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Gates Still Knuckling it out with USAF Brass

1:39 PM, Apr 22, 2008 • By JOHN NOONAN
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The latest salvo? The SECDEF says that the Air Force is sandbaggin' it in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"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."

He cited the example of drone aircraft that can watch, hunt and sometimes kill insurgents without risking the life of a pilot. He said the number of such aircraft has grown 25-fold since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He said he has been trying for months to get the Air Force to send more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, like the Predator drone that provides real-time surveillance video, to the battlefield.

"Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it's been like pulling teeth," Gates said. "While we've doubled this capability in recent months, it is still not good enough."

I'm curious about context here. From what I've seen, the Air Force has been more than eager to prove their small war utility, mostly in the form of UAV coverage, tactical airlift, and close air support. So I'm thinking that this may be a case of the force being willing, but the bureaucracy being weak. In other words, Air Force has clogged itself with so many regulations, it appears to have lost touch with two of the guiding lights of successful warfare: speed and simplicity.

While I'm skeptical of claims that the Air Force is reluctant to get in the fight, the service is in need of a massive system flush, one that purges the ranks of overregulation, top-heavy leadership, and unnecessary bureaucratic constructs. Most of the public affairs wounds that the Air Force has suffered in the past few months have been self-inflicted, so looking inward may be the best way to cure the service's woes.