Sunday, October 28, 2007

What is it ya say ya do here?

Lots of good discussion regarding the new MS, especially over at SJS's and the CDR's. However, it's gotten me thinking...what is the USAF equivalent to this? First, a quote from SJS's place that I think has some relevance (emphasis mine):
"A second element of a military service is the resources, human and material, which are required to implement its strategic concept. To secure these resources it is necessary for society to forego the alternative uses to which these resources might be put and to acquiesce in their allocation to the military service. Thus, the resources which a service is able to obtain in a democratic society are a function of the public support of that service. The service has the responsibility to develop this necessary support, and it can only do this if it possesses a strategic concept which clearly formulates its relationship to the national security. Hence this second element of public support is, in the long run, dependent upon the strategic concept of the service. If a service does not possess a well-defined strategic concept, the public and the political leaders will be confused as to the role of the service, uncertain as to the necessity of its existence, and apathetic or hostile to the claims made by the service upon the resources of society."
Astute readers should already be able to see how this relates to the USAF, but let's get into what the Air Force says it does, starting at the highest level. The USAF Mission: "The mission of the United States Air Force is to deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests -- to fly and fight in Air, Space, and Cyberspace."

All that's really worth mentioning here are two things: first, the USAF has staked out a claim on the "domain" of Cyberspace, something definitely worth discussing. Second, "sovereign options"?? Gag. John over at Opfor had something to say about that sort of thing earlier this week. A taste of what he's talking about:
"Air power overhead provides capability to the fight with precision targeting which was used on Tuesday to ensure these individuals could no longer target innocent Iraq citizens."
Double gag. For my purposes, here's the relevant part of his commentary:
"Distant from the fight and hated for a controversial acquisitions program, I've always felt that the Air Force is the most disliked service in the Armed Forces. Image is a huge issue with the force right now, and our Public Affairs methodology isn't helping."
No, it isn't.

So, mission statement is bland, but that's to be expected. The Air Force vision? "Global Vigilance, Reach and Power." Huh? So the Air Force does all its stuff globally? No way!

Maybe we'll get somewhere with the core competencies. "Developing Airmen, Technology-to-Warfighting and Integrating Operations." Are you kidding me? I'm in my third year of AFROTC and study this stuff for fun and I can barely articulate what the hell "Technology-to-Warfighting" means, much less "Integrating Operations." To put it into language normal people speak, the first one is training people, the second is buying cool stuff that kills people and accomplishes the mission, and the third one is using that cool stuff to accomplish the mission in a "joint environment" (*gag*, I'm sorry for that phrase). This is garbage. No normal person is going to be able to understand what these are.

On to the next level, distinctive capabilities:
Air and Space Superiority : With it, joint forces can dominate enemy operations in all dimensions -- land, sea, air and space.

Global Attack: Because of technological advances, the Air Force can attack anywhere, anytime -- and do so quickly and with greater precision than ever before.

Rapid Global Mobility: Being able to respond quickly and decisively anywhere we're needed is key to maintaining rapid global mobility.

Precision Engagement: The essence lies in the ability to apply selective force against specific targets because the nature and variety of future contingencies demand both precise and reliable use of military power with minimal risk and collateral damage.

Information Superiority: The ability of joint force commanders to keep pace with information and incorporate it into a campaign plan is crucial.

Agile Combat Support: Deployment and sustainment are keys to successful operations and cannot be separated. Agile combat support applies to all forces, from those permanently based to contingency buildups to expeditionary forces.
Slightly better, but not really. All this really begs the question, "why?" Going through them one by one, Superiority should and is self explanatory; it's the second oldest mission of air forces. Global Attack is one that definitely begs that question. So we have all this cool technology that allows us to attack anywhere we want, but why would we want to do that? What's the national security ramifications of this capability? Rapid Global Mobility is even worse. The bullet point statement just explains the keys to rapid global mobility but does nothing to explain why we should be spending money to maintain this capability. Precision Engagement is full of buzzwords. Garbage. Information Superiority is better in that it attempts to explain why IO are important but it doesn't relate this back to the USAF. Finally, I'll be impressed if anyone can explain to me how Agile Combat Support is any different from Rapid Global Mobility.

Of course, all this glosses over the biggest reason why none of this makes any sense. The distinctive capabilities are intended to be nothing more than bullet points, but the next level down from this is a 100+ page strategy document that really doesn't sound much different. Third time I've used this word, but garbage. Contrast all this with the Navy's six capabilities from the MS:

1. Forward Presence.
2. Deterrence.
3. Sea Control.
4. Power Projection.
5. Maritime Security.
6. Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response.

Those are solid statements that make sense to a layperson. More importantly, there is a nice concise blurb to go with each one explaining why this is important and what the maritime services can contribute to that particular aspect. Contrast that to the Air Force's 100+ page abomination in which you have to wade through 70+ pages of "doctrine" before you even get to the core competencies and distinctive capabilities.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey recently wrote an interesting memo about why the USAF is important and the stuff it desperately needs after his being treated to a nice dog and pony show out at Nellis and Scott AFBs. However, the memo has several flaws. The introduction does a good job of breaking down some larger strategic imperatives about the future of the U.S. military and policy as a whole, but then immediately devolves into what is wrong with the USAF without spending any time on discussing what the USAF specifically brings to the fight.

Once the memo really gets going on "The Seven Imperatives for US Airpower," it quickly turns into a shopping list. The "seven imperatives" are just various systems and capabilities that the USAF should be funded to buy/develop. It does not answer the question "why". There are a few good nuggets here and there, such as the C-17 being a "global national transportation asset, not just a military or Air Force system," that "We will drop back to WWII era capabilities if we suddenly lose our space advantage," and cyber-warfare being the "poor man's WMD," but all this is too few and far in between and is obscured by the shopping list aspect of the memo. The General concludes with this:
"We have under-resourced this proud and crucial fighting force. We lack the equipment, Airmen, and money to adequately defend America in the coming 15 years. We are placing our national security at enormous risk if we do not soon act to correct these crucial shortfalls."
I agree, but I'm not the one the USAF needs to convince. To go back to the quote at the top of the post, it doesn't matter what we say we need. What matters is what the public, and more importantly, the political leaders think we need. You ask any Congresscritter about what the USAF needs to be funded with and they'll probably say three things: UAVs, gunships, and whatever airframe their local pork ANG/Reserve unit flies or pork aircraft factory builds. That's unacceptable.

This isn't a pie in the sky thing, either. Doors are rapidly closing. If we don't get the funds we need in the next few FYs, it's not going to matter a damn what happens after that because the production lines will close and we will be screwed. (In fact, as that article implies, we might already be screwed. Definitely check out the article, it's very interesting. But that's a post for a different day.)

I leave you with this (h/t Alert 5):
Lawmaker chides Air Force for fixation on budget woes

House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., publicly chided Air Force leaders for failing to give his panel a more thorough assessment of the service's plans and programs during a hearing Wednesday.

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Michael Moseley, called by the panel to testify on their force's "strategic initiatives," spent much of the morning expressing concerns about budgetary shortfalls and congressional restrictions preventing the retirement of the service's oldest aircraft.

"I'm sorry to tell you I'm disappointed, but we can have a budget hearing any time," Skelton said. The chairman, who said the panel might have to have a second hearing on the subject, said it "would have been helpful" to have received testimony on the Air Force's strategic vision, as opposed to more limited testimony on current budget constraints.

What he said. I submit that Secretary Wynne and CSAF Moseley were a little confused at Rep. Skelton's disappointment, since the USAF's strategic initiative seems to be its budget.

That's a problem.

Postscript: Bonus points to anyone who can reference the title of the post.