Air Force must do more for war, Gates says


15-Year Member
Retired Moderator
Feb 2, 2008
Interesting comments from the SecDef to the Air War College as reported on MSNBC. For 60 years there has been tension between the Army and the Air Force around the AF role as the executive agents for fixed wing air which has periodically bubbled up with the Army position being that the AF subordinated the close air and airlift missions to the sexier airspace control mission (for example the battle over retiring the A10 10 years ago). These comments from the SecDef have put a new spin on that. Pretty sad if it's true that institutional resistance is keeping effective support from reaching soldiers on the ground especially if that resistance is rooted in a desire to keep pilots as the institutional top dogs as this article sort of implies. Secretary Gates will certainly spark some commentary with this speech.

"MSNBC News Services
updated 1 hour, 33 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday the Air Force is not doing enough to help in the Iraq and Afghanistan war effort, complaining that some military leaders are "stuck in old ways of doing business."

Gates complained in a speech at the Air University on Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., that getting the Air Force to send more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq and Afghanistan has been "like pulling teeth."

He indicated that the Air Force's desire to use pilots for its missions has kept the Defense Department from employing more effective and lower cost unmanned aircraft. "In my view we can do and we should do more to meet the needs of men and women fighting in the current conflicts while their outcome may still be in doubt,” he said. “My concern is that our services are still not moving aggressively in wartime to provide resources needed now on the battlefield" ...

Full article at:
Ouch! That's gonna leave a mark somewhere! :eek:

I'll be curious to get Pima's input on this one...

Frankly, if Gate's assessment is true, then the USAF may be shooting themselves in the foot. :confused:

First have a great week next week, I hope you have fair winds and following seas:bounce1:

Second, I think you meant BULLET. I would not even begin to address that issue, however, I would say that this would be similiar to Rummy who felt the Army needed to change. I am just surprised him saying it at Maxwell, which is the AF PME base. That was what startled me.

I am sure BUllet will chime in tomorrow since he is night flying tonight and isn't expected home until way past my bedtime...As a spouse I always hate night flying...they get home O dark thirty, wakes me up b/c the dogs go crazy, and then I have to walk around quietly for hours so as I don't wake him.:thumbdown:
ugh, it'd be nice to replace some of our oldest manned aircraft which are falling apart. Like the older F-15s, KC-135s, and others. Drones can only do so much without the support they need....but that's my opinion from only a couple years in the Air Force, and not even out there. Only hearsay.
The AF has been going through a large downsizing in the middle of the war..Thanks Rummy. So they are living with the robbing Peter to pay Paul. Cutting folks to pay for new weapon systems.

There are not people or UAVs to do everything that everyone would like to do. I would like see us not put pilots in UAVs. Spending 12 million plus to train a pilot only to put them in a UAV seems silly. These operators could get a private pilots license and do this job and do it well.

Right now the AF is the red headed step child when it comes to funding. The average age of the fleet just keeps getting older and the aircraft are wearing out (the F-15 breaking up in flight). The no fly zones in Iraq put so many hours on those planes that no one would have ever imagined. The B-52 is a old as the fathers of the current pilots. I don't always agree with the AF buying decisions. We could have block 60 F-16s that kick butt cheaper than some of the other stuff.

The folks in the AF are working there butts off. No staff is at full manning, my spouse always had 2 holes and 3 guys doing a plus up TDY. This is a shop of 18 with him and the GS-6 who answered the phone. She was his gate keeper. She was a great person. Gates maybe right but, there are better ways of brouching this subject, than at Air War College.
Perhaps, but what we're reading is out of context. It could have been "motivational" about the changes he would like to see.

To an extent that is what he is trying to do - the full published text of his comments are at :

I'm sure that it was uncomfortable in those seats anyway. Some of the comments in this thread about recapitalizing the AF fleet sort of play into what Gates is saying though- it seems that he is implying that the AirForce is making expensive choices - some of which might be based on having pilot cheeks in seats that could be filled with cheaper UAVs etc... I don't know if that's really a valid criticism on his part, but the cost of the next generation aircraft is going to force the AF to make some decisions. They don't report if he had a question and answer period- I would love to have been there to hear them if there was one.
The next generation fighters/aircraft are supposed to have significantly lower maintenance costs and we would have significantly fewer aircraft. Operational costs would seem to drive the need alone. However, congress can't see beyond the tip of its nose...
OK, allow me to put my thoughts and 2 cents into the discussion:

First off, I have to agree with Zaphod when I say "Ouch!" I've had the fortune to be in the service that for the past few decades had been viewed by the civilian leadership (both in the Congress and in the E-ring of the Pentagon) as the "sexy" and "smart" place to put the taxpayers' dollar. Let's face it, CNN images of smart bombs flying through ventilator shafts were "cool" and easy to see as the future of warfare. Nice to big the lead dog, the view kind of stinks when you're the trailing mutt down the line.

The current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan has changed the playing field however; pretty tough to patrol and hold an alleyway with a LGB! No, the smart and sexy place to spend the bucks for this low-tech conflict is for boots on the ground and their direct support. The rise and fall of each service's priority and prestige in the public's eye(and the money that comes with being the "big kid on the block" or in the conflict in this case) has been a part of the playing field for generations now. And it's usually tied directly to the last war we as a nation fought and how we fought it (which is unfortunate and short-sighted in most cases).

The situation with the increased need for UAVs on today's battlefield is a great example. The leadership has fallen in love with persistent ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance) that systems such as Predator and Global Hawk afford. From my own experiences (Joint Force HQ in Baghdad, Current Ops Cell in the Pentagon, CAOC in Al Udied), the decision makers LOVE having the ability to constantly monitor the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and rarely made a move without "eyes on". I can tell you several stories of soldiers, marines, or SF either under fire or about to be fired upon requesting to engage, only to be told to hold fire until the guys in the rear got an UAV overhead so they can "see" the situation for themselves. IMO, a rather bad turn away from one of the AF's central tenets of "Centralized control, decentralized execution".

More importantly, what does this mean to cadets like Hornetguy and all the others about to lead future generations of our services? Well, we're in for a few bumpy years right now, as the call for increased numbers of UAVs will drain money and resources for other programs that aren't as "sexy" right now. UAVs are cheap, easy to use, persistent and a perfect fit fo rtoday's conflict. However, we don't know what is down the road, and I'm sure there are quite a few potential enemies out there who would love nothing better than to conduct a "duck-hunt" of all the Predators we try to orbit over their battlefield.

So, my advice to all is: STAY THE COURSE. Times get tough (ask your Army counterparts who lived through the late 80s and 90s), but the fact that your service is getting the biggest piece of the pie shouldn't be the reason you join. No, the reason you join is you love what you're doing, and are proud to do it. You may have to put up with som enot-so-great deals as part of your career, but you'll also have those moments that makes every sacrifice worth it! And the ultimate fact you'll find in a miltary career is that THINGS CHANGE (as I've said many times before)-- so stick around and see where the road leads. Besides, one of the greatest traditions of every service is for all of us to sit around the bar, jump on our soapboxes, and solve all the things wrong with the (insert service name here) with our brilliant insight and intellect! :shake:

Sorry for the length of the post. You cadets and midshipmen should see if you get some credits for a Poly-Sci or Military Doctrine type class for this! :thumb:
Good post bullet- I would agree with your last comments especially- Cadets and Mids can't worry about budget battles- way too many changes in budget wars to make your career choices because there is a current funding issue.
No, the smart and sexy place to spend the bucks for this low-tech conflict is for boots on the ground and their direct support.

Way back in 1987 I heard a Marine Infantryman say "Grunts - Everything else is just support."

At the time, I thought it was one of the most arrogant things I'd ever heard, but after careful thought, study, and experience, it really is true. With the exception of the Nuclear Triad, everything else in the military is geared toward supporting the troops on the ground or getting them there safely in the first place.

Unless we someday fight a full-scale theater-wide war with the Chinese or the Russians (and we bloody well might), the concentration for the forseeable future is going to be elite formations of infantry (Light Infantry, Rangers, etc.) supported by SPECOPS (Green Berets, SEALs, etc.) and highly specialized technical assets.

Oh, and we'll have to do it on a budget, too. That's life.

I wholeheartedly agree with the view that everything we do in the military comes down to supporting the troops on the ground (but there are exceptions to every rule, to include some missions beyond the nuclear triad. But that is a topic (rather heated in some circles :biggrin:) for another thread). If there was any indication on my part that I was down-playing this with my "sexy and smart" comments about where the Congress looks to spend it's money, my sincerest apologies. Just trying to state what I thought was an obvious point; that my brothers in the ground services were put on theh back-burner for the past few decades, and now that the media is highlighting their difficulties in the latest conflict, the money flow has shifted.

Nothing makes a WSO prouder and happier than to hear the Marine, Soldier, TACP, or any friendly ground guy (or gal) call "Direct hit" on the building they just guided the LGB into (the building with the not-so-friendly insurgents in it who happen to be firing on my brothers (and sisters!) on the ground!). A thing you are proud to tell your grand-kids about!

Unfortunately, we as a country have set-up a budgeting system that forces rivalry and competition between the services for the precious few dollars out there. And even worse, while the service members in the Pentagon fight this budget battle with a vision of 20+ years down the road, the Congress and Civilian leadership (who controls the purse strings) fights the battle that is currently getting the front story on the evening news. Not that I would ever want a differnt system (I will fight to the death to protect the civilian leadership and our current system. Heaven help us if the Military Complex ever even imagines ruling itself!) Just a fact of life in the military, and something these future generations on this forum wll have to live with.

Oh well, at least they get to do cool things that will make everyone else jealous! Trust me; when you walk into your 20 year HS reunion, and listen to all the guys around you brag about their high paying jobs as doctors and lawyers and how wonderful thier lives are, then they snidly ask what YOU do. Nothing beats the satisfaction of saying: " I fly in F-15Es". Wipes their grins off their faces as everyone else standing around says "COOOOOOL". Yep, you win that bragging contest!:smile:
to include some missions beyond the nuclear triad. But that is a topic (rather heated in some circles :biggrin:) for another thread).

Well! Go start it! I bet it would be a rivetting read! :biggrin:

If there was any indication on my part that I was down-playing this with my "sexy and smart" comments about where the Congress looks to spend it's money, my sincerest apologies.

Nos such indication was inferred, so no apology necessary. :smile:

Yep, you win that bragging contest!:smile:

I bet! :yllol:
It is also rediculous that Major League Baseball can't police itself.

Go Pirates!

Go Phillies!
Amen to that! It's disgusting that they were investigating baseball steroid scams when we're at war...
They have to look like they are doing something...
Talk about bad PR! Congress consistently gets lower aproval ratings than the President.