Once More with Feeling: Disband the Air Force!


Categorie: Air, David Axe, Inter-Service Rivalry |

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A-10s. David Axe photo.


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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4 Responses to “Once More with Feeling: Disband the Air Force!”

  1. They are victims of their own success. Because modern airpower is so effective, you can do so much more with less (someone tell the Navy with their $10 billion decks).

    Meanwhile, the entire force is facing block obsolescence. Every replacement program is in trouble, from the fighters to tankers to bombers. Now they are buying more UAVs but so are the Navy, Army, and Marines. they are losing their uniqueness. Its the end of an era. We are not there yet, but the handwriting is on the wall.

  2. Vicente says:

    “Apart from strategic bombing, every mission that the Air Force conducts by nature involves tight cooperation with one of the other two services.”

    That’s a ridiculous statement.

    While he presents an interesting case, the above quote is just plain silly (I can name two, the GPS constellation and the ICBM mission off the top of my head, that are completely organic to USAF – regardless of how you feel about the execution of the missions).

    Let’s play a little game to show just how silly it is..

    “Apart from sending a bunch of pipe hitting mofos w M4s to clean out a nest of tangos, every mission that the (Army) conducts by nature involves tight cooperation with one of the other two services.”

    To a lesser extent, we can do this with the Navy and Marine Corps, but the point is none of the services are an island. That’s the point.

    Who flies and or ships those guys around the world to break kneecaps? We haven’t had a war on US soil since the Civil War so SDDC won’t do much good once you hit water..

    COINdinistas love to talk about the obsolescence of the USAF, you never hear anyone talking about an Armored Division as a ‘Cold War weapon’. They’ve won the PR battle, I get it. But just try doing all of this w/o air superiority and the air bridge.

    Afghanistan, for one, would be turned into a debacle overnight. Assuming you think it isn’t already, that is.


  3. TEJ says:

    you never hear anyone talking about an Armored Division as a ‘Cold War weapon’

    I hear that all the time, and it’s true.

  4. Frederick Le Murre says:

    I’ve thought about this for awhile, along the lines of giving tactical battlefield air power back to the Army, Army Air Corps 2.0

    The USAF then keeps its Strategic, Space, and Surveillance including nuclear roles.

    What to do with airlift is hard to figure out, as it would be at the beck and call of the AAC and USAF-3S commands constantly, with mis-integration doubtless.

    And all the overhead cost and bureaucracy inefficiencies would take a decade or so to settle down. A real pain.

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