S. surface ships and U.S. submarines. And so while this idea of having this 24-hour, anywhere in the world, 15-minute strike capability, sounds kind of awesome, it always runs into political difficulties and all sorts of political obstacles and we never seem to really take advantage of it.

Guest

  • Robert Farley, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and the author of “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.” He tweets @drfarls.

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

The image of the U.S. Air Force took a hit recently when more than two dozen officers responsible for launching nuclear weapons were pulled off the job because they were caught cheating on a proficiency exam, or failed to report cheating. But should the entire Air Force go away and be folded into other branches of the military?

That's the view of our next guest, Robert Farley. He's an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky's Patterson School of Diplomacy, and he's author of "Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force." He's with us from WUKY in Lexington, Ky. Dr. Farley, welcome.

ROBERT FARLEY: Oh, thanks for having me.

HOBSON: And we should say right at the top, you're not arguing that the U.S. doesn't need airpower.

FARLEY: That's correct. I think that the United States does not need an independent Air Force and that the assets that we currently allocate to the Air Force should, in most cases, be shifted and amalgamated with the Army and the Navy.

HOBSON: Why is that? Why don't we need an Air Force?

FARLEY: I think that the creation of the Air Force, which started in 1947, erected unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between the missions that the military most often does. Pretty much everything the military does on a day-to-day basis requires some sort of conjunction of airpower and sea power and land power. And we created an Air Force in the idea that airpower could do a lot of jobs by itself. And I think that idea was wrongheaded in 1947, and I think we have lots more evidence that it's wrongheaded today.

HOBSON: Why is it wrongheaded today more than it was, in your view, in 1947?

FARLEY: Well, in 1947, there were a lot of people who were still sufficiently optimistic about the idea of airpower that it could win wars all on its own; that we could strike over the horizon, avoid enemy armies, tear apart the sinews of an enemy state. And I think that we found over the years that the information demands for that are just so awesome that we can never quite be able to defeat an adversary, especially a determined adversary, just with airpower; and that just about everything we do requires that ground and air forces cooperate with one another for the best effect.

HOBSON: You write that in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of those conflicts required flashy strategic airpower.

FARLEY: That's correct. I think that in both cases, what we found was that the most fancy air power assets, the ones that have been designed to fight the Soviet Union, have been reduced to jobs such as killing groups of insurgents in the middle of the desert. This is something that we would never consider that the B-52 and the B-1 would have done, but they've been pressed into in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. And I think that's really, in a lot of ways, has been the reality of air power, and it's likely to continue to be the future of air power.

HOBSON: Now, the air power that we have outside of the Air Force - in the Army, in the Navy, in the Marine Corps, even in the Coast Guard - I've been speaking to military experts who say that the Air Force has capacities and capabilities that those other branches do not have; and that there would be massive disruption if you were to try to fold some of the capabilities of the Air Force into, say, the Army's air power.

FARLEY: Well, I think that there are two responses to that. The first is that the capabilities that we've allocated the Air Force we have largely allocated by choice rather than by any sort of natural design. So for example, the Army doesn't have any capability or doesn't have - besides helicopters - any capability of medical rescue. But the reason it doesn't have that capability is because the Air Force essentially took that responsibility away from it.

There's a very similar story to be told about drones, that there was a big fight between the Army and the Air Force over who would control drones and that essentially came down to a bureaucratic decision. And the second response is that there are a lot of reforms that have short-term costs and that have long-term benefits.

And I don't think there's any question that in the short term folding the Air Force back into the other services would be extremely costly. For one, you would have to buy a lot of new uniforms for Air Force personnel. But in the long term, I think there are going to be a lot of benefits.

HOBSON: But could you afford that short-term cost? Could you afford a short-term disruption in the military like that?

FARLEY: I actually think right now is ideal in terms of thinking about potential for military reform. We're winding down the two wars that we are having right now, and we are reorienting towards an entirely different form of military preparedness, which is what we've heard of in terms of the Pacific pivot.

And the Pacific pivot is going to require the Air Force and the Navy to work together very closely. And it seems to me that right now, when we don't actually see a lot of conflicts on the immediate horizon, it's a great time to think about how we might reform our military services for the future.

HOBSON: On the other hand, right now is not a time that Congress can agree on much, let alone getting rid of one of the main branches of the military.

FARLEY: That's true. I can't really tell you that I'm super-optimistic about this Congress or the next Congress passing a - really a tremendous bill for reform of the armed forces, but at the same time there seems to be some indication that there could be a growing coalition of Republicans and Democrats who are interested in significant military reform, who are worried about the direction that the national security state has taken and who might be interested in what amount to innovative proposals for rethinking how the United States uses its military force.

HOBSON: What about the idea of the Air Force as able to project the massive power of the United States, that you have to have these incredible assets of the Air Force to show the world the power of the U.S., especially with the rise of China?

FARLEY: I think it's an argument that people commonly make about why we need the Air Force, that we need the global capability to strike anywhere in the world. But it's interesting that when we look at how we've actually used that strike capability in the past, and how we're using it right now, very often our global strike is through tomahawk missiles that are launched by U.S. surface ships and U.S. submarines.

Our global strike right now in places like Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia is carried out by aircraft that aren't actually very sophisticated at all. They're not very fast, they're not very modern in terms of sort of hyper-modern fighter jets, But they're Predator drones that we're using for political reasons.

And so while this idea of having this 24-hour, anywhere in the world, 15-minute strike capability sounds kind of awesome, it always runs into all sorts of political difficulties and all sorts of political obstacles. And we never seem to be able to really take advantage of it, even when we have an Air Force. And so as a reason for keeping an Air Force, I don't find it terribly compelling.

HOBSON: There are a lot of comments on the Foreign Affairs website after your story was published. And one of them says: Abolish the Air Force? Why not just go all the way and look at the Canadian model - combine all three services and establish a true joint force. What do you think of that?

FARLEY: The Canadian model has ended up - it created this unified structure, but it's ended up deteriorating back into what amounts to an Army, an Air Force and a Navy. And what I'm hoping to achieve here is a genuine reprioritization of the military missions that we have. And so putting parts of the Air Force into the Army, in my view, will force the Army and the Air Force to be more collaborative with one another, in a way that they really haven't since the 1940s.

And that's part of the point. And similarly, putting parts of the Air Force into the Navy will force more collaboration there, whereas if you just created a unified three-structure system, it might not actually result in tighter cooperation than we have right now.

HOBSON: Ideally for you, 20 years from now, would you like to see the military much smaller than it is today?

FARLEY: I do think that our military forces right now - for the tasks that we have, the task that the United States requires - are a bit too large. I think it's very difficult to project 20 years in the future. Twenty years in the future the Chinese military budget could be larger than the U.S., and there might be all sorts of different changes in the strategic landscape.

And so it's hard to say that - or what the defense budget should look like. But I think we have allowed it to grow too large given the tasks that we face right now.

HOBSON: Robert Farley is assistant professor at the University of Kentucky's Patterson School of Diplomacy. He's the author of "Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force." Professor, thanks so much for joining us.

FARLEY: Thank you for having me.

HOBSON: And let us know what you think. Should the Air Force be abolished and folded into the other branches of the military? You can go to hereandnow.org. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • http://johnharvey.us/ SgtCedar

    I am not sure I agree we should fold the Air Force into the Army and Navy. However, I do think the mission of close ground support air power should be given back to the Army. In Vietnam the A-10 anti-tank planes were flown by the Army.

    The Air Force has never wanted the mission of providing close ground support and has never done the job well. Give the A-10s (or whatever has replaced them) back to the Army.

    • Richard Paschall

      The A-10 did not exist during Viet Nam…it was developed and produced in the 1970′s. However, I agree with SgtCedar that the Army should have the close air support mission instead of the Air Force.

      • jonathanpulliam

        Maybe he meant “A-1″.

        • Tanker

          Even if he was really referring to the A-1 Skyraider, he’s still wrong, A-1 flown by AF, Navy and VNAF. The only Army fixed wing asset in SEA capable of any real CAS capability was the
          OV-1 Mohawk.

          • jonathanpulliam

            Tanker, you’re right.

    • holoh

      While I fully support the freedom of speech, please do yourself and everyone a favor and do some research or otherwise know what you are talking about before you post. The A-10 did not exist in Vietnam and it has NEVER been flown by Army personnel nor been owned by the Army.

    • Robert Thomas

      What an odd thing that someone who seems to have (or once have had) a legitimate stake in the matter would imagine that the **Army** had pilots flying the A-10 in Viet Nam before it was first deployed, in 1976.

      I understand that moves to dump the A-10 – due to its close-air support mission limitation – have led the some in the Army, AIr Force Reserve and Air National Guard to volunteer that these services should adopt and fund Warthog production, support and even operation if the Air Force wants to bail on it. Maybe that’s the source of this confusion.

      Just as likely, it’s due to the way in which many infantrymen have often felt mild frustration with the operational gyrations they perceive within the Air Force with respect in particular to close-air support, and their consequent reluctance to pay close attention to details of the controversies that prevail there.

      • Robert Thomas

        Excuse me – 1978 was first combat-readiness, if the Wikipedia article is correct.

        • Tyra Lynne Wahl

          1978 is the correct first date of service Robert.

          The A-10′s first real war was the first Gulf War… actually it was quite the darling of that war, admired and wholeheartedly feared.

          • Robert Thomas

            Indeed so. Anyone who’s ever seen a heavily armored vehicle “melt” to the ground after coming into the sights of the Avenger mini-gun would think at least twice before entering a field where the A-10 might appear for one’s opponents.

  • PoliticsWatcher

    Remind me again why our military has branches?

    We have soldiers. We have ships. We have aircraft. Three branches? No. Because we also have amphibious ships, and landing craft, and troop-transport aircraft, and ground-attack aircraft, and heavy lift aircraft, and naval aviation, etc. There are no neat categories.

    Tradition is not a good excuse for dysfunction.

    • holoh

      I wish I knew something about you so I could show you how ignorant your point is through an example that applies to you. Some possibilities that come to mind are – your bathtub and a pig watering trough appear to be the same – maybe you should take your baths in a pig watering trough. You eat toast for breakfast and bread on a sandwich for lunch, so why do you eat two meals – just combine them! You go to the bathroom at work and you go to the bathroom at home, so why do you have a separate home and work? Maybe you should get rid of your home and just live at work? I can do this all day.
      My point is that you are focusing on one argument for combining them while ignoring thousands of points for keeping them separate, chief of which is that you need airmen who understand the air mission to do use it effectively, you need soldiers who understand the ground mission to do use it effectively, and you need sailors who understand the sea mission to do use it effectively.

  • Richard Paschall

    Although I haven’t had the opportunity to read the book, the professor makes an interesting case. However, from a management control viewpoint, folding the Air Force missions and needed assets into the Army and Navy would create a larger Army and a larger Navy and the span of control would be broader. Air Force missions in space are not duplicated by the Army and Navy, nor do those older services have the long range strike capability possessed by the Air Force in the Minuteman missiles and long range bombers. Although cruise missiles do have a fairly long range, they do not possess the capability to fly 5,000 miles with the ability to recall the mission. Once launched, a cruise missile is on its way. I don’t see the problem that the author is trying to solve that can be accomplished by abolishing the Air Force. The Army Air Forces in WW II had great difficulty overcoming the biases of the Army leadership and also the Navy. We have made great strides in making the forces more “purple” by requiring officers to serve in joint assignments to learn how to work with the other services. I don’t see that we would save money in the long run…I would need to see the author’s forecast of how we would save money by taking his approach.

    • Sinclair2

      Cruise missiles can be rerouted and destroyed while enroute by the launching authority.

      • jonathanpulliam

        Unless the launching authority is attending a political fundraiser.

  • former_umc

    Admittedly the airstrike mission of the US Air Force may not be as relevant at present as it was during the 1940′s and 1950′s. However, other primary missions of the modern Air Force such as cyber protection/warfare and space command and surveillance are more relevant than ever as methods of conflict and terrorism evolve. These missions along with high volume troop and cargo movement, medical evacuation, etc. are not easily transferred to align with other the Navy and Army missions. The U.S. Air Force should remain an independent, distinct branch.

  • SWerts

    The Air Force was separated from the Army in the forties for a good reason: the air mission is very different from the ground mission. the air cargo service of the Army was taken over by the Air Force In a subsequent reorganization for the same reason. Similarly, the air mission is very different from the sea mission. A more logical new reorganization might be to remove all, or most, of the remaining air mission from the Army and the Navy, unifying all air combat forces in the Air Force.

  • jonathanpulliam

    The U.S. Chair Force is already more controlled by the AIPAC lobbyists’ principal client, Israeli intelligence, than by the forlorn U.S. taxpayer, who appears to be viewed by every branch of our military as just another rube pocket to be picked. USAF’s most well-known recent “innovation”, so-called “Concurrency engineering”, really ought to be re-named “435-Disrict Constituent Currency-extraction Engineering”, as it was so cunningly contrived to protect over-budget, far behind-schedule Pentagon pet aviation weapons procurement projects from oversight and cancellation. Don’t want to mention the specific program, but I heard an Australian aviation analyst has said that in the event of a full-scale war involving fighter aircraft, foreign-armed adversaries are going to be performing the air-combat equivalent of “clubbing baby seals” upon our American “concurrency-engineered” systems.

    • GodBlesstheUSA

      This is a foolish and dangerous idea that if enacted would unnecessarily increase casualties on the battlefield and diminish American air/space capabilities. Air power is the preferred delivery of American military power because it maximizes combat delivery and minimizes risk to life. And an independent Air Force maximizes air power effectiveness by allowing for unbiased, specialized air power doctrine and capability development. Ground and sea commanders are biased towards their ground and sea forces, to which they relegate airpower to support roles. They do not realize air power to its full potential in combat, and they tend to put more people, more often at the “tip of the spear”, meaning more of our precious sons and daughters get killed and maimed.

      On the other hand, take the first Gulf War for historical evidence of the effectiveness of an independent Air Force. The USAF-led air campaign decimated Saddam’s air defenses and ground forces to such a degree that his troops were surrendering in hordes and the US suffered very few casualties. This is the point when US military might became the fear and envy of the world and its high success and low casualty rates idealized Americans’ expectations for future conflicts.

      Mr. Farley seems to be trying to exploit the natural competitiveness between the services in order to create discord and tear down a key pillar of America’s military. I question his motives.

      Every service has its problems but the solution is not to knock down the USAF but to improve integration between the services and make them a more effective joint force.

      • jonathanpulliam

        No quarrel with what you say, but there is a disconnect between what we need as a nation and what our armed forces are asked to make due with. If our weapons are inefficiently procured and developed, it does a disservice to overall readiness.

  • Adrian Rodzianko

    This is an old debate and one that usually stimulates great emotion, especially from those who have served in Air Force Blue uniforms.
    Historical study gives credence to Robert Farley’s argument as the environment that lead to the establishment of the US Air Force (The Cold War and the tyranny of the Strategic Bomber force (SAC)). The Force has evolved with time but is arguably still an echo of a behemoth force that was designed to fight a threat that, at least in part, no longer exists an potentially may never exist again. The US Air Force is not alone in its retarded progress in its evolution. The US Navy is arguably in its collective cultural consciousness, still celebrating the Battle of the Coral Sea and the leap towards the Carrier Strike Group as the central element of any naval effort and force construct. The US Air Force is perhaps stuck in the sacred murmurs of Douhet and the legitimacy of “MAD” doctrine supported by the “Big Wings” of WWII and the stalwart stories of the Strategic Air Command, standing watch for the inevitable attack.
    There is however an argument about keeping the Air Force as a branch of a service however. They have very strategically put themselves as the Cornerstone of all the Joint Air Operations Centers (JAOC) and the global Air Tasking Order development. Getting rid of the Air Force would cause a huge stumbling point with regards to the logistical efforts that enable our global reach and influence. Internally, as an organization, the USAF has struggled to get away from a pilot dominated leadership culture. Their organizational mission statement asserts that they exists to Fight and win in the Air, Space, and Cyberspace……Two out of three of those battlegrounds assert that the Air Force is less an aircraft focused force and is more of a “Space Force”….a multi-dimensional space force that is fighting on battle grounds that Sun Tzu could hardly have imagined but perhaps he would argue are still valid within the principles that he contemplated.
    Getting rid of the Air Force may not be the answer…… I agree that the US Air Force along with the whole US military structure needs to make and evolutionary leap forward beyond what it is today.

  • on-air listner

    Seems to me this guy has forgotten the term Air Superiority. His argument is solely based on observations made from prolonged wars after the main battle mission of the USAF is over and they have transitioned into a support role. I think he’s forgetting the involvement the USAF had at the start of all the wars. The USAF was the “tip of the spear” in both Iraq wars, and Afghanistan. With the use of stealth bombers and other fighters they were able to gain air superiority. Thus paving the way for our boys on the ground so they can have an easier time doing their mission without worrying about what’s targeting them from the sky.

    • jonathanpulliam

      Official U.S. Court of Inquiry revealed that USAF General Seth McKee’s scrambling of Maj. John Wright’s 18th Tactical Fighter Wing F-105 fighters from Okinawa during the U.S.S. Pueblo crisis was pretty much the sole U.S. military response. Navy and Army did nothing. Only our U.S.A.F. stayed in the business of “making decisions”.

    • Tyra Lynne Wahl

      Apparently you have a very skewed view of what the real “tip of the spear” in the US military arsenal is and its not the Air Force….. That would be the SEALs, MARSOC and the Marine Corps in general.

      Yes the air mission in GWI was the primary bread winner of that incursion but that wasn’t just the Air Force it was also the Navy and Marine TacAir…. all of which provide vastly different air missions.

      And the man is absolutely right, the mission of each service needs to change as the tactics of the enemy change. Trying to fight a war of pure air superiority against a purely urban guerrilla force willing to sacrifice civilians without a second thought is about as outdated as standing in a straight line opposite your enemy on an open battlefield.

      I swear a lot of people on here should do more critical reading than a few op eds and Tom Clancy novels.

      • bbq

        I believe you’re the one with the skewed view and the condescending approach to pushing your agenda. Further, while you’re doing critical reading on the subject perhaps you should move beyond the Combat Air Force and take a look at some of the other contributions the larger AF has made over the last 15 years. You know, like the single largest logistical movement of troops and supplies by air ever, anywhere, period. Bottom line, stop hurling rocks from your glass house as you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • Robert Thomas

    As I’ve gotten older, I note more often that guys like Professor Farley always need something to write about.

    • Jeff

      Amen, I don’t think he ever wore a uniform

      • Bobofet

        Have you ever been the President of the United States or held elected office? No? That doesn’t diminish the fact that you can study and arrive at an informed opinion regarding public policy.
        Ad hominem attacks on whether the author wore a uniform are misplaced. Judging by other comments to this story, it appears that those who did serve have an inherent loyalty bias to their former branch of service, suggesting that they cannot form an unbiased opinion regarding the story.

        • Robert Thomas

          I never served with the armed forces. However, I do have a little experience working to support a variety of systems that have been used by the Army and the Air Force and the Navy. I worked on avionics for the C-17 at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach in the 1980s and on targeting simulators for the the technically interesting but ultimately abandoned “Brilliant Pebbles” component of the dingy Strategic Defense Initiative; I spent some time on a C^3 system for the fraught BFV at Food Machinery in Santa Clara during the same period. I worked for a while at WSMR on JTAGS M3P and also in Huntsville and at NASA Dryden (now Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center) and some other places.

          I don’t mean to throw around obscure abbreviations to puff myself up. My experiences are NOT vast, okay? However, I believe I have had a good peek into the way in which a lot of technical operations are addressed by the different branches. Entirely from a civilian’s point of view, my observation of both the disparate responsibilities assigned to the branches and the disparate style and emphasis of operational response the branches afford those duties STRONGLY suggest that of all possible avenues one might follow to effective realignment, folding the USAF back into the Army Air Corps and Navy would be monumentally disruptive, to the point of rendering certainly air services and probably both ground AND air services ineffective for an extended period of ruin.

          It would NOT be my avenue of choice, according to my experience.

          • Jeff

            Farley gives no good reason to shutdown the Air Force, other than it should have never been separated in the first place. There would be little money saved as you would still need the “Airpower” expert during joint operations.

            The only reason that Farley’s time in uniform is relevant is that he has never seen how well the AF works with it’s counterparts. The AF provides many things that most civilians are not aware of, and I don’t think could be improved by putting them in a different uniform.

            Bottom line don’t fix what isn’t broken.

  • TR6

    Well…..if this individual ever served a day in a joint military environment I’d be suprised. The midset for Army personnel is quite different than it is for the Air Force. Also the view of the Air Force being aircraft centric is quite myopic. The Air Force mission encompasses many other facets and though these most recent conflits do not use our superior air assets to their fullest we have made the mistake before of preparing for the wars last fought only to pay dearly and play catch up to fight the new/current threats. Studying history is great and can definitely lend itself to wise and prudent actions going forward, but let’s not let it be our only guide.
    Hmmmm….try combining the two land forces and see what kind of reaction you get…..they won’t be nearly as polite and you may find some your body parts in places you’d never imagined.

    • jonathanpulliam

      Yes, well there’s something to be said for “core competency”, U.S.A.F. does not buy new systems efficiently. “Quantity has a quality all its own”, you know. U.S.A.F. has been glacial-slow about getting pilots out of the cockpit to take advantage of the inherently higher-g capabilities of pilotless airframes.

    • Bobofet

      You said: ”
      if this individual ever served a day in a joint military environment I’d be suprised. The midset for Army personnel is quite different than it is for the Air Force”
      This actually seems to support the author’s point. If we have braches that have “different mindsets” we are creating inefficiencies in the system. One command structure and chain of command, one mindset seems like it may lead to efficiencies.
      As to your other point, “we have made the mistake before of preparing for the wars last fought only to pay dearly and play catch up to fight the new/current threats,” we spend more than every nation combined on our military. I doubt that engaging in strategic realignment we will have to “catch up” to countries that are so far behind it’s a joke.

  • it_disqus

    We fought a war in Iraq most agree we shouldn’t have. We are still in Afghanistan where most agree we should not be. The Robert Gates’ Memoir stated our current Commander in Chief couldn’t care less about the wars that weren’t his. Then we have this riveting story about what US war machine patch the soldiers should have on their uniform. I think the wrong questions are being asked.

    • Tyra Lynne Wahl

      And anyone who thinks that were we not already in Afghanistan and previously in Iraq for the last 10+ years to the point that the US public has lost their taste for war… that the present administration wouldn’t have put boots on the ground in Syria in the first months of that civil war….. well, those people are crazy.

      As Gates said Obama could care less about Afghanistan and he only got us out of Iraq because it was the popular thing to do. Which is why we pulled out of Iraq so fast that it created a power vacuum that is now being filled by Al Qaeda and why every friend of ours that died during the battle for Fallujah in 2004 was a truly wasted loss of life.

      • Robert Thomas

        It’s just as likely to imagine, given the grand counterfactual of having not prosecuted the 2003 war in Iraq, that there would not even BE civil war in Syria.

        The recent power vacuum in Iraq commenced with the coalition attack in 2003 and has never been alleviated. There was never a “counterinsurgency” in Iraq because there was never an “insurgency” in Iraq. An insurgency is a rebellion against a legitimate authority. There hasn’t been a legitimate authority in Iraq for five thousand years. Violent actions against the al-Maliki government and the 2003 coalition forces in Iraq can only sensibly be described as vengeance taken against an uninvited armed invader and its (often recalcitrant) puppets.

        If the the single acquaintance of mine who I know died in service in Iraq died for nothing, he died for nothing the moment he died.

  • Jared

    Dr. Farley clearly has a limited working knowledge of how the DoD, more specifically, how the Air Force operates. I am a 13 year veteran of the Air Force and although I am a bit partial Dr. Farley’s solution is a simple solution to something that is not a problem. The Air Force has taken a couple black eyes recently, however, disbanding the service will not fix those problems. He stated we used strategic weapons systems for tactical missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is correct however, we cannot fold an entire branch of service inthro the Army and Navy based on the projection of air power in our two most recent conflicts. We do not know what the next conflict will bring and I would venture to guess it will not be similar to what took place in Afghanistan and Iraq. Lets not forget those strategic assets filled their strategic roles at the begining of those campaigns. Additionally, American Airpower essentially won the first gulf war.

  • Chris Paulhus

    I believe that it would be a good Idea. The air force gets paid more and even get compensated for staying at army bases because they are less than code for the air force. If the air force was merged with the army/navy there would be less expense in training facilities, operations cost, housing etc. The big sticker would be not having to pay extra for cross housing and the extra brass. While this is enough to greatly consider a change, as the Obama administration is always trying to find a way to end the national debt, There are other reasons why this merge would be a good Idea. I feel that if they are merged with the army/navy then there would be less time delay between operations coordination. This could increase the effectiveness of our troops. Also, since there are so many operations in the navy and army that require heavy air support, that a merger would increase the responsiveness of the air support.

    • jonathanpulliam

      “…the Obama administration is always trying to find a way to end the national debt,…”

      This is a gag, right?

      Our enemies ultimately will decide how much we need to spend on deterrence, not President Obama.

      Our creditors ultimately will determine our real cost of borrowing.

      If no one will extend you credit, you go belly-up, like the former Soviet Union.

      Obama’s long suit is hardly macroeconomics, in case you haven’t noticed. The substance of your post is akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull, as President Obama has been to date the most wasteful squanderer of the U.S taxpayer’s money in all of U.S. history.

      • jeffrey62

        I’m confused by what you mean by

        ‘Our enemies ultimately will decide how much we need to spend on deterrence, not President Obama’

        could you elaborate?

        (new here, not a troll, seriously curious where your coming from)

        thanks

        • jonathanpulliam

          Sure. If we detect that our nominal enemies spend a lot on weapons and force training, this obligates our side to match that new capability. Otherwise, if we ignore their gains and allow ourselves to let our forces become out-dated, smaller, or less capable by comparison, we invite “pre-emption” or failure to deter acts of aggression which a posture of parity might have prevented. If our adversaries have a sounder economic footing than our own, moreover, their gains will represent less of a percentage of GDP, which must be viewed as highly advantageous as well. Rough parity in military readiness is probably O.K., but imbalances tend to be destabilizing, even provocative.

    • bbq

      The Air Force does not get paid more, nor does it get compensated for staying at army bases. Please stop dealing in unsubstantiated rumor as though it is fact.

    • Been There

      Chris – The only way to get “quicker response times”, based upon my experience dealing with the Army, is to provide them dedicated air power. I am not opposed to this in principle. However, the number of assets required to accomplish that is astronomical, as can be seen if you look at the ISR requirements in Afghanistan and the way assets have been allocated. One of the benefits of a dedicated air arm (regardless of which uniform is in charge), is the attempt to optimize the the limited assets available. In addition, you claim that the amount of “brass” will be reduced. If you look at the military experience with Joint Basing, the overhead requirements have actually increased, not decreased. You can’t just take large organizations, put them together and “hope” for savings. An individual’s span of control cannot just double without maintaining the same supervisory infrastructure. If you want to make cuts, that is fine, but what you propose is to provide more air with less overhead. I don’t see how you can make that happen except perhaps on the margins.

  • AF-AF

    I think I speak with a unique perspective a unique perspective on the matter. As a young AF pilot. I was raised by an Army artillery officer, and my first phase of pilot training was taught by the USN/USMC/USCG. i think the author has a few valid points. However, I would say that the entire Air Force doesn’t need to be folded just parts of it need to be given back to the Army (a rare point of view for some one in the Air Force). Here are a few reasons why I feel this way. The Air Force should have a priority to support the Army, yet we have failed in that in some ways. The Air Force seizing the C-27J from the Army and then cancelling it, and the way we continually try to kill the A-10 for example.. Either give the Army back tactical airlift and CAS or we need to fix it. Some things can go away: the ICBM force can be completely replaced by the Navy nuclear capable submarines. But there are some things neither branch has any experience with that folding the Air Force into other services will just simply be changing patches. Strategic airlift (C-17s, C-5s) and their supporting tankers (KC-10, KC-135) no other branch has experience with. Perhaps by consolidating support career fields that are the same no matter the branch (Medical, Finance) is where the money could be saved, but that would require more joint bases. New joint bases would require another BRAC which Congress will unfortunately never let happen. Furthermore, the jury is still out on whether joint bases have actually saved any money. Caveat: all my personal opinion.

    • Tyra Lynne Wahl

      Joint bases are already happening which I honestly think is a good thing. JB Charleston and JB Lewis-McChord are pretty good examples as to how a joint base concept is more efficient financially. No need for repetitive medical, finance and operations sectors.

      • watigger

        Tyra,
        Joint Basing has actually cost double what it was supposed to originally. No savings there.

      • Been there . . .

        Watigger is correct – if you look at JB Elmendorf – Ft Richardson, the consolidation did nothing except add an additional layer of overhead and did not save a single job.

      • jonathanpulliam

        Stars and Stripes called Lewis-McChord the most troubled base in the country. Among the many scandals was conspicuous failure at that base to effectively adhere to or direct compliance with official Congressional mandates on service-related traumatic head-injuries and battle fatigue.

  • RonShirtz

    The Air Force’s mission is just not to bomb things and shoot down planes. Airlifting people and equipment is a crucial function of the USAF, and should not be left to some programmed drone to do so. It still takes a experienced pilot to make the kind of calls when it comes to taking off and landing. I seriously doubt a drone could have landed those folks safety in the Hudson river like Captain Sullenberger did.

    Ground support too is important, even though the USAF loathes it. Perhaps, as others here have already said, its time to take that mission away from the USAF, and make air support an integral arm of the Army and Marines, just like the Navy has its carriers.

    • Bobofet

      And why can’t the Army airlift their own supplies? I’d imagine not having to deal with an entirely separate chain of command to have your own soldiers transported would be an efficiency gain.

      • Jeff

        Then who would Airlift the Navy? Would you have two Airlift commands?

  • Sinclair2

    The Air Force needs to review their rank and file as they relate to their job descriptions. All branches, except the Air Force, have warrant officer programs. In fact, the Air Force does not have warrant officers. Most Army aviators are warrants along with a few Marine helicopter pilots. Warrants are specialists focused on a specific job.

    Historically and currently, the Air Force has higher ranking officers as pilots drawing substantially higher pay. This is also true with the Navy. If an Army warrant officer is shot down and captured, he/she is not of high rank and therefore of less value to the enemy. Shooting down an Air Force colonel or a major (or a Navy commander) could be of value to an enemy intelligence community. I could go on but I’m sure most will agree this makes sense and it would save a huge amount of dollars in salaries.

  • wahoojed

    This is absolutely preposterous. We need the Air Force now and in the future more than ever. Having to co-ordinate the different branches of the military to fight together is the issue and it won’t change this even if the fixed wing aircraft are in the Army or the Navy. I think a more valid topic is to dissolve the Marine Corps as amphibious assault is as archaic as a calvary charge.

  • GodBlesstheUSA

    A foolish and dangerous idea that if enacted would unnecessarily increase casualties on the battlefield and diminish American air/space capabilities. Air power is the preferred delivery of American military power because it maximizes combat delivery and minimizes risk to life. And an independent Air Force maximizes air power effectiveness by allowing for unbiased, specialized air power doctrine and capability development. Ground and sea commanders are biased towards their ground and sea forces, to which they relegate airpower to support roles. They do not realize air power to its full potential in combat, and they tend to put more people, more often at the “tip of the spear”, meaning more of our precious sons and daughters get killed and maimed.

    On the other hand, take the first Gulf War for historical evidence of the effectiveness of an independent Air Force. The USAF-led air campaign decimated Saddam’s air defenses and ground forces to such a degree that his troops were surrendering in hordes and the US suffered very few casualties. This is the point when US military might became the fear and envy of the world and its high success and low casualty rates idealized Americans’ expectations for future conflicts.

    Mr. Farley seems to be trying to exploit the natural competitiveness between the services in order to create discord and tear down a key pillar of America’s military. I question his motives.

    Every service has its problems but the solution is not to knock down the USAF but to improve integration between the services and make them a more effective joint force.

    • Jeff

      Well said, you should write a book!!

  • KSJohnson

    At some point in the future he will become a deputy secretary – it looks like he is pro Navy – and will align himself politically and will be continuing the battle by some Navy and Army zelots that has gone on for years.
    The Air Force needs to pay attention to CAS and the noise from the Army would subside. The Navy has mission specific flying clubs supporting the Marines and protecting the fleet.

  • OwlCreekObserver

    The obvious solution is for the Air Force to absorb the Army. Problem solved.

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