The Air Force is Breaking. Who is Accountable?

CAP Maj Gen Mark Smith and CAP Command CMSgt Dennis Orcutt, Jr
CAP Maj Gen Mark Smith and CAP Command CMSgt Dennis Orcutt, Jr

By John Q. Public

[Editor’s Note: We received this from an AuxBeacon reader. Thank you for your contribution. The Civil Air Patrol is currently going through a similar situation like the U.S. Air Force with toxic leadership.]

The Air Force’s leaders are ringing the alarm that the force is on the verge of breaking. As reported by Air Force Times’ Stephen Losey, the service’s pilot shortage has grown another 25% to more than 2,000 … threatening its ability to conduct the mission.

This jumble of words gets written so often that it has lost a lot of its punch. But make no mistake, what this means is that either the Air Force will not be able to do what the nation needs it to do when our vital interests are threatened, or — more likely — it will determine a way to get the job done, but at an unacceptably steep cost in terms of lost airmen, lost aircraft, and losses on the ground. In either case, a weak Air Force means a vulnerable nation whose way of life could be irrecoverably altered.

Most of the response in the Air Force and in Congress is rightly forward-focused on how to fix the issues … assuming they can be fixed with the means and methods being made available.

But there’s also a question on the table that must be answered for any fix to have half a chance of succeeding without being derailed by the same forces that led to the current crisis. That question is: who is responsible for this mess and how did they create it?

This is a fair question. I believe it should be posed to former Chief of Staff Mark A. Welsh and former Secretary Deborah Lee James in open hearings on Capitol Hill. These two presided over the Air Force during a pivotal moment in its journey when the current crisis was still preventable. They didn’t manage to prevent it, and we need them to explain why.

Some will say this problem has deep roots that were planted long before these two appeared on the scene. While this is true, it’s not the main point. The main point is that these two had the luxury of something no one before them had: notice.

They were put on notice constantly, repeatedly, loudly, and uncompromisingly. Not just by this blog, but by the movement it helped to catalyze. For the entire four years Welsh and James were in their positions, they were getting clear feedback that things were coming apart … that people were leaving in droves and poised to leave in bigger droves unless things were improved.

For the most part, these perpetual pleas for improvement fell on deaf ears. The public and the Air Force deserve to understand why.

For those of us who have been observing and commenting, the current crisis is unsurprising. This has been the trajectory. I started writing about it in early 2013, documenting the reasons I felt the service was coming apart at its core. It would be useful for all of us to understand whether senior officials agreed.

Just to revisit some of the main points we’ve made over the years, the Air Force is not breaking suddenly or solely because it doesn’t have enough pilots.

It is breaking because…

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2 Comments on "The Air Force is Breaking. Who is Accountable?"

  1. Two recent studies by RAND Corp. and the Government Accountability Office paint a grim picture of U.S. airpower.

  2. Daring China | April 20, 2019 at 08:27 | Reply

    Japan’s F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters, including the one that went down in the Pacific Ocean last week, made seven precautionary landings before the crash, the nation’s Defense Minister said.

    US and Japan doubt China can find the wreckage of a missing Japanese F-35

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