Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Airland Battle

For your consideration, I refer you to scan Robert Farley's column at World Politics Review "A User's Guide to Inter-Service Conflict". As an article it's really just a stub. But I want to use it to suggest an idea.

Here's Farley on the the impact of two typical inter-service conflicts: "Whereas resource conflicts (emphasis mine) can shift a nation's strategic orientation, they typically leave a military organization with a set of tools appropriate to the solving of certain defense problems. They can even produce genuine moments of strategic decision-making. By contrast, mission conflicts hamstring the ability of military organizations to do the jobs that are asked of them, especially when civilians use the disputes to cut procurement."

In the article he gives an outline of several of these mission conflicts between the air forces and the army and navy of the U.S. and Great Britain. Most of us here are familiar at least in brief with these conflicts and the problems they generated.

Now the UK is in the position of having to make hard choices about military budgets, and I would argue that the U.S. will soon - or should now - have to think about the same sorts of cost/benefit analysis in reducing its military spending.

I want to consider returning the Air Force to the status of a Corps within the Army and Navy.

The Air Force has five overall or general missions:

1. Tactical support of land and sea operations; close air support, or CAS.
2. Local through theatre-level air defense and deep-attack missions in support of ground or naval operations. This would include interdiction and theatre air defense, air superiority, SEAD, interdiction, and deep tactical strike sorties.
3. Continental air defense, including aerial and satellite surveillance, and interception.
4. Strategic deep attack, to include nuclear attack.
5. Air transportation and air movement, from the tactical (theatre) to the strategic (intercontinental) levels

Of these five, it would seem to me that at least four could be done by a sub-service level Army Air Corps or Naval Air Arm. And I'd argue that one - strategic deep attack - is problematic as a mission at all.

Let's review.

1. CAS has always been a problem for the Air Force. It's not cool, it doesn't encourage wearing scarves or sunglasses, and, my dear, the people! I've often thought that one genuine innovation the USMC ever came up with was holding on to its own air arm. Marines tend to get pretty good air cover because their wing wipers are often Marines, or Navy pilots who train and fly with Marines. I can't see how returning these missions to the Army and Navy would be a problem.

2. The theatre-level missions are a little more dicey, in that they call for fighter and medium bomber aircraft that don't really intermesh directly with the ground or sea missions. They would require an Army theatre commander, or a Navy task force- or fleet-level commander to broaden their mental horizon beyond the grand tactical to the local strategic level. But I think this could be done. Difficult, but do-able.

3. I don't see how this can't become a naval mission. The USN was our continental defense prior to Kitty Hawk; I don't see how a naval officer couldn't be taught to think of the defense of North America in three dimensions rather than two.

4. The USN is already in control of a third or more of our ballistic missile defenses; putting squids in silos in North Dakota doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility. And I would argue that "deep strategic attack" - the sort of thing that reached its apogee in 1944-1945 over Germany and Japan - is really questionable. What does a manned strategic bomber really give you at this point, other than target practice for enemy air defenses and the chance of a POW? I would like you to consider that deep penetration bombing, like mass tactical airborne operations over defended airspace, is really a relict of WW2 whose utility in the 21st Century is not just unproven but unlikely.

So give the missiles and the AWACS and the DEW line to the Navy. And mothball the heavy bombers.

5. Military airlift is also a mission that does seem too "aerial" for the land and sea services. Yet the USN flies large four-engine patrol aircraft, and it would seem like an Army Air Corps could fly and maintain tactical transports of the C-130/C-17 variety, leaving intercontinental transport of the C-5 sort and aerial refueling the only thing I would consider a truly "aerial" sort of mission.

I realize that this is truly woolgathering; the lobbying power of the USAF, and the vested interests of the Air Force community, will prevent any serious attempt at distributing the USAF's capabilities between the other two major services.

But the problems, costs, and difficulties incurred by "mission conflicts" are real, and in time where the demand for the specialized "air" sorts of missions seem to be declining and likely to continue as such, and the costs of the specialized air force seem to be rising, I would consider we might want to at least give the idea enough thought to formulate reasons why it shouldn't go further.I wonder - if the SecDef, Army and Navy chiefs had known in 1947 what they know now...might they have had second thoughts?

(Disclaimer: for the record, my father was a naval aviator (V-12) 1944-1945, while I have never really forgiven the USAF for trying to bag the A-10 - beyond that I have no animus beyond the usual contempt for lower military life forms common to the Artillery, which as a branch lends tone to what would otherwise be a Vulgar Brawl)


  1. Chief,

    The heavy bombers are REALLY nice once you've beaten your opponents air defenses down to a certain point.

    Nothing says "I hate you" like 50+ tons of bombs coming out of one airplane and sending a dozen or so aircraft at one target.

    And, at ONLY $2 billion per plane, by DoD standards, we're basically buying them for free! (tongue firmly in cheek, just in case you were wondering)

  2. I agree the military will soon face resource constraints, but I don't see how getting rid of the Air Force results in saved resources. If you're going to eliminate specific programs or capabilities to save money, then that can be done and done more cheaply by keeping the Air Force given there will be substantial transition costs in getting rid of the service.

    And if you're going to go that route, why not go whole hog and eliminate all the services and bring them under a single organization with branches based on capabilities? While we're at it, why don't we eliminate the anachronistic officer-enlisted class distinction too?

    More realistically, I think we could consolidate and standardize administrative and personnel functions across the services. We could seriously look at our officer corps and seriously question the need for as many officers as we have now. I know there are several areas that have officers simply because of politics. We must have some serious procurement reform - all the services have proven themselves incapable of competently managing procurement. This is a very serious problem as the incompetence is going to generate equipment gaps over the next few years. We should separate military-related R&D from procurement - no more signing up to buy capabilities that don't yet exist (Hello F-22 and FCS). The services should only be able to buy technology that is state-of-the-art, not 2 generations ahead of state-of-the-art.

    And really, if we're going to get rid of a service, why not the Marines? If the US somehow doesn't need a distinct air service, why does the Navy need it's own Army?

  3. Pluto,
    Is warfare really an issue of hate?

  4. Get rid of the army/navy/air force.
    Combine them all into one integrated administration. Make everyone wear sky blue hats, green jackets and navy blue pants.

    Chop an entire layer out of the administrative pyramid at one fell swoop. Plus, given all the ensuing bureaucratic chaos, they would have a hard time organizing themselves well enough to buy a lot of new toys. Win-win all around.

  5. OK. So let's go down the list:

    Pluto likes heavy bombers for their...payload. I agree that they're nice to have, But I would respond that

    1. "Strategic bombing", as a means of exerting national will, remains problematic. Certainly it forces the country being attacked to expend resources defending things like cities and powerplants that might otherwise be used on tanks, artillery, or gunboats. But the cost of strategic bombing is pretty high, too, and the returns seem to be marginal when you consider that ALCMs/SLCMs can usually do the same work.

    So I wouldn't consider keeping the B-2s an argument for keeping a USAF.

    Andy: I've argued for a massive downsizing in the officer corps since I was a buck sergeant. We have as many GOs now as we did in 1945, and the commissioned ranks are proportionally bloated from there. This is a bad thing for, if nothing else, the effect it has on everything from procurement (where program managers become "captured" by the contractors they're supposed to be overseeing) to policy (where there are way too many officers with nothing to do all day but fiddle with policy).

    But this is aside from the notion of changing the overall force structure.

    I'll agree that there are are good arguments on both sides. The cost of decomissioning the USAF would be substantial (although I'd suggest that it might not be all that herculean; a fair number of organizations could be transferred wholesale to the sister services, and the highest levels of the USAF could be just DXed.

    The critical improvement would be to change the current mission/budget dynamic. Look at the military budget allocation for the past 9 years. Even though the Army has done the huge bulk of the work in the "GWOT", the USAF the next, and the USN probably the least - not that this is an indictment of the services, it's just the reality of fighting land wars in Asia - the services have been budgeted at about 33% of the swag, give or take a couple of percent.


  6. (con't from above)

    The bottom line is that people don't live in the air. We live on land, and use the water for movement. What happens over head is necessarily subordinate to what happens on the land and, to a lesser extent, on the seas.

    But having three equal services turns that logic on its head. The USAF, by the very nature of the DoD organization, MUST fight for the consideration of its aerial missions as coequal to the land and sea missions.

    Change the organization, and you change the dynamic. The military organization will reflect the geographic and human reality. Seydlitz would probably tell us that this would help us formulate more sensible defense strategies, too.

    And the USMC? I'll agree in that, too. There's no real reason for the Navy to have its own Army, and the USMC is, in a sense, living off the island campaigns of 1942-1945, and is helped by the fact that the U.S. public has conveniently forgotten the U.S. Army divisions like the 41st. 7th, 77th, and 96th, which went in over the beach just like the gyrenes. Given the changes in technology the need for an over-the-beach specialized assault is, I think, much like mass tactical airborne combat jumps, a relict of WW2.

    Oh, and while we're at it, I'd argue that keeping an entire airborne division is a fairly spendy anachronism. The airborne assaults we've conducted in the past 60 years have usually been luxuries and noncombat (the jump, that is, which is usually in an undefended locality adjacent to the tactical objective. The Sicily/Normandy sorts of behind-the-enemy-lines type jumps, given the improvement in SAM technology, are really becoming suicidal) and, particularly, being done in brigade-size elements or smaller. Three separate airborne brigades would seem like a reasonable alternative, and would allow the USA to remove the elaborate superstructure of corps and divisional jump-qualified units.

  7. Ael: Realistically? I'd agree to that, with the caveat that the army/navy skills divide really is almost too wide to close. There's a reason that soldiers have been soldiers and sailors sailors since Roman times.

    But the Romans managed to swap them, so it's not impossible. Just unlikely, given the difference in technical and tactical skillsets.

    But - I would argue that we SHOULD be looking at the integration of the two above the Army/Fleet command levels. A theatre commander should be a "purple suit" officer. So should a MACOM commander, and the "Joint Chief" structure is so ridiculous as to be insulting to the public's intelligence. At the continental level the land and naval forces really do form a continuum, and we might want to think about how to better organize that.

    And I'd argue that there are organizations, like the service medical commands, transport, logistics, pay and administraion, that can and could be consolidated. Why not?

  8. Take a look at how Canada organizes their armed forces: separate army, navy, air force units with unified support and command structure. It eliminates 4x duplication of the upper command structure, reduces the number of officers and civilian bureaucrats, and combines logistics/support units for additional personnel savings. And from what Ive seen (I used to do joint exercises with their SAR and tactical air units) it seems to work pretty well.

    Apart from that, give the Army CAS - the AF doesn't want it anyway, it just doesn't want to let any of the fixed-wing franchise go to the Army. Strategic bombing (manned) is as dead a concept as the phalanx. Air transport, satellites, etc. would be part of the joint forces support branch. Tac Air might need to be semi-autonomous, but it's still a support function for ground ops, not an end in itself. So I could see the Air Force as unnecessary.

    And for what it's worth, I'm ex-AF, though my father was AAC in 42-45.

  9. I should clarify my earlier comment, I wasn't arguing for using heavy bombers for strategic air. I agree with the Chief that Strat Air is Billy Mitchell's pipe dream that never died and never did any good.

    My argument is that the B-52 and B-1 have served well in the tactical battlefield, dropping huge piles of bombs in Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where the opponent doesn't have any real anti-air capabilities.

    Although I'd note that with the arguable exception of Kuwait that we lost all of those wars so perhaps keeping such a capability is a bad idea. It tempts governments into making bad decisions thinking they have more options than they really do.

  10. Chief: I suspect that there is less of a skills divide between Army and Navy then you might think.

    Our (Artillery) regimental clerk was a sailor by trade. His fixation on salt water didn't stop him from being an excellent clerk a thousand miles from the sea.

    Once you get a few steps away from the lanyard a lot of overlap quickly shows up.

    It took a while for integration to sort itself out, but it does seem to work, more or less, for Canada.

    The biggest structural defect comes from the airplane drivers (which have to be officers). Since there are more drivers than airplanes, you have to find staff jobs for them. This skews the overall population of officers.

    Given that there is still a 'tribal' bias in the infrastructure, air force types get a slightly easier ride on the career treadmill.

  11. AEL,
    There is no reason why pilots could not be enlisted persons. We just have come to expect them to be o's.
    Why not make them WO slots? Aren't they technicians like most WO's?
    The Army has evolved WO's into commanders, so this is a feasible extension of the concept.

  12. Chief,

    Is your basic argument is that the Army's budget should be much bigger than the Air Force's since people live on land? Or is it that you don't think it will be possible to cut programs you think are unnecessary without eliminating the Air Force? Or something else, I'm a bit confused.

  13. Andy: My argument is that the structural organization (USA/USN/USAF) ensures that regardless of the geopolitical goals of the U.S. each service will get approximately 33% of the budget pie.

    Eliminate the USAF and you get the Army and Navy sharing 50%. With that division it's easier to justify shifting, say, 10% from the Navy to the Army when you're fighting a land war. Try doing that when the Navy and AF are being asked to go from 33% to 28%.

    But we're fussing with details here.

    I fully realize that this will never happen simply because of the massive inertia that gets built up by what amounts to a colossal federal jobs program. It would be impossible even to enact P. Harris' idea of a unified command structure at the top.

    This is purely a debater's forum: "Resolved: that the U.S. Air Force as a separate military service is not conducive to geopolitical and strategic planning".

    I've laid out the reasons I consider valid for NOT breaking out the sky as a unique battlefield as opposed to simply another avenue of approach for land and sea forces. What I'm is trying to see if anyone here can make any genuinely valid geopolitical and/or strategic arguments for retaining a separate Air Force.

  14. Pluto: I agree that the delivery of heavy ordnance is a good thing to have, militarily. My argument is that the cruise missile, the medium bomber, and the CBU have replace the arclight. The cost and limited usefulness of the heavies otherwise make them very expensive to maintain just to blow up a grid square or two every decade or so.

  15. I'm going to back away from the comments now. What I'd really like to hear, rather than us nibbling around the edges, is the large-scale logical "counterargument"; why SHOULD we retain a separate USAF? What does that gain us on seydlitz's grand strategic/national goals level, compared to the "mission conflict" problems it causes?

  16. FDChief-

    I wasn't going to comment on this one, but since you asked . . .

    The most recent USNSS . . .

    doesn't list any "strategic goals" that I could find, only continuing "interests" on page 7. This essentially comes to us being able to do whatever we wish to do and maintain hegemony and deny any one else the ability to interfere with our "interests". If you read those interests though, only defense of the actual borders of the US lends itself to military action per say. The other interests refer to economic, political, and "soft" power (influence) and don't really need military force/coercion, in fact such action would be in many cases counter-productive to maintaining/achieving those interests . . .

    So, if the first step is to identify what the US government's view of what our strategic goals are, we come to something of a contradiction in terms of current force structure, or am I missing something?

  17. Chief,

    Why is any one service more expendable than the others? If there's a purpose for getting rid of one and not the others, then what is it?

    Deconstructing things a bit, any military force, but especially ours, is a diverse set of capabilities that span a wide range of operating environments. Those capabilities require certain competencies to develop and operate. For example, would you trust the Navy to develop and operate the next tank, or the Air Force to develop and operate the next destroyer? Probably not.

    My point here is that the common assumption in the various disband-the-Air Force arguments I've heard over the years (and Farley, btw, has a long history of advocacy for that goal and this latest effort is different only in its sophistication) is that the Air Force's particular capabilities do not require specialized expertise to develop and operate or, alternatively, that the Army and/or the Navy are as equal to the task as the Air Force is. Having spent time in both the Navy and the Air Force and after many years of listening to Army folks talk about air power in terms that lost relevancy in the 1970's, I tend to think it's better to have a distinct air arm than not have one.

    That's not to say the current arrangement is perfect. For instance, I think the Army should be able to develop and operate its own CAS aircraft, provided they are interoperable with aircraft from the other services. There are undoubtedly some other adjustments that should happen. I'm not afraid of a little bit of redundancy and it seems that an abhorrence to redundancy drives a lot of divisions between who develops which capabilities.

    Finally, there is a difference between administrative division of capabilities and use in wartime. Ideally, who makes and operates whatever capability shouldn't matter much as long as the COCOM or whomever is running the actual show gets the mix of capabilities they need.

  18. Step One is the determination of necessary missions. As I often pointed out to my troops, "flying" is not a mission. It's a tool for accomplishing a mission, such as transportation, recon or fire support. More than one branch of service might indeed have to "fly" to accomplish their greater overall mission, but not all flying is necessarily the province of any one branch.

    As to reducing duplicate overhead, I would venture to guess that when all is said and done, to support the myriad tasks for which our military is responsible, the duplication is not as profound as imagined.

  19. seydlitz: I think where I stand on this is that the problem inherent in a stand-along USAF is that by the nature of the beast it will skew any sort of strategic thought. Strategies are driven by political goals, political goals by things like economics, social organization, and political outlook as they exist on land and those littoral areas that impinge on the land.

    So the real basis for applying military strategy (including in the planning stage) to the world around us is greatly influenced by the land as it shapes the people who live on it, somewhat less influenced by the sea, and not particularly at all by the airspace above it.

    So the "air mission", as Al points out, is really just an adjunct to the mission of applying military power to attain the political ends on land and the nearby sea.

    But when you have one entire military service whose end-all and be-all is the wild bleu yonder, that service is going to have to fight to include aerial activity as a part of the overall strategy, regardless of its utility or even necessity. That's a feature, not a bug.

    It's like the effect the ARNG has on the Army. Everybody who has worked in or with the Guard knows about all the fucked up things about it that waste tax money, warp the way missions get run and generally fuck things up. But the Guard Bureau is a monster, and the governors love the huge fucking jobs program for their states that is the Guard. So nothing changes and nothing will ever change.

    But I've never heard anyone make a valid case - on PURELY MILITARY GROUNDS - for why the Guard Bureau is and should be the way it is. My experience, Andy, rather than "the various disband-the-Air Force arguments" having this or that level of merit, is that I've never heard a truly successful, cogent, and convincing keep-the-Air Force argument that wasn't based on some sort of Guard Bureauish combination of tradition, difficulty-of-bureaucratic-execution, unconcern or outright indifference.

    What I'm looking for here is a straightforward counterargument. What are the good geopolitical and military policy/military strategy reasons for having an "Air Force" rather than subordinate air arms of the land and sea componants of our nation's military power?"

    Won't anyone stand up and defend the poor wing wipers?

  20. Chief-

    There is a place for an "far over the horizon" singular service covering transport and attack. As to "air supremacy", the Navy needs to be able to provide their own by nature of their operating environment. The Army could do a similar organic mission, but I'd throw the AF a bone and leave that to them for support of Army opns.

  21. Hello. This is my first blog comment.

    Let me start by saying I have never been in the military. So I appologize in advance for my ignorance.
    I just have a general interest in geo-politics and therefore strategy. Been following this blog for some time with interest and have learnt a great deal.

    My question is: why not do it the other way around? Keep the air force, with all fixed wing and end navy and army fixed wing. Would streamline training and managing resourses. Wouldn't that be possible?

    Right. Let the pounding begin.

  22. Al: As I was writing this, the most "Air Force-y" sort of missions I could think of were long-range transport and deep attack. I still can't quite settle those comfortably on either of the senior services. But they don't seem to me to be a sufficient reason to keep the USAF in business, if that's all they're gonna do.

    I would argue that the USA needs to reclaim the tacair mission, since the USAF seems to constantly try and 1) offload, or 2) do it as shoddily as possible. And part of having your own attack A/C would be protecting them, and that sort of makes the air superiority mission the Army's by default. I agree that it's not a clear call.

    Thjorne: No apologies required.

    What you're suggesting is, in effect, the current status quo for the USA. The Army's fixed-wing A/C are really notional, small passenger jets and the like.

    The Navy would have a real problem if you took its air wing away from it, simply because it often operates in places where having USAF A/C on station overhead would be difficult (due to the lack of ground facilities available) and dangerous (due to the short loiter time and the high likelihood of a smart enemy figuring out when the gaps in the CAP coverage occurred).

    It could still be done, mind you.

    But the topic here isn't so much "who should own the A'C" as it is "Does having an Air Force with all the A/C tend to make us do imprudent things with our geopolitical/strategic planning and/or military resource allocation?"

    So, for me, the problem with your suggestion isn't that it doesn't streamline training and resource management. It's that it further seperates the "air mission" from land- and seapower. My original point is, vice the Farley article, that this creates mission conflicts that interfere with accurate and efficient strategic planning and execution.

  23. Chief,

    I think where I stand on this is that the problem inherent in a stand-along USAF is that by the nature of the beast it will skew any sort of strategic thought.

    How so? Can you demonstrate how the USAF is "skewing" strategic thought? If anything, the USAF is providing needed balance to the love affair the Army is having with COIN and armed nation-building.

    So the "air mission", as Al points out, is really just an adjunct to the mission of applying military power to attain the political ends on land and the nearby sea.

    All "missions" (what I would call capabilities) are subordinate to the political ends. Political ends are political ends. The idea that there are distinct "land" and "sea" political ends does not make any sense to me.

    But when you have one entire military service whose end-all and be-all is the wild bleu yonder,

    Well, that is your opinion. I shared that opinion when I was in the Navy. Once I got into the Air Force, my perspective changed. Not that the AF doesn't have problems - it does and serious ones - but they are not problems that are solved by getting rid of the whole shebang.

    that service is going to have to fight to include aerial activity as a part of the overall strategy, regardless of its utility or even necessity. That's a feature, not a bug.

    There is definitely parochialism in the services - all of them. What is so significant about USAF parochialism that the solution is to disband that service and not the others?

    Also, aerial activity is going to be part of any operation regardless. The services organize, administer and maintain forces separately, but the vast majority of the time their capabilities are interdependent and operate together. The argument that some capabilities are inherently subordinate to others is like arguing the rifle is subordinate to the bullet or vice-versa.


  24. part 2:

    But I've never heard anyone make a valid case - on PURELY MILITARY GROUNDS - for why the Guard Bureau is and should be the way it is.

    I'm in the Air Guard and I share your frustration with them but you can't make arguments about bureaucratic organization on purely military grounds. There's a whole lot of shit throughout the entire military that's done solely for bureaucratic and/or political reasons. I agree it sucks, but I'm not sure how it can be avoided. Lessened, maybe, avoided, no.

    What are the good geopolitical and military policy/military strategy reasons for having an "Air Force" rather than subordinate air arms of the land and sea componants of our nation's military power?

    Again, why is one service expendable but not the others? What, for instance, are the good geopolitical and military policy/military strategy reasons for having an "Army" rather a "military?" If the problem is bureaucratic influence on policy that is something you're going to have no matter how forces are organized. IMO, those questions don't make a lot of sense because bureaucratic influence can't be eliminated.

    That is all secondary, IMO, to the need for competent military forces. To achieve that requires the ability to build and maintain operational expertise and procure the utilize the equipment necessary for a particular military task. For that purpose, it makes sense to me to divide responsibility based on the physical elements in which the forces operate. I question the ability of an organization focused in one physical area to competently foster expertise for another. Hence my examples of Navy developing the next tank or the Air Force the next destroyer. No one would suggest that either alternative is reasonable, yet we are to assume the Army is institutionally capable of taking over everything the Air Force does?

    How about some real-world examples. The MC-12 Liberty program was originally going to be an Army program - an ISR complement to the Guardrail devoted to tactical intelligence. The SECDEF took it away and gave it to the Air Force because the Army was incapable of getting it into the field on the SECDEF's timetable. The Army lacked the capacity to make it happen. The MC-12 might yet go to the Army at some point (it makes sense in the long run since it is a tactical asset), but right now the Army can't do it and won't be able to for a few years at least.

    Then there is the Army Sky Warrior UAV program which wouldn't exist without the USAF predator. Predator and several other UAV's all came out of an organization called DARO in the mid-1990's - an organization that was intended to be the NRO for airborne ISR platforms and would have controlled development and acquisition of these platforms. From the beginning, the Army opposed DARO, refusing even to fully man its alloted billets, and DARO subsequently died. Predator continued to be developed and improved jointly by the Air Force and CIA until OIF when the Army suddenly became interested. Last I heard, most of the Army's Sky Warriors are still flown and maintained by contractors.

    In order to convince me that the Air Force is dispensable, you need to convince me that the Army is capable of managing and maintaining existing Air Force capabilities as well as developing future capabilities. Frankly, I don't think the Army has the mindset for it.

    Finally, look at how other military's around the world organize their forces. Almost all of them have separate air arms and they don't seem to be a hindrance to their national strategy.

  25. Chief

    I agree with you. A separation of services leads to a somewhat narrow vision of the overall strategy. And all the political fighting for resourses that follows. The AF does seem to have a problem justifying itself.
    The result, since politicians are really not the most cue up people on military strategy is a bundle of stuff passing as strategy but with lots of holes in it.(see UKs latest SDSR)

    My idea was not to get rid of the carriers, but can their airwing be AF? In Britain, for instance, part of the Harriers that lately were flown from the carriers actually belonged to the RAF. And they experimented with flying army Apaches from it as well.

    So, would it be possible to have an organization where, basically, what floats is navy, what flies is AF and the army gets everything with weels.

    I realize this wouldn't be that far from actually ending the separation between services but maybe easier to implement that just end one of them.

    I come from a small country so my perspective might be a bit distorted with communality and things like "why should we pay for 3 pilot schools?". But the army has different arms. Can't the AF be the same?

  26. Chief,

    I would argue that the USA needs to reclaim the tacair mission

    That depends on what you mean by "tacair." For example, the primary "tacair" for much of the first year of OEF was the B-52 and B-1. Those planes are still flying "tacair" missions today. Another example: until the A-10 got upgraded to the C model, it was actually an inferior CAS aircraft in several respects to F-15's, F-16's and even the bombers because it didn't have a sensor pod, integrated avionics and the ability to use some precision munitions.

    In other words, platform distinctions aren't nearly as relevant as they once were given the advances in sensors and weapons. The only real difference between "tactical" and "strategic" aircraft nowadays is range, payload, and the ability to carry nukes.

    That said, as I mentioned earlier, I think the Army should be able to get some of its own CAS aircraft. The Air Force is opposed to that because it sees that as the camel's nose under the tent. I think AF fears of a conspiracy by the Army to reabsorb it are overwrought, but the never-ending drip-drip calls to disband the service are not exactly helping the institutional paranoia.

    The AF and Army have a different focus - the Army is primarily concerned about the tactical battle and so it focuses on CAS and other tactical requirements - the deep battle and supporting theater-level efforts is secondary. For the AF, the deep battle and the theater is the focus. Both are needed, so it's a question of emphasis. With no Air Force, it seems to me it's likely the Army would let deep-battle and theater capabilities wither, just like the AF frequently let CAS capabilities wither. That's why I think the Army needs it's own CAS. The Air force is providing good support now, but it's likely that institutional biases will return. I think it's fair to say the Army has it's own biases and IMO those biases would result in little support for current AF capabilities for the same reasons that CAS suffered under the AF.

  27. In the best of all worlds, the US Air Force would indeed be resubordinated to the US Army, principally because winning wars ultimately involves taking and hold land. Charlie Dunlap and the other air supremacy warriors are woefully wrong in their theses.

    However, in today's environment, I would not do away with the separate air force, for the same reasons why I do not support another sound, reasonable idea, that of subordination of the USMC to the US Army. Face it, amphibious assaults are so yesterday. And, damn it, that EFV turkey is costing the taxpayers a lot of $$.

    FD chief asks for the counterargument to doing away with the separate air force. Well, Chief, the unfortunate reality is that your service and mine, that vaunted US Army, has become about as unintellectual as one can imagine over the years. As Andy suggests, the reality is that the Army is no longer sophisticated enough to develop and manage the high tech toys turned out by the USAF. "Muddy boots" mentalities and the love of COIN have seemingly kind of turned the Army into a haven for those who'd rather not think too deeply.

    Why not move the Marines to the Army? Well, unfortunately, the one thing the Marines do very, very well is adapt to military discipline and fight very well. They're also able to do it on a shoestring budget, even including those high-tech dudes flying CAS. The Army doesn't do discipline well—esp in CSS—and it's demonstrating some serious weaknesses in fighting prowess. Not in bravery, etc., but in actually thinking through tactical situations. And, hey, the Army does nothing on a shoestring budget.

    I think our Army has some very deep-seated problems. It, more than any of the other services, desperately needs to take a breather and somehow find itself some leadership worth a shit. It also needs to find a way to better train leaders.

  28. Andy, Al: I won't argue you about the "mindset" f the U.S. Army circa 2010. We have worked hard at shoving ourselves into that bonehead "warrior" box. can we forget that it was the Army and Navy that STARTED the damn thing? Andy, the Army Air Corps put thousands of aircraft, from wooden gliders to heavy bombers in the air over Europe and the Pacific, trained aircrews, developed airframes and air tactics! Are you saying that all this ingenuity just up and left the building in 1948?

    So most of your argument boils down to "The Army is too fucked up to do this high-tech stuff"...but it and the Navy did it all back in the day? Why is it so impossible to imagine it changing back? If the Army is so intellectually ate up, Al (and I tend to believe you), then would wouldn't this be a perfect way to help fix that?

    I'll that if you put the blue-suiters back in OD and Navy khaki they'd do just as good a job as their granddads did back in 1944. And it might kick-start some Army brains, too.

    And why couldn't doing the same thing with the USMC help galvanize the Army?

    Again - we know this won't happen. But I'm not hearing arguments FOR why what the USAF does is so unique that it HAS to be its own self - most of what I'm hearing is that "The Army couldn't/wouldn't/didn't do this...". But that seems more like an argument for using the opportunity to develop a land/sea force with the ingenuity of the air force, rather than breaking out the latter so it can not only fight for resources but act as a third party in operational planning?


    And finally "...why is one service expendable but not the others? What, for instance, are the good geopolitical and military policy/military strategy reasons for having an "Army" rather a "military?"

    Well, technically, none.

    But the physical reality is that, as you point out, political objectives should drive the strategic and resource allocation bus. And political objectives are acted out on land, and in some cases in the littoral parts of the oceans, because that's where the people are. Everything else is really just support for the guy on the ground; possession is 9/10ths of the law, in war as in a courtroom, and ground troops are the bailiff's men.

    So a "military" would really need to be designed around a land/ground force, with the air and naval components tailored around the land campaign. Right? Since nothing lives in the air other than birds and nothing in the deep ocean except fish and Kevin Costner in "Waterworld"?

  29. "The AF and Army have a different focus - the Army is primarily concerned about the tactical battle and so it focuses on CAS and other tactical requirements - the deep battle and supporting theater-level efforts is secondary. For the AF, the deep battle and the theater is the focus. Both are needed, so it's a question of emphasis.

    With no Air Force, it seems to me it's likely the Army would let deep-battle and theater capabilities wither, just like the AF frequently let CAS capabilities wither. That's why I think the Army needs it's own CAS. The Air force is providing good support now, but it's likely that institutional biases will return. I think it's fair to say the Army has it's own biases and IMO those biases would result in little support for current AF capabilities for the same reasons that CAS suffered under the AF."

    Are you sure?

    Or perhaps, being made responsible for thinking not just tens but hundreds of klicks ahead of the FLOT, might the Army - or let's now call it the "U.S. Landwarforce" - start to grow into the job? I mean, isn't that the history? The USAAC started as a bunch of hedge-hoppers in biplanes strafing trenches and ended up flying streams of B-29s hundreds of miles over the Japanese homeland.

    I'd argue that the one is as likely as the other...with the added benefit that hopfully a USLF would finally stick a fork in the whole goofy "strategic bombing" farrago that has killed so many women and kiddies.

  30. Chief-

    It's a matter of necessary and realistic "core competencies", and unfortunately, they are indeed significantly different across the four services. Thus, as Andy agrees, the Army would benefit from an organic CAS capability. Even if we merged everyone into the "FINKs" (Flying Infantryman with Naval Knowledge), there would need to be separate bureaus (or whatever you want to call them) to develop doctrinal application of the various elements of the military, just as the Army has branches with proponency for their sandbox.

    The screwup comes when technology trumps mission or doctrine. As I mentioned above, flying is a technology, not a mission or doctrine. Some missions will require flying, and the aircraft and organizations required to perform those missions can be distinctly different. There is a sound case for a separate USAF, but it doesn't include putting all flying under the USAF, just those missions that are reasonably separate from the land and sea battle function.

  31. BTW, it's not just the USAF that thinks that if it flies, it's the pilots' province. The Army finally caved to the Aviation Branch and rolled MEDEVAC out of the Medical Service Corps and into Aviation Branch. Now, combat support aviation commanders operate the air ambulances, not health care providers. If the means of transport determines the owning branch, then why aren't ground ambulances in the Transportation Corps?

    I, for one, do not buy this idea.

  32. "Finally, look at how other military's around the world organize their forces. Almost all of them have separate air arms and they don't seem to be a hindrance to their national strategy"

    I suspect that a lot of the organizations have more to do with how WE do it then how a military organization might be best organized. And most nations neither need nor have much in the way of national strategy beyond local defense.

  33. Al: Frankly, I'd buy the idea of a USAF that would be nothing but air superiority fighters, long distance transports, air tankers, and a handful of heavy bombers. If we wanted we could let 'em keep the missile silos and the satellites.

    Give the Army the CAS, tactical transport, UAVs, and tactical fighters to defend them. And the Navy gets to keep all their current aviation assets.

  34. "So, would it be possible to have an organization where, basically, what floats is navy, what flies is AF and the army gets everything with wheels."

    That's pretty much what we have now, Thjorne. And my question at the very beginning was; why break out the flying things, when there really is no geopolitical/strategic objectives in the air?

    I think Al and Andy make a good case for needing a separate service to handle the aerial tasks that span the globe; long-distance bombing, aerial refuelling, strategic airlift, and the near-earth space satellites. But ISTM that the tactical flight tasks; close air support, THAAD, intermediate/deep tactical strikes and SEAD, tactical transport, and recnnaissance, work best if tightly integrated into the force they support.

    (Note: sorry, Any, but I've worked with both A-10 and F-16 drivers, and you can talk about electronics all day and I'll still take the slower moving A/C with the armored cockpit that can get down right into the treetops. My one experience with Navy A-7s was just as bad; they shot up the 82nd jump TOC on Grenada because they were coming in too hot and mistook one white house on a small hill for another)

    The critical thing, to me, is clearly establishing the principle that the aerial missions support either the ground tactical or the naval operational planning. IMO we need a USAF whose first priority isn't "How can we get more/bigger/faster/cooler fighters and heavy bombers"...which is the inevitable first priority of a separate service. Sorry, USAF, but you need to start thinking like the servant, not the independent master...

  35. Chief

    I agree with you. But my point goes a bit deeper than that.

    Playing the ignorant outsider, here's how I see it. With a few non sequitur arguments.

    If we think of the Navy and USMC together, we get a service that's pretty close to full spectrum capability. If the Army gets fast jets too then it won't be too far off. I can certainly imagine them asking for a few escorts for their LSVs.
    Pretty soon you get two services competing for increasingly dwindling resourses on every aspect of warfare. Even for the US, that's a bit of a stretch.

    I guess my final point is that maybe we should start really looking at ending or reducing all separation between services. AF, Army or Navy as just different arms. Just like infantry, cavalry or artillery.

  36. Thjorne-

    Having served in the Corps and the Army, and having been treated to a Naval War College education, I can assure you that there is a good reason for the Army and Navy Departments being separate entities, as well as the USMC being a part of the Navy. Significantly different tasks that need full time and different endeavors.

    One needs to go back to the "birthing" of the USAF to see what took place. Other than the Army Ground Forces light observation aircraft, all non-Naval aviation was USAAC. The USAAC had become a virtually autonomous branch of the Army. When the decision was made to make Air Power a separate and co-equal service, all the non-organic aviation went to the USAF because it had been that way in WWII. The notion was that Army Corps or Field Armies would be supported (CAS) by aircraft from numbered Air Forces, as attachment to lower level forces just hadn't been done. Times have changed, doctrine has changed and foes have changed, but the USA to USAF relationship has, other than rotary wing, remained quite static.

  37. I would add that part of the change that I think helped finalize the divorce was losing the L-19/O-1/O-2 aircraft that acted as artillery FOs and (in the case of the L-5/L-19), air ambulances.

    Even though they were little putt-putts, they were the last link between the USA and USAF, a sort of grandchild of the USAAC. Now that they're gone, it's much easier for the USAF to completely compartment (i.e. ignore when inconvenient) their ground-support tasks.

    And Al makes a very good point; when I was in service we almost never worked with the same CAS outfits twice. So we had to relearn the FACs and their drivers every time we went to Yakima. It's not trivial - for example, we had one F-16 driver I remember back in '95 who would resolutely ignore our fires, making his gun runs when we had projos in the air in his vicinity. Little bullet, big sky, I know, but still...can you imagine the shitstorm if a USA FA unit shot down a USAF A/C over Washington state?

  38. Thjorne: I will second Aviator47 except in this: I think that the US should really consider replacing the Joint Chiefs organization with a truly integrated "purple" strategic planning and allocation organization. While the ground and sea operations are very distinct, in littoral areas especially the interconnections become less important and the coordination more so. So at the MACOM level I think losing the distinction between the services would benefit operational efficiency.

    Won't happen, but it's a good itea, IMO...

  39. Chief,

    Are you sure?

    I'm sure there are institutional biases. I'm sure that those biases will have effects on how the service prioritizes the missions it's responsible for. Given the dubious benefits of reintegrating the AF with the Army I'm sure that is not something I'd like to roll the dice on.

    And just to be clear, it's the lack of clear benefits to integrating the forces that is the main reason why I oppose it. You've talked about strategy but you haven't shown how having an AF negatively affects strategy as compared to the alternative. One might suggest that a defense establishment dominated by the Army would see the fulfillment of strategy in terms of committing ground forces. Given the current COIN-centric bent of the Army, it would seem to me that's a recipe for more stupid land wars in Asia.

    You've talked about the budget, but if you believe the Army will provide the same basic capabilities as the AF does today then the budget would be largely unaffected. So what's the point, unless the goal is really to diminish air capabilities in order to make a bigger Army, which is what Farley would like.


  40. cont:

    Finally, I think your last paragraph doesn't make any sense:

    The critical thing, to me, is clearly establishing the principle that the aerial missions support either the ground tactical or the naval operational planning. IMO we need a USAF whose first priority isn't "How can we get more/bigger/faster/cooler fighters and heavy bombers"...which is the inevitable first priority of a separate service. Sorry, USAF, but you need to start thinking like the servant, not the independent master...

    Master and servant? Seriously? Your perception of the Air Force is seriously misplaced in my view. Granted, I used to think the same way when I was in the Navy.

    Air forces often, but not always, support ground and naval forces. More often though, the relationship is one of mutual dependence, not subordination.

    Regardless, even if the AF is required to supplicate itself before the Army, how would that be expressed in action? How, exactly, is the AF not filling it's subservient role?

    The Army and Air Force have been at war together for almost 10 years now. Is the Air Force failing to live up to it's responsibilities? I don't think it is, but feel free to ask anyone who's deployed recently. Of course I may be biased because my current job is all about supporting the ground forces. That job isn't a master and servant relationship, anymore than a running back is a "servant" for the quarterback. It's about filling one's responsibilities as part of a team. Maybe you don't realize that the ground forces are actually calling the shots. They decide what my UAV looks at, they decide if we or another aircraft will strike a target. It's the ground force Commander that sets the requirement for how much CAS he needs and how quickly that CAS must respond to a troops-in-contact situation. It's the ground force that sets the collection priorities for our ISR assets, once the joint commander get's his cut. The air component is meeting those requirements for both the ground and joint commanders and we are able to do that because of the specialized expertise, training and equipment we possess that the ground force doesn't, that the Army is incapable of providing. Both commanders get the tactic effects they want without having to deal with all the bullshit and complexity to create those effects. That you believe the Army is capable of doing as well doesn't make it true. My direct experience says otherwise - if you need examples, I'm happy to relate some.

    The proof is in the pudding, Chief. Where is the Air Force failing today in terms of it's military responsibilities and where, exactly, is it's support to the other components lacking? What is the problem you are trying to solve? It seems to me, particularly with your "master" and "servant" comments, that you are less concerned with military efficacy than something else entirely.

    And no, every other major military in the world doesn't have a separate Air Force simply because we do. Some of them had separate air forces before we did....

  41. Chief,

    CAS and fire support today is not anything like it was in the when you last experienced it.

    Secondly, F-16's were, for a time, better in some respects than A-10's because F-16's could provide CAS at night and in all weather thanks to targeting pods, avionics, C2 datalinks, and precision weapons. F-16's can transmit video (EO and IR) of what they are looking at to the guys on the ground as well as the local TOC which greatly improved everyone's SA and made coordinated operations much better. The A-10 received those upgrades with the new "c" model which put it back on top as the best CAS platform (except maybe the AC-130).

  42. Andy: What I see is that the USAF often lobbies for an air war portion of a conflict because, well, because that's what it does. So we wind up with a relatively huge AF campaign in the RVN that is probably counterproductive to the actual conduct of a counterinsurgency but employ a lot of zoomies. We get a similar air campaign in Iraq in 2003 that ends up being counterproductive in terms of both killing civilians and flattening what's left of the infrastructure while not really doing all that much to assist the land war (remember how many systems were claimed in Iraq in '91 and in Kosovo eight years later and how many were actually killed? I do...).

    I honestly don't know whether these air campaigns are because the NCA/Joint Chiefs/theatre commanders ask for them or want them or whether the USAF asks and lobbies for them.

    But, again, I would be more than willing to entertain the notion that placing air war as an adjunct to the land and sea war planning might yield both less collateral destruction and a more cunning/less bludgeoning sort of operational planning. Your analogy is skewed; I'm suggesting that the USAF be taken off the coaching staff and placed in the backfield. The coaches should be "purple", the Army and Navy the QB. calling the plays, and the air componants the running back, taking the ball and running the play either sent in from the sideline or checked off at the line of scrimmage by the QBs...

    And I stand corrected on the CAS issue - I had forgotten about the A-10s lack of all weather/night capability (though our A-10 drivers out of Pope AFB would fly in some pretty bad weather - it's amazing how effective CAS can be when the pilots are willing to get right down on the deck). Glad to hear that the A-10c has all the electronics it needs to rectify that failing...

  43. Chief-

    Your "puple" replacement for the Joint Staff smacks of a permanent, professional General Staff, and while such has many benefits, it's never gonna fly in the US. Title 10 is written to preclude a permanent, professional General Staff. One of the reasons that strategic thought is seriously lacking in the 5 sided building. No one serves there long enough to have a continuous train of thought.

  44. Chief,

    What I see is that the USAF often lobbies for an air war portion of a conflict because, well, because that's what it does.


    So we wind up with a relatively huge AF campaign in the RVN that is probably counterproductive to the actual conduct of a counterinsurgency but employ a lot of zoomies.

    The Vietnam war ended 35 years ago. I'm not sure how Vietnam is relevant to your argument.

    We get a similar air campaign in Iraq in 2003 that ends up being counterproductive...

    First, the OIF air campaign was nothing like Vietnam. Secondly, most civilian infrastructure was left off the target list for OIF because we didn't want to rebuild it afterwards. The idea that the Air Force was flattening Iraq is simply not the case. Also, air power was very effective in OIF, just ask the Iraqi's.

    As far as Kosovo and Desert Storm go, I do think that air power zealots try to embellish the record and there is a segment of the AF that still holds an orthodox Douhet view of air power. Is that enough to justify disestablishment?

    I honestly don't know whether these air campaigns are because the NCA/Joint Chiefs/theatre commanders ask for them or want them or whether the USAF asks and lobbies for them.

    Well, let's review:

    Desert Storm: The land forces and the overall effort were commanded by Schwartzkopf. He was the air commmander's boss (Horner). His corps commanders complained about the air forces not hitting the targets they wanted hit. When those corp commanders specifically asked for air forces to be put under their direct control, Schwartzkopf famously replied: "Guys, it’s all mine, and I will put it where it needs to be put." In his memoirs he wrote highly of Horner as the air component commander.

    Kosovo: That show was run by General Wesley Clark. He was very aggressive about using air power to bomb anything and everything. I know that because I got to watch his VTC's everyday. The Air Forces didn't need to force anything on him, rather, he was visibly pissed whenever something wasn't struck for whatever reason. He actively promoted aggressiveness by the air component. Also, TF-Hawk wasn't exactly a shining moment for the Army.

    OEF: A big factor in the decision to go with CIA and SF-A teams backed by air power was because CSA Shinseki advised that it would take the entire airborne corps for the initial Afghan invasion and that would take a few months to get them all in the country. Once the invasion did happen, the land and joint force commander was a dual-hatted Army General and has been ever since. The general with the most command time in Afghanistan was Dan "Bomber" McNeil (US Army) who used air power so much that he really lived up to his nickname.

    OIF: Same basic deal. The land and joint commanders were Army generals. The land commander for OIF was a guy named McKiernan who, several years later, would get fired in Afghanistan and replaced with McChrystal.

    The point being, the air component has never been truly independent in any conflict in at least the last 20 years. They've mainly been subordinate to Army Generals who were the joint force commander and who were frequently also the ground force commander. Dual-hatting the land component and joint commander is a pretty big indication of who is running the show, is it not? I suppose it's possible, but I find it hard to believe that all these Army generals would sacrifice the needs of the ground force due to Air Force lobbying.

    So again, what exactly is the problem here that is so severe that it requires breaking up the Air Force and doling the pieces out to the Army, Navy and Marines?

  45. Aviator

    Yes, there was a reason for the separation of services. That is clear. But in modern warfare does that reason still exists?
    The USMC is fighting 1000 miles from the sea and when was the last 'real' sea battle? Looking at carrier operations in the last decades, a large part was over land and in support of ground forces. If we are arguing for CAS to be given to the army, will they get carriers as well?
    Air assets are present in almost all missions today and in a time of expeditionary campaigns, so is the navy.

    As for strategy. Once there is the USMC as an expeditionary force, one could argue the army has no strategic function either, unless the Canadians start to get ‘rowdy’. And if they can fight ‘over there’ they can fight ‘over here’ too. Of course things are not quite like that, but you get the point.

    I think the choice of air campaigns has less to do with AF lobbying but more to do with an American concept of war. Stand-off, precise, safe and “clean” and with nice fireworks for CNN. But Chief does make a broader point about hammer and nail thinking. Although I think the real risk there is not the military but political and diplomatic short sight. Like the recent calls to bomb Iran.
    AF does lobby but for more money and in doing so, tries to prevent other services from getting assets that it views as a threat to their funding. The A-10 story is a good example. And this was when things actually worked fairly well. For more ridiculous and often amusing examples you can turn to Europe with the UKs SDRS or Eurofighter/Rafale or Horizon/T-45 destroyers. In my country, the navy just blocked a reform of the military hospitals because it didn’t say specifically that it had to have navy guys there.
    As Andy so well put it, I have no doubt that guys will do their best to get the job done regardless of the services they belong.

    So the issue is at the top. With the organizations that breed inter-service rivalry and narrow-minded strategic views. And maybe the historic view that it was this way for a reason starts to become a hindrance. It becomes a locked position of “It’s just not how we do things”. The problem with a ‘purple’ strategic planning and allocation organization at the moment is you’ll end up with a “Commission to Assess Strategic and Tactical Implications of a Tripartite Command on the Overall Readiness of the Armed Forces” complete with ten point plan and powerpoint presentation.

    Bottom line. I think we are getting to the point where a serious review of the overall organization of armed forces, not just in the US, but in the western world is called for. And shouldn’t we, for once, take a fresh look at all the possibilities?

  46. Andy-

    Not everyone thinks the entire USAF should be scrapped and "doled out". The USN/USMC team has their necessary air assets. It's the Army that has been "short changed", so to speak. The USAF has done a fine job in providing CAS support, but it's a theater level relationship, which leaves the Army a couple of echelons removed in relations to CAS than the USN/USMC team. And, the USAF is equally removed from the Army ground units below Theater as well.

    It would not kill the USAF to relinquish CAS to the Army, and it would free the Army to be able to task organize for operations below Theater level.

  47. Actually, what do you folks think about actually having a permanent, professional General Staff? One where officers would spend the bulk of their career assigned to the GS, with an occasional tour in the "trenches" as staff weenies. Would that foster a corp of strategic thinkers?

  48. Al,

    I'm not sure, I'll have to think about that one for a bit.

  49. Andy-

    Take your time. The idea stirred a lot of barstool debate when I was at CGSC in 83-4. It all started when our USN/USMC classmates noted that Army CGSC was focused almost exclusively on the operational level, while the Navy's Command and Staff level course offered much more at the strategic level. In fact, most of the Sea Service folks planned to attend a Naval War College extension campus after Leavenworth to take the "Policy and Strategy" and "National Security Decision Making" Command and Staff level courses to provide the missing strategic content of Army CGSC. I was so impressed by this that I enrolled in these seminars my next duty station, and found them to be exquisite and well worth the time.

    A fair number of people are a bit "frightened" by the idea of a professional GS. I would imagine that some of my classmates might now offer that some of the fiascos we have suffered could have been headed off if there was a permanent body of strategic thinkers/planners.

  50. Al,

    The Army has the FA59's and I don't know of anything comparable in the Navy or Air Force, but then again I really haven't researched it at all.

    The idea of a GS has some obvious appeal but I wonder how much effect it would actually have on national strategy.

  51. Andy-

    Yes, there is FA59, but do they spend the bulk of their careers in the Joint Staff, or the Service staffs? And are the bulk of these staffs FA59 people?

    By law, 3 years is the max on the Joint Staff. Doesn't provide for long term continuity, mentoring, etc.

    Since we all knew that (a) a professional, permanent GS was anathema and (b)there was no US experience even close to same, we only speculated. However, during WWII, there was a hell of a lot of stability and continuity in the War and Navy Dept staffs, as well as the Joint Chiefs. At least in relative terms.

    The question is what a staff of career strategists with an occasional operational tour would produce versus a staff with more operational tours and less strategic staff time. The decisions still are the bailiwick of the civilian leadership, but what sort of advice would the professional GS offer?

  52. Al,

    Good questions. You're right that 3 years isn't a lot and more generally, the whole 2-4 year PCS cycle could be lengthened quite a bit in my opinion. It seems to me continuity is a big advantage for that kind of job.

  53. IMHO

    The Army should have control over their own CAS. But even if they get the CAS assets, those CAS a/c will still be subordinate to the air component commander as Andy gave in the example of Desert Storm. So when you call for air support you may or may not get the A-10C you wish for. It could end up being an air superiority aircraft like the F-22 or a Navy bird off of a carrier. There is no guarantee that the pilot will have ever had meaningful training for CAS.

    Well trained Forward Air Controllers are the key to good CAS, ideally they would be assigned with forward company sized units. The Marines use pilots as ground FACs, they understand the platforms and the ordnance which your average infantry/armor guys do not. But I was impressed with the USAF enlisted JTACs during the early days of OEF. They should be expanded so that they can support more than just the Special Ops guys. With all due respect Chief, there is no way that an Arty FO can do as well as a FAC or JTAC without extensive training.

    The Army seems to want more than direct control of CAS assets though. They have used their AH-64 Apaches in more of a deep (maybe medium deep?) interdiction role. But then I suppose you consider them more of a maneuver unit and not a CAS asset. I know that in OIF, there was some heated discussions between Marine ground units and Apache units that occasionally supported them due to total disregard of USMC CAS procedures. At least in a few incidents the Apache pilots felt they should be guns free and not under the control of a groundpounder. Hopefully that was a rare circumstance.

    As far as Al's question on a permanent General Staff, I think it needs a separate post. My first thought was to be against it, but then I had second thoughts. Would love to hear some good discussion on this.