Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Writing about Gates, the F-22, and air power

My next book will be about the dismantling of the U. S. Air Force.

The nation's air arm has never been smaller in size than it is today. It has never operated equipment as old as its equipment today.

The process has left us without all of the platforms we expected to have today—381 F-22 Raptor superfighters at the "high end" of the tactical air

arm; operational F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters at the "low end;" the first examples of a new bomber; the first couple of squadrons of a new air refueling tanker; a new combat rescue helicopter.

We have none of these things today.

Robert Gates didn't begin the process of shrinking the Air Force. That process began right after the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. But the Gates years (2006-2011) were the years when we were supposed to recapitalize the nation's air arm. Instead, Gates assigned top priority to Iraq, surrounded himself by Army officers, fired the Air Force's top leaders (in 2008), killed the F-22 (in 2009) and was on watch when our bomber, tanker and rescue programs went astray.

Gates left this nation without the long-range, land-based air power that is essential to survival in peacetime and to success in war.

It would be better if someone who worked in the Pentagon wrote about this topic. Gates declined my request for an interview in 2006 and hasn't responded to my request for an interview in 2015. Gates treated his Air Force concerns with only a few pages in his memoir, "Duty." The book confirms his public statements that he was at odds with Air Force leaders from the beginning.

Retired General T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley, the former Air Force chief (2005-2008), shown in a photo taken with me in Paris in 2007, hasn't written a book. He should. Moseley is an articulate advocate for air power and for America's airmen. I've also urged retired Lieutenant General David Deptula to write a book. He is another staunch spokesmen for the profession of aerial arms and for those who fly and fight. There are others who could weigh in, too, like former Air Combat Command boss retired General John Corley.

I would also like to see a book from Moseley's successor, retired General Norton Schwartz. I believe Schwartz deserves enormous credit
for his efforts under difficult circumstances. The fighter mafia in the Air Force has not always been kind to Schwartz and I would like to see him put his thoughts on paper. The same goes for former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne.

With the exception of Gates, I've interviewed everyone named here more than once, both during the Gates era and more recently. We are fortunate to live in a nation where our top leaders are accessible and willing to talk about even controversial events.

Most of them, that is.

It would be better for them to tell the story. If they don't, I will. I hope to have my book completed at the end of July.

I'd like to find out how much interest there is. If you have thoughts about
my planned book or if you think you'll want one when it's ready, please let me know.

Any insights you have to offer will help. Make a comment here or call or write. I'd really like to hear from you.


  1. Looking forward to reading this when it comes out, Robert!

  2. Robert,
    I teach History at the Army Command and General Staff College. I agree with your basic premise regarding the demise of America's air fleet and global reach capabilities. However, I think it important to include the argument that the USAF is its own enemy sometimes. It has decided it doesn't want to fight the fights its assigned and is consistently looking for the the ones its wants. Somewhat akin the priority of SAC during the 50s over all other applications. This is a perception from the sister services. While you may or may not agree with it, but it might be worthwhile to include in in the discussion. I think this is a good topic and worthwhile book. The recent book by Farley, "Grounded", was poor and it really did not spell out a solid argument. Hopefully you can address this topic more thoroughly. Respectfully, John Curatola PhD

    1. Thank you for this comment, John. I would welcome an opportunity to talk on the phone at (703) 264-8950. Your concern seems very similar to concerns expressed by Gates during his time at the Pentagon. To soldiers, it may appear that the Air Force is unwilling to do its part to support the current fight. To airmen, the problem may be that we need to plan for the next one. In my work on this book, I am staring down the eternal conflict between getting it right and getting it finished. I'm not expecting bouquets from sister services but I'm hoping to present some facts and a little opinion, and to provoke some thought.