by DAVID AXE
University of Kentucky prof Rob Farley was at the Air Command and Staff College recently to deliver one of his more controversial proposals: to shutter the U.S. Air Force and transfer its components to the Army and Navy. “I think that it’s possible for both the Army and the Navy to think about conducting war independent of each other, or at least that it’s much more possible for the Army and Navy to do so than for the Air Force,” Farley wrote in his recap of the event:
Apart from strategic bombing, every mission that the Air Force conducts by nature involves tight cooperation with one of the other two services. It seems to me that, if this is the case, the use of airpower ought to be conceived of as an organic element of how the Army and the Navy manage military force.
Farley first advanced this notion three years ago, and even asked me to write an addendum. “The Air Force’s top priority is buying airplanes,” I posited:
Don’t take it from me. Air Force general Ronald Keys said in August that the air service’s “hardest wars” weren’t in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in the halls of Congress. For the Air Force, global strategy and fighting our current low-tech wars are both secondary concerns. That’s putting the cart way before the horse.
I actually think the Air Force has improved greatly in the last couple years, with its growing emphasis on irregular warfare. But Farley seems to concur with my earlier take. From his recap:
I think that the existence of an independent Air Force creates a situation in which civilians are faced with bad, destructive options about the use of military force. The Air Force, like every single other bureaucratic institution in existence, by nature tries to acquire more resources and improve its competitive stance. Consequently, the Air Force has a vested interest in presenting its best case for military intervention, just as do the Army and the Navy. In the case of the Air Force, this best case appears to the untrained civilian eye to be a cheap, easy, and effective way to wage war. This leads, in my view, to poor decisions about military engagement.
Some airpower advocates are understandably skeptical. “The idea of getting rid of the USAF is dead on arrival,” Eric Palmer wrote.
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