As the Defense Department begins its latest probe into the Air Force "Thunder Vision" scandal, there are signs that the service will defend officials who may be targeted by that inquiry.So, given all the challenges that today's Air Force faces, what's one of our "top priorities?" Keeping one guy in his current position. I can't say I'm a fan of that type of thinking. Everyone is expendable. No one is indispensable. While for political reasons there can be merit to fighting in order to keep someone in a post, it's a very fine line in which you run the risk of quickly crossing over into the territory of diminishing returns, where the person is doing more harm than good to the service by remaining in their current position.
Speaking to a group of intelligence professionals, an Air Force Brigadier General said yesterday that "One of our top priorities right now is keeping General [Michael] Moseley in there, what with Thunder Vision and all." In From the Cold learned of the general's remarks from a senior Air Force civilian who was in the audience.
Results of the IG investigation prompted key members of the Senate to ask for another inquiry. In late April, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan and Arizona Senator John McCain, asked the inspector general to launch a new probe, focusing on the comments of senior Air Force officials. Earlier this week, congressional sources told In From the Cold that the new investigation was underway.
While the USAF has not responded officially to the latest Thunder Vision probe, the brigadier general's comments may offer insight into the thinking of senior officials. They suggest the service is prepared to circle the wagons around Moseley, and fight to keep him as Chief of Staff. The remarks also indicate that some senior officers view Moseley as vulnerable, and fear that the new investigation will lead to his early retirement.
The Brigadier General who suggests that keeping Moseley is a "top priority" now serves as vice commander of a major Air Force organization and is stationed outside the Washington, D.C. area. A career fighter pilot, the general has extensive operational experience and previously served as commander of wing-level units. He made the comment about General Moseley during a visit to an east-coast base.
Air Force members present for yesterday's event expressed some surprise at the general's remarks. While the Thunder Vision scandal has reverberated throughout the service, there have been few indications as to how senior officers view the controversy, and their reaction to the latest investigation.
I like this type of thinking better:
Kohn: When did you first consider the idea of leaving office early?
Fogleman: First of all, I said publicly from the very beginning that Miss Jane and I considered being chief a four-year tour, not a sentence. I had not been the choice of the Air Force to become chief. Frankly, that had a sort of liberating effect on me because I felt I could deal on a different level with the secretary. There were certain things that I intended to accomplish, and when they were done, I felt that I might want to leave rather than hang on. I had watched people hang on into that fourth year and just did not think it was value gained for them or the organization.
Kohn: That they had ceased to be effective?
Fogleman: Yes. They were going through the motions rather than working for the good of the institution.<...>
Fogleman: In two ways. One is personal; you really do have to get up and look at yourself in the mirror every day and ask, “Do I feel honorable and clean?” I just could not begin to imagine facing the Air Force after Secretary Cohen made the decision to cancel General Schwalier’s promotion. It wasn’t only Cohen. It was the Washington scene, the pressure from the Hill—from people who were uninformed—it was the way DOD treated this man and the Air Force. To merely shrug this off and say, “Hey, it’s okay guys, we’ll do better next time. . . .” It wasn’t just the Air Force. The other services’ commanders—lieutenant commanders, marines, Army types—were really watching this case. People who are or will be out there as tactical commanders are a lot less comfortable today than they were before this decision. They may not have read the detailed reports, but I think they’ve read the articles. There was an incredibly large number of people at Dhahran, and what is interesting is the number of letters I received from various locations around the world, from people who were there sometime during that year, who watched the kinds of actions and preparations that were being taken. These people exist almost as emissaries within other organizations. In the same way morale is established and affected—you know, the whisper factor, not a major force but they are there—this will affect our military forces.<...>
Kohn: My last question is a tough one, Ron. You have been a very respected and popular chief. But there are people in the force who are unhappy with your decision to step down. They disagree with you, feel a sense of loss and in some very few cases, perhaps, even a sense of betrayal. They—officer and enlisted—identified with you, believed that you were in step. If you think you were out of step, then they think they are out of step also. How are they supposed to carry on? Do you have any thoughts for them?
Fogleman: I may not have a good answer. But I go back to our ethic that says we serve on two levels. First, we serve as part of a profession: service before self, integrity, strive for excellence in all that you do. From this perspective, the answer is that it doesn’t matter what happens. You ignore it. You keep soldiering on, you just keep slugging away. But we also serve on a personal level. Unless you really believe, and feel, that you are continuing to contribute to the Air Force and thus to the country and to the national defense, when you begin to believe that your continued service is detrimental to the Air Force, the pressure is in the opposite direction. Then the institution becomes more important than the individual, and, looking at the core value of service before self, the choice becomes staying another year and going through the motions or stepping down. In my heart, on the personal level and on the professional level, I concluded that my continued service was not in the best interest of the Air Force, in Washington where I was serving, given my beliefs, and considering the advice I was offering to our national leadership.
And then Gen. Fogleman's statement on his retirement:
The timing of my announcement was driven by the desire to defuse the perceived confrontation between myself and the secretary of defense over his impending decision on the Khobar Towers terrorist attack. The decision to retire was made after considerable deliberation over the past several weeks.
On one level, I’ve always said that my serving as the chief of staff was a “tour” not a “sentence” and that I would leave when I made all the contributions that I could. After I accepted this position in 1994, I met with other senior leaders of the Air Force to discuss our goals for my tenure. We wanted to take care of the troops and their families, to stabilize the force, to set a course for modernization and to develop a new strategic vision. During some difficult and challenging times we have worked hard to accomplish that and more. Certainly there is more to be done, but the framework of the plan and the leadership [are] in place to move forward with the support and efforts of the magnificent men and women of our Air Force.
On another level, military service is the only life I have ever known. My stock in trade after 34 years of service is my military judgment and advice. After serving as chief of staff for almost three years, my values and sense of loyalty to our soldiers, sailors, Marines and especially our airmen led me to the conclusion that I may be out of step with the times and some of the thinking of the establishment.
This puts me in an awkward position. If I were to continue to serve as chief of staff of the Air Force and speak out, I could be seen as a divisive force and not a team player. I do not want the Air Force to suffer for my judgment and convictions. In my view this would happen if I continue as your chief. For these reasons I have decided to retire and devote more time to personal interests and my family . . . but the Air Force will always be in my thoughts.
Miss Jane and I have met a lot of wonderful American service men and women—active duty, Guard, Reserve, civilians and family members—and they will continue to be a part of our lives. We have been proud to represent the men and women of the United States Air Force around the globe and to serve in the finest Air Force in the world. God bless and keep you all as you continue to serve this great nation.
Read the whole thing, but those are the really important parts. I don't think it's any stretch of the truth to say that the Air Force hasn't exactly been hitting the ethics ball out of the park lately. That, to at least some degree, is due to leadership. More importantly, it reflects on leadership. Suffice to say that it isn't doing the Air Force any favors when it is already getting pounded by ethics scandals to have its head man being investigated for a breach of...ethics.