Monday, June 30, 2008

Today's Reading Assignment

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, on the "tragic end" of Bush Administration's policy toward North Korea. His opening paragraphs sum it up well:

Maskirovka – the Soviet dark art of denial, deception and disguise – is alive and well in Pyongyang, years after the Soviet Union disappeared. Unfortunately, the Bush administration appears not to have gotten the word.

With much fanfare and choreography, but little substance, the administration has accepted a North Korean "declaration" about its nuclear program that is narrowly limited, incomplete and almost certainly dishonest in material respects. In exchange, President Bush personally declared that North Korea is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism or an enemy of the United States. In a final flourish, North Korea has undertaken a reverse Potemkin Village act, destroying the antiquated cooling tower of the antiquated Yongbyon reactor. In the waning days of American presidencies, this theater is the stuff of legacy.

Read the whole thing, at

The Mouthpiece that Keeps on Giving

While Obama surrogate Wesley Clark was hammering John McCain for getting shot down over North Vietnam, another retired general was criticizing the GOP nominee for his girth.

In comments reprinted by the Philadelphia Bulletin, retired Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill “Tony” McPeak suggested that McCain has become a bit plump since his days as a student at the National War College. McCain and McPeak were members of the same war college class in 1974-1975. It was McCain’s first assignment after his release from the Hanoi Hilton and hospitalization for the injuries he received as a POW.

He was fresh out of jail, you know," Gen. McPeak told the Washington Times. Both he and Mr. McCain sat in the same National War College class in 1973-74.

"Skinny kid. All beat up of course, physically. But quite thin. They weren't feeding him very well in Hanoi. He's done very well at the dinner table in Washington," the general added.

McPeak’s remarks are simply beneath contempt. But, it’s about what we’d expect from the most reviled Chief of Staff in Air Force history, a man who tried to reinvent the service in his image, and wasted billions of tax dollars in the process.

From composite to wings to new apparel, everything was fair game for McPeak’s experimentation. As we noted in a previous post, one Air Force wing revamped its structure three times in less than two years, to suit the general’s whims. The GAO estimated that McPeak’s efforts to meld different types of aircraft into a single unit consumed at least $5 billion, with no appreciable improvement in efficiency or unit readiness.

But (perhaps) the most hated innovation of McPeak was his new uniform. Abandoning 40 years of tradition and evolution, General McPeak authorized a service dress combination with Navy or Coast Guard-style rank on the sleeves. More than a few officers, traveling in the uniform, complained that they were mistaken for airline pilots.

McPeak’s uniform jacket was also tailored for a lean, athletic cut. It was fine if you shared the general’s build (described by some as emaciated), but if you didn’t have a marathoner’s physique, it was confining, at best; downright uncomfortable, at worst.

The new uniform prompted legions of complaints from the ranks, but McPeak ignored them. Apparently, he couldn’t understand why the rest of the Air Force couldn’t follow his rigid diet and exercise regimen. By one account, McPeak ate tuna and crackers for lunch every day, and packed those items in his luggage, in case he couldn’t find Starkist and saltines at his temporary duty location.

The Air Force dumped McPeak’s uniform shortly after his retirement, returning to something a bit more traditional--not to mention, more comfortable. Fourteen years later—and as thin as ever—we can only imagine what “new” military innovations McPeak would offer, as a senior member of an Obama administration. Memo to all military personnel--save your clothing allowance. Those "airline-style" uniforms may yet make a comeback.

After dropping to 100 pounds in a North Vietnamese prison—and nearly dying from his injuries—we’d say that John McCain has earned the right to eat whatever he wants, and in the quantities he desires. The irony, of course, is that Mr. McCain is anything but obese, except by the rail-thin standards of Tony McPeak.

As readers of this blog know, General McPeak has already committed some blunders for the Obama campaign, including his suggestion that U.S. policies toward Israel would be “decided by voters in New York and Miami.” Given his penchant for ill-advised comments, it’s surprising that the Obama machine is still using him as a surrogate. On the other hand, given the candidate’s lack of military experience, he’s eager to surround himself with anyone who held flag rank, even a crank like Tony McPeak.

The McCain campaign can only hope that Obama’s staff keeps trotting out General McPeak as a military spokesman. Mr. McCain is hardly a favorite of the USAF, but plenty of those who served in the McPeak era will gladly pull the handle for anyone who hasn't been endorsed by the former Chief of Staff.

No Surprise

An Air Force general who received administrative punishment for his role in the "Thundervision” contracting scandal is retiring from active duty.

Major General Stephen Goldfein, Vice Director of the Joint Staff, will leave the Air Force in the near future. In From the Cold has learned that Goldfein's retirement was announced late last week, in a “Senior Leader” message issued by Lieutenant General Richard Newton III, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel.

While Goldfein’s retirement date was not revealed, he is expected to depart his post in the coming weeks. Senior leader announcements are routinely published by General Newton’s office and cover reassignments and retirements for flag-rank officers, command chief master sergeants and civilians in the Senior Executive Service (SES).

General Goldfein was harshly criticized in a report by the DoD Inspector General’s Office, for his role in steering an audiovisual contract to a firm that included his former boss as one of its partners. The contract--dubbed "Thundervision--covered media services for the USAF Thunderbirds, the Air Force precision flying team.

At the time the deal was finalized in late 2005, Goldfein served as commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis AFB, Nevada. The Thunderbirds were one of many units that fell under Goldfein’s purview.

According to DoD investigators, Major General Goldfein lobbied actively on behalf of Strategic Message Solutions (SMS), a Pennsylvania firm headed by media executive Ed Shipley and retired General Hal Hornburg, the former Commander of Air Combat Command (ACC). In that post, Hornburg approved Goldfein’s Nellis assignment and served as his supervisor before retiring in January, 2005.

As part of his lobbying effort, Goldfein tried to become a voting member of the source selection panel that awarded the contract. Told that he could not serve in that capacity, General Goldfein signed on as an “advisor,” and urged the panel to select SMS over other private firms and a USAF squadron that specializes in audiovisual support.

Members of the selection group told investigators they felt extreme pressure from Goldfein. One even said the experience left him feeling “dirty.” After bowing to General Goldfein’s demands, the chief of the selection panel apologized to his colleagues. “Sorry guys, I caved,” he was quoted as saying.

Award of the contract to SMS prompted a protest from another firm. That prompted then-Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne to request a review by DoD IG. The $50 million contract was later cancelled.

The Defense Department investigation lasted for more than a year and was joined, at one point, by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas. The Justice Department declined to prosecute civilian participants in the scandal, citing a lack of evidence. The DoD inquiry continued until late last year; a redacted version of the 250-page report was released in April, after excerpts were published in the Washington Post.

As a result of the investigation, General Mike Moseley, the outgoing Air Force Chief of Staff, imposed administrative punishment on Goldfein and another officer, who has not been identified. General Goldfein and the second officer were sanctioned for failing to meet USAF standards in the Thundervision episode. Three other Air Force members were referred to their chains of command for possible punishment.

According to Air Force Times, Goldfein received a Letter of Reprimand for his conduct, enough to derail a flag officer's career. Before the controversy, General Goldfein advanced steadily through the ranks, serving as squadron, group and wing commander, in addition to high-level staff assignments.

After leaving the Nellis post in October 2006, Goldfein briefly served as Vice Commander of Air Combat Command, located at Langley AFB, Virginia. He assumed his current position on the Joint Staff in February 2007.

Goldfein’s retirement makes him the highest-ranking casualty of the Thundervision scandal (to date), but the matter is far from settled. After reviewing the initial report, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, asked the DoD IG to reopen its investigation of the audio-visual deal, with emphasis on the conduct of senior officials.

Levin and McCain made their request in response to revelations from the original summary, which revealed that General Moseley socialized with Shipley and Hornburg while SMS was bidding for the Thundervision contract. Moseley was not accused of any wrong-doing in the first IG investigation. A second probe into the matter began in early May.

Also unresolved is the matter of Goldfein’s reassignment while under investigation. As reported by this blog in April, Air Force personnel regulations prohibit members from accepting new assignments while being investigated by the security forces or the USAF Office of Special Investigations.

Current and former commanders tell In From the Cold they typically use a broad interpretation of the regulation, to cover inquires by any investigative agency, including the DoD IG. Under that widely-accepted policy, General Goldfein’s assignments to ACC and the Joint Staff—during the first IG investigation—may have violated Air Force personnel rules. It is unclear if the current IG probe will examine the assignment issue.

Goldfein’s retirement comes less than a month after General Moseley and Mr. Wynne were forced out of their posts. Their resignations came after a separate DoD report slammed the Air Force for a “lack of accountability” in its nuclear weapons program.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who demanded the resignations of both men, has nominated General Norton Schwartz as the next Chief of Staff, and Michael Donley, a veteran DoD official, as the new Air Force Secretary. Donley has already assumed his post, pending Senate confirmation.

General Schwartz is expected to assume his new position after 1 August, Moseley’s scheduled departure date.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Conduct in the Presence of the Enemy

Then-Lieutenant General Wesley Clark poses for the camera in 1994, after holding an unauthorized meeting with the notorious Bosnian Serb war criminal, General Ratko Mladic. Clark is wearing Mladic's hat. A U.S. official likened it to "cavorting with Hermann Goering."

As we've observed on previous occasions, the Democrats will leave no insult unhurled in their effort to tar John McCain.

The latest example happened this morning, on CBS' "Face the Nation." Retired General Wesley Clark, serving as a surrogate for the Obama campaign, told host Bob Schieffer that Senator McCain lacks the leadership experience to serve as Commander-in-Chief.

“He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron,” Clark said.

And, in the best tradition of Jay Rockefeller and George McGovern, General Clark took full advantage of his TV forum to take a personal shot at McCain--and his war record.

I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.”

Funny, but we can't recall Mr. McCain (or his campaign) ever saying that his stint as a POW is a prerequisite for serving as Commander-in-Chief. McCain's years as a naval aviator are merely one example of his years of public service--and the hardships he has endured for his country.

To our knowledge, no one has ever criticized Wesley Clark for getting shot up as a platoon leader in Vietnam, but given his comments about John McCain, perhaps it's time to start. As we recall, Clark trumpeted his own military record during an abortive presidential run in 2004, including his status as a recipient of the Purple Heart. But no one ever suggested that his combat service (and wounds) made his less qualified to serve as president.

No one doubts that Clark performed admirably in Vietnam, and suffered for his country. But, it's worth noting that the young infantry officer had the benefit of a medevac and the finest U.S. medical care after his injuries on the battlefield. John McCain didn't see an American doctor for almost six years following his ejection and capture in North Vietnam. During that time, he received "medical treatment" that was crude, at best, and almost died from his wounds.

We also recall that Mr. McCain conducted himself with honor under those extraordinarily trying conditions. Offered repatriation when his captors discovered that he was the son of a Navy admiral, McCain declined, demanding that all prisoners captured before him also be released. He also resisted enemy propaganda efforts, though he signed one "confession" of war crimes after months of beatings and other forms of physical abuse.

McCain's resistance continued until he was finally released in 1973. As recounted in Robert Timberg's superb book, The Nightingale's Song, the North Vietnamese made one final effort at scoring propaganda points from John McCain. Shortly before his repatriation, an enemy camera crew asked McCain if he wanted to "thank" a North Vietnamese doctor who purportedly treated him in the Hanoi Hilton.

"Tell the son-of-a-bitch I said hello," McCain retorted, "because I haven't seen him in five-and-a-half years."

Contrast John McCain's conduct to that of Wesley Clark. During the 1990s, Clark and other Clinton Administration envoys envoys met with notorious Serbian leaders, including General Ratko Mladic, leader of the Bosnia Serb Army, and a wanted war criminal. By various accounts, Mladic was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Muslims and Croat civilians.

During one highly-publicized meeting Mladic and Clark, all smiles, gladly exchanged hats, and posed for photographers. It was a particularly shameful moment, one that General Clark never mentions. Making matters worse (if that's possible), the infamous "hat-swap" meeting, which occurred in 1994, was not officially authorized. "It's like cavorting with Hermann Goering" one U.S. official complained at the time.

To our knowledge, General Clark has never apologized for that meeting--or his feckless conduct. And, quite predictably, Clark's friends in the MSM have never called him on it.

As for Clark's critique of Senator McCain, it's downright laughable. Too bad Bob Schieffer didn't ask him why Barack Obama's years as a "community organizer" and Illinois State Senator made him more qualified than John McCain to lead our nation's military. Seems that Clark's candidate is the one lacking executive experience.

But, it's about what you'd expect from General Clark--and his friends in the Democratic Party. They are determined to "Swift Boat" John McCain at any cost, using any convenient surrogate.

Still, there are a couple of problems with that approach. First, the "Swift-Boating" of John Kerry was based in truth, thanks to the candidate's own distortions and exaggerations of his Vietnam record. An exhaustive examination of McCain's military service has not revealed similar discrepancies.

Secondly, the Swift Boat veterans who questioned John Kerry had credibility--they served alongside him, in the same small boat unit. General Clark has no combat experience as a fighter pilot, and lost much of his credibility a long time ago.
About the same time he posed in that infamous photo, wearing Ratko Mladic's hat.

Say what you will about his "executive experience." At least John McCain knows how to handle himself in the presence of the enemy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another Dismissal at Minot

Nuclear security woes at Minot AFB, North Dakota have resulted in the dismissal of another Air Force unit commander.

Sources at the base tell In From the Cold that Lieutenant Colonel John Worley, commander of the 5th Security Forces Squadron at the base, was fired shortly after Minot's 5th Bomb Wing failed its Nuclear Surety Inspection (NSI) in late May. The wing's failing grade was the result of numerous security discrepancies, largely attributed to Worley's unit.

Inspectors from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) discovered both major and minor security problems during the evaluation, which was conducted by experts representing that organization and the Air Combat Command (ACC) Inspector General team. ACC is the parent command for the 5th Bomb Wing.

Security problems represent the largest section of the DTRA report, which was obtained by this blog and other media outlets. More than one-third of the 14-page document was devoted to security failings, which ranged from improper search and entry control techniques, to lax conduct by security forces personnel.

In one highly publicized incident, a security specialist was observed playing games on a cell phone during a critical exercise event. During another test, a security team deployed incorrectly while defending the base nuclear weapons storage area (WSA), one of the most critical facilities on the base.

All told, the DTRA team discovered five major security deficiencies and 11 minor ones during their evaluation. As a result, the 5th Bomb Wing received an "unacceptable" rating for security during the inspection, and an overall grade of "unsatisfactory" for the unit as a whole.

Due to the demanding criteria for nuclear inspections, a failing grade in any area results in an unsatisfactory rating for the unit as a whole. The Minot bomber unit received passing grades in the other nine categories evaluated during the NSI.

Repeated security failings disturbed the team DTRA team chief--Navy Captain A.J. Camp, Jr.--who traced the problems to a lack of adequate supervision. Camp voiced his concerns in Tab C of the DTRA report, which is reserved for comments by the team leader:

"A review of [security forces] blotters of the past 90 days confirmed that leaders were unengaged with the proper supervision of airmen," he continued. Camp noted that the "average post visit" for senior leadership (above the flight level) was 90 minutes or less per visit, and only "15% of shifts in the weapons storage area" were visited in the last 90 days."

The security debacle during the inspection prompted the dismissal of the wing's highest-ranking security forces officer, Lieutenant Colonel Worley. Another officer at the base, speaking on the condition of anonymity, reports that Worley was fired from his post shortly after the evaluation. Air Force officials also cancelled his planned, one-year assignment to Iraq.

Sources indicate that Worley has been reassigned to Lackland AFB, Texas, although it's unclear what job he will fill at that base. Lackland is home for the technical school that trains Air Force security specialists and there is some speculation that Lieutenant Colonel Worley will be assigned to that organization.

Worley's reported dismissal came just days before he was scheduled to relinquish command of the 5th SFS. The squadron is charged with protecting the assets of the 5th Bomb Wing and Minot AFB, including the installation's weapons storage area. A larger security forces group, part of the 91st Missile Wing, provides security for the ICBM silos and launch complexes located outside the base perimeter.

During his tenure at Minot, Lieutenant Colonel Worley won recognition as a champion long-distance runner. In 2007, Worley won the men's division of the local Trestle Valley Marathon, with a time of 2:45:12. Earlier this spring, Worley successfully defended his title, completing the race in 2:42:49.

This year's marathon was held just three weeks before the nuclear surety inspection began.

Lieutenant Colonel Worley told the Minot Daily News that he normally runs "one or two" marathons a year. Training for those events requires extensive preparation; Runner's World magazine suggests that athletes cover at least 190 miles in training runs during the eight weeks leading up to the race. Worley's training for the most recent Trestle Valley Marathon coincided with final preparations for the Minot NSI.

Lieutenant Colonel Worley did not respond to e-mail requests for comment.

With his dismissal, Worley became the fourth Minot commander to lose his job because of nuclear problems at the base. The 5th Bomb Wing Commander, the maintenance group commander and the munitions maintenance squadron commander were fired last September, after Minot crews mistakenly loaded six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on a B-52 bound for Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. Other personnel received non-judicial punishment, or lost their authorization to work with nuclear weapons.

As a result of that incident--the nation's worst nuclear mishap in almost 30 years--the 5th Bomb Wing temporarily lost its nuclear certification, triggering a series of evaluations aimed at restoring that mission capability. The bomber unit regained its nuclear certification earlier this year, after passing an initial nuclear surety inspection.

Despite the failing grades for security, the wing will retain its certification for nuclear weapons handling and operations, according to Air Force spokesmen. Inspectors will return to Minot later this summer, to ensure that security problems have been fixed.

Air Force security experts said that Worley's firing was not unexpected, given the gravity of problems discovered by inspectors. They suggested that other personnel will also face dismissals, noting the "lack of supervision" cited by the inspection team.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today's Reading Assignment

How Iran might respond to an attack on its nuclear facilities, from Eli Lake of the New York Sun. Among the scenarios he lists are attacks against U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf, strikes targeting Saudi oil installions, and Hizballah operations against "soft" facilities in the Middle East and western Europe.

All are possible.

RIP, Airman Carlin

Reading obituaries for George Carlin, we were reminded that the comedian got his start in the Air Force.

It was anything but a match made in heaven.

Carlin enlisted at the age of 19, after dropping out of high school in the ninth grade. By various accounts, the joined the service for the education benefits and planned to attend broadcasting school after his hitch was up.

After being trained as a radar technician, Carlin was sent to Barksdale AFB, near Shreveport, Louisiana. Back in those days, Barksdale was part of Strategic Air Command, an organization with an exceptional intolerance for free spirits.

Carlin soon discovered he didn't need a broadcasting diploma and found a part-time job at a local radio station. The future comedian devoted most of his energies to the radio gig, and his military performance--shaky in the best of times--grew steadily worse. Carlin bragged that he was court-martialed three times, but that was likely an exaggeration. In the heyday of SAC, commanders generally followed through with court-martial threats, and Mr. Carlin would have likely wound up in Leavenworth.

Instead, both the airman and the military decided to part company, and Carlin accepted a general discharge in 1957. He was subsequently fired from his first major radio job (in Boston) for "borrowing" the remote truck for a weekend drive to his home in New York.

After leaving Boston, he moved to Fort Worth, found another DJ slot and teamed up with a fellow announcer Jack Burns, who became his first partner. They worked in Los Angeles before parting company in the early 1960s. Within a few months, Carlin hit the big time, with appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Tonight Show.

George Carlin was a gifted comedian. But as an airman, he was the proverbial round peg in a square hole. It would be interesting to read some of his performance evaluations from Barksdale, to say the least.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Goin' Fishin'

We'll be out of pocket during much of the next week, for a little R&R in the Land of Faulkner. Blogging will be light, but we'll provide a few updates, as required.

About that Israeli Exercise

The New York Times is reporting that the Israeli military carried out a large-scale exercise earlier this month that, in the words of U.S. officials, appeared to be a rehearsal for a possible attack on Iran.

According to the Times, more than 100 Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-15s and F-16s participated in the drill, which was conducted over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece during the first week of June. Officials who spoke with the Times (on the condition of anonymity) described the exercise as an effort to “develop a long-range strike” capability, and “demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.”

We’d say it was more of an effort to practice long-range strike, since the IAF has had that sort of capability for decades. It’s been 27 years since Israeli jets destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, and more than a decade since the IAF flew across the Mediterranean and took out Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in Tunis. In both cases, the Israelis achieved tactical surprise, demolished their targets, and suffered no losses of aircraft or crews.

As we’ve noted in the past, the IAF would almost certainly employ deceptive elements for a similar attack against Iran. That’s one reason that most analysts believe the strike package would be relatively small (no more than two dozen aircraft), with fighters flying in tight formation with their aerial tankers to minimize radar returns. The raid would likely follow an established air corridor, with Israeli aircraft mimicking the IFF “squawk” and radio callsigns of commercial aircraft.

By comparison, the “rehearsal” effort in early June was a much larger, and (arguably) more noisy effort, aimed at sending signals to the U.S., the Europeans—and Iran. As one American official told the Times:

“.. the scope of the Israeli exercise virtually guaranteed that it would be noticed by American and other foreign intelligence agencies. A senior Pentagon official who has been briefed on the exercise, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political delicacy of the matter, said the exercise appeared to serve multiple purposes.

One Israeli goal, the Pentagon official said, was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles.

A second, the official said, was to send a clear message to the United States and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium continued to falter.

“They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know,” the Pentagon official said. “There’s a lot of signaling going on at different levels.”

Officials interviewed by the NYT said they do not believe that Israel has concluded that it must strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, and do not view such an attack as “imminent.” But, it’s worth remembering the U.S. was surprised by past Israeli air missions. Incorporating the expected deception campaign, the IAF could likely mask strike preparations and launch the raid without detection by American intelligence assets.

One unique feature of the recent exercise was the incorporation of Israeli helicopters, which could be used to rescue downed pilots. U.S. or Israeli officials have not revealed the extent of rotary wing activity during the drill, or its proximity to operating areas for fighter aircraft. Israeli helicopter crews routinely participate in search-and-rescue training in the eastern Mediterranean with American and Turkish units.

But combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) represents only one potential mission for the choppers. Israel’s long-range helicopters are a primary insertion platform for commando units, which could be used to designated targets, assist downed aircrews, or recover material after the attack. There are reports that Israeli special forces participated in last year’s strike on a Syrian nuclear reactor, scooping up evidence that was used to confirm its purpose.

More than two years ago, we reported that IAF officers told their American counterparts that planning for an Iran mission had largely been completed. Given Israel’s long concern about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, that claim seems entirely plausible. That would also suggest that the recent exercise was something of a rehearsal, not the “long-range strike development effort” suggested by the Times.

During the same 2006 encounter, IAF officials also suggested that special ops planning for an Iran operation had also been concluded. Without going into details, they indicated that Israeli helicopters, C-130 tankers (for refueling the choppers) and commando teams would be forward deployed in support of the raid. Turkey, a longtime ally of Israel, might be a possible basing location for SOF teams and support elements. A forward operating base in northern Iraq is another possibility.

While the recent exercise clearly served training (and diplomatic) purposes, we’d say it meet other needs as well. Given the mechanics of an actual raid against Iran, we believe the package would be significantly smaller, and incorporate deceptive elements not seen earlier this month. That’s why the early June drill may also support a disinformation campaign, aimed at confusing Tehran (and western intelligence) over the size, composition and tactics of a potential strike formation.

Here’s a historical fact: virtually every major IAF operation has been preceded by a carefully planned and executed deception effort. That’s why it would be a mistake for Tehran, the Europeans and the U.S. to accept this month’s exercise as the template for an actual strike. If past performance is any indicator, the Israelis still have a few tricks up their sleeve.

Countering the $100 Strategic Weapon--at Home

The general in charge of the Pengaton’s counter-IED effort reiterated a couple of important points Wednesday. Speaking at a defense forum in Virginia Beach, Army Lieutenant General Thomas Metz noted that IEDs are strategic weapons, and they could be equally devastating if used in the United States.

“The IED is a strategic weapon and it’s got to be dealt with as a strategic weapon,” he told the audience at a conference on joint warfighting hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Much like the methodical ‘death of thousand cuts’ employed by communist forces during the Vietnam War, the strategy of opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan who employ IEDs against U.S. troops, Metz said, is to exploit the American public’s low tolerance for casualties.

“It’s a strategic weapon to wear our will down,” he said.

General Metz currently serves as director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), which (as Air Force Times notes) has a $4 billion annual budget, to counter weapons that can cost less than $100 to build and deploy.

During his remarks, Metz raised the spectre of IEDs being used in the United States. He observed that an IED could be easily emplaced on a critical bridge or inside a tunnel, with deadly results.

Materials for such a device could be easily obtained, Metz claimed. ““I’m told that in most homes there’s enough [chemicals and cheap technology] to make an IED,” he said.

The Director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, made similar remarks last October, at a meeting in Washington, D.C. At the time, he said the Bush Administration would unveil its “domestic” strategy for the IED threat later this year.

As a part of that effort, the Department of Homeland Security has asked the states to develop plans for dealing with the menace. The plan is a requirement for states to receive their full allotment of federal funding. And, as you might expect, there’s been plenty of belly-aching about the IED mandate. From an article published last month in The New York Times:

Juliette N. Kayyem, the Massachusetts homeland security adviser, was in her office in early February when an aide brought her startling news. To qualify for its full allotment of federal money, Massachusetts had to come up with a plan to protect the state from an almost unheard-of threat: improvised explosive devices, known as I.E.D.’s

“I.E.D.’s? As in Iraq I.E.D.’s?” Ms. Kayyem said in an interview, recalling her response. No one had ever suggested homemade roadside bombs might begin exploding on the highways of Massachusetts. “There was no new intelligence about this,” she said. “It just came out of nowhere.”

More openly than at any time since the Sept. 11 attacks, state and local authorities have begun to complain that the federal financing for domestic security is being too closely tied to combating potential terrorist threats, at a time when they say they have more urgent priorities.

And there’s the rub:

Local officials do not dismiss the terrorist threat, but many are trying to retool counterterrorism programs so that they focus more directly on combating gun violence, narcotics trafficking and gangs — while arguing that these programs, too, should qualify for federal financing, on the theory that terrorists may engage in criminal activity as a precursor to an attack.

Secretary Chertoff disagrees:

“We have not been highly restrictive,” Mr. Chertoff said. But he said the department’s programs were never meant to assist local law enforcement agencies in their day-to-day policing. The requirements of the Homeland Security programs had helped strengthen the country against an attack, Mr. Chertoff said, expressing concern about shifting money to other law enforcement problems from counterterrorism. “If we drop the barrier and start to lose focus,” he said, “we will make it easier to have successful attacks here.”

Meanwhile, the administration is also catching flack on Capitol Hill for slow implementation of a plan for countering IEDs in the United States. Damned if you do, and damned if you do, or so it would seem.

Federal and state officials are, of course, free to debate the threat posed by IEDs in the homeland. But General Metz is correct in describing them as strategic weapons, and his assessment that they will be used in the U.S., perhaps sooner rather than later. If you accept that premise, then it seems logical that some sort of planning should be accomplished before the first IED explodes in an American city.

In fact, the Bush Administration probably deserves some credit for getting state and local officials to think about the threat, and using grant money to hold their feet to the fire. Unfortunately, many of those officials now view Homeland Security grants as just another example of federal largess, money that should not arrive with strings attached.

Normally, we’re a little leery of federal mandates, but in this case, we’ll make an exception. There is no indication that a terrorist IED campaign would be preceded by a rash of bank robberies or armored car heists, so the theory of “deterring crime to prevent terrorism” only goes so far.

More importantly, state and local law enforcement can’t afford to play “catch-up” on the IED threat, once the bombs start going off. Remember the public outcry over IED casualties in Iraq? Multiply that a thousand times, and you’ll get some idea of the response to domestic IEDs.

Now is the time for the states and municipalities to start thinking about the threat, and developing viable plans for attacking the bomb-makers and their networks before the first attack. IEDs may be relatively low on the priority list right now, but they won’t be after the first bomb explodes on a bridge or in a tunnel—or on a crowded commuter train.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Somewhere, Curt LeMay is Smiling

No more warnings for nuclear inspections.

The era of no-notice evaluations for nuclear units has returned. Air Force officials say the new system will prevent unit commanders from "gaming" the system, by ensuring that their best airmen are on duty during the inspection.

That invites a rather snide (and obvious) observation. Given some of the recent inspection failures under the "gamed" system, we can only wonder how some of those units would fare under the no-notice approach.

As Air Force Times reports, the new system will go into effect later this year. Under the revised inspection criteria, the service will evaluate units with one team of experts. Currently, nuclear surety inspections are conducted by teams representing the major commands and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

In many respects, the new inspection system is nothing more than a return to the old way of doing business. No-notice inspections were the norm during the heyday of Strategic Air Command, which controlled most of the nation's nuclear stockpile for decades, until its demise in the early 1990s.

Since then, the Air Force has adopted a "kinder, gentler," approach to inspections, with units receiving notification well in advance. The return to no-notice evaluations is aimed (in part) at restoring high standards and accountability in the nuclear program, and preventing mishaps like the ones at Minot AFB, North Dakota, and Hill AFB, Utah.

Implementing the new system may be tough on the inspectors--and the units they evaluate. As AFT observes, the service is finding it difficult to find personnel with detailed knowledge of nuclear systems and procedures--the type of experts that SAC produced in droves. With declining emphasis on the nuclear mission over the past decade--and limited promotion prospects--many of those officers and senior NCOs elected to retire.

Now, it's a fair bet that some of them will be coming back--as GS-13s, 14s, and 15s.

Missing Parts

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates took the unprecedented step of demanding the resignations of the Air Force Secretary and the service’s Chief of Staff. In explaining his decision, Dr. Gates cited the erosion of Air Force nuclear standards and the inability of senior leadership to reverse that trend. The resignations came just days after the defense chief received a damning report on Air Force nuclear safeguards.

So far, the Pentagon has not released even a redacted copy of that assessment, compiled by Navy Admiral Kirkland Donald. But Demetri Sevastopulo of the Financial Times has obtained limited details of that report, and they affirm serious problems within the Air Force nuclear program.

Mr. Sevastopulo’s sources are described as “government officials” who are familiar with the Donald inquiry. Reading between the lines, it seems clear that his sources are on Capitol Hill, since the information was passed after Admiral Donald’s briefed members of Congress on Wednesday. At this rate, a full “leak” of the report is probably imminent.

According to the FT, the Donald investigation found more than 1,000 nuclear components missing from the DoD inventory. It is assumed that most of those items were under Air Force control, since the Donald investigation focused on the service’s nuclear program.

The inquiry was prompted by a pair of high-profile nuclear incidents involving Air Force personnel. Last August, a B-52 bomber mistakenly ferried six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles between bases in North Dakota and Louisiana. Earlier this year, it was revealed that a logistics unit at Hill AFB, Utah inadvertently shipped nuclear missile nose cones to Taiwan.

While there is no indication that any of the missing items would up in the wrong hands, a senior defense official told the FT that Admiral Donald’s report “identified issues about record keeping” for sensitive nuclear components. His investigation also revealed a “lack of effective oversight by Air Force leadership,” a finding that resulted in the resignations of USAF Secretary Mike Wynne, and the service’s Chief of Staff, General Michael Moseley.

Details of the Donald investigation represent yet another blow for the Air Force, which has suffered through a series of scandals and blunders over the past five years. The Admiral’s presentation on USAF nuclear problems was delivered on the same day that the Government Accountability Office upheld Boeing’s protest of the Air Force tanker contract—a move that one analyst described as a “sweeping denunciation” of the service’s acquisition programs.

And, if that weren’t enough, the USAF Inspector General confirmed earlier this week that the Chief of the Air Force Reserve, Lieutenant General John Bradley, is under investigation.
The nature of the inquiry has not been revealed, but Bradley’s retirement, originally scheduled for 24 June, has been put on hold until the investigation is completed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Sweeping Denunciation

Give credit to Loren Thompson, the astute airpower analyst who serves as Chief Operating Officer of the Lexington Institute, the national security think tank based in Arlington, Virginia. Analyzing today's GAO decision to uphold Boeing's protest of the Air Force tanker contract, Thompson described it as a "sweeping denunciation" of the service's acquisition practices, which raise "fundamental questions of fairness."

In other words, the Government Accountability Office confirmed what many have long known: the USAF's acquisition effort is hard-broke and (seemingly) incapable of awarding a major weapons contract without corruption, controversy or incompetence.

Today's GAO ruling represents the latest setback for Air Force attempts to field a new generation of aerial tankers. Reviewing the USAF contract that was awarded to Northrop-Grumman earlier this year, the Congressional watchdog found "a number of significant errors," including a "failure to fairly judge the relative merits of each proposal."

In February, the service selected the KC-30 as its next refueling plane, breaking a 60-year tradition of buying tankers from Boeing. While Northrop-Grumman is the lead contractor for the project, the design is based on the Airbus A330, built by European consortium, EADS.
The KC-30 offered greater range and refueling capability than the Boeing entry, based on its 767 jetliner.

While the GAO rejected portions of the Boeing protest, it offered a detailed rationale for rebidding the contract. As the AP reports:

Among [the GAO's] conclusions was that the Air Force awarded the Northrop team improper extra credit for offering a larger plane that could carry more fuel, cargo and troops. It also found that the Air Force improperly increased the likely costs of the Boeing bid and failed to show that Northrop's tanker could refuel all necessary planes.

The ruling by accountability office isn't binding, but the Air Force will likely follow its recommendations, since the GAO's Congressional masters control military funding. Re-opening the contract for bids will require Boeing and Northrop-Grumman/EADS to submit new proposals. That process--along with the required Air Force evaluation and a new decision--will take a year (or longer), further delaying delivery of new tankers.

In fact, by the time the next generation of refueling planes joins the USAF inventory, a decade will have passed. The service began trying to replace its oldest tankers almost six years ago, through a proposed lease of Boeing 767 tankers. That deal was later scuttled, after it was revealed that a senior Air Force civilian official had provided "inside" information to Boeing--and accepted a job offer from the country.

The resulting "lease" scandal sent the Air Force contracting official--and a Boeing executive--to prison. It also prompted a Congressional investigation and forced the USAF to start the bidding process over again. That effort led to the decision announced earlier this year, the Boeing protest, and today's GAO ruling. Six years into the tanker program, the Air Force is back at square one.

Equally troubling, the tanker controversy seems to affirm the USAF's inability to conclude its highest-priority acquisition program. Barely a year ago, the GAO made a similar ruling on the service's CSAR-X helicopter program, rejecting a contract that had been awarded to Boeing. A new decision on the helicopter project is expected later this year. As with the tanker program, delays in CSAR-X mean that rescue crews will be flying old choppers well into the next decade.

As we've noted before, new tanker and helicopters represent the most important acquisition programs for the Air Force. The service's failure to advance these efforts represents yet another black eye for the service--one it can hardly afford. In a previous post, we observed that the tanker project represented one of the highest priorities for the incoming Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz. Today's GAO decision makes that job doubly difficult. Not only does he have to make a case for the "right" tanker, he must also fix the process for selecting that aircraft.

That PhD in PME

We've heard from a number of Air Force senior NCOs--active duty and retired--since yesterday's post on the service's extended completion deadline for its "capstone" professional military education (PME) course for senior enlisted personnel.

And, by an overwhelming margin, they're upset over a new "open enrollment" plan, giving eligible non-commissioned officers up to 72 months to complete the Senior NCO Academy course by correspondence. Before the change, there was a one-year deadline for finishing the program.

As we noted previously, six years strikes us as a very long time to complete a course that most NCOs knock out in six months--or less. And, it's difficult to accept Air Force claims that more frequent deployments support the 72-month completion window.

Indeed, the service's most recent figures indicate that more than half of all airmen have never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. That suggests that many senior NCOs (and officers) are spending most of their time at home station, and should have enough room in their schedules for a PME course.

We won't dispute the fact that some NCOs deploy more often than others. Members of a low density/high demand career field (or unit) are often stuck on a deployment treadmill, making it more difficult to finish PME programs that are vital to promotion and advancement. But, instead of giving everyone a six-year deadline, why not grant waivers to NCOs who, legitimately, need a few more months. But the notion of a 72-month completion window--longer than some neurosurgery residency programs--strikes many as absurd.

An active-duty Chief Master Sergeant summed it up well:

It is ridiculous that people now have 72 months for a correspondence course. Where is the leadership in the unit? Who would ever allow someone six years? This is not even reasonable. I can't wait to hear someone's justification to extend it over six months...let alone a year. I'll shank someone for even asking. I will continue to give the people about three to four months to get it done. Otherwise EPR ratings will reflect. I understand about extenuating circumstances but who made the decision to go six years? What an idiot!! It is obvious someone who doesn't have a clue about professional development and is out of touch with the enlisted people. This should really be a test...anyone who goes over the year should be discharged immediately for being an idiot. These are the people we don't want leading the troops anyway. If you make MSgt at 15-17 years, then go six more to get the course done, what kind of mentorship or example are you setting. BS!!! Get these people out of our AF!!!! We are too small to be lugging the dead weight around.

Given the lunacy that current abounds in portions of the USAF, General Schwartz can't be confirmed fast enough.

Surrender on the Solomon Amendment

As a former military ROTC instructor, I can attest to the value—and importance—of the Solomon Amendment. The 1996 law requires that all colleges and universities receiving federal funds provide access to military recruiters, and to treat them in the same manner as other organizational recruiters.

Over the past decade, the Solomon Amendment has not only kept recruiting doors open at institutions of higher learning, it has also prevented some universities from shutting down their ROTC programs. We can only guess how many recruits the military has gained because of the measure, which was championed by the late New York Congressman Gerald Solomon, a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War era.

That’s why it’s disappointing to see the Pentagon (and the Bush Administration) take a pass on enforcing the law. Paul Mirengoff at Powerline has been following the case of the University of California at Santa Cruz, which has actively flouted the Solomon Amendment in recent years.

As Mr. Mirengoff observes, the university has allowed radical students and professors to stage near-riots during job fairs over the past three years, aimed at driving military recruiters from the campus. The reaction from DoD and the White House? A collective yawn.

Trying to prod the government into enforcing the law, the Young America’s Foundation, in cooperation with the Mountain States’ Legal Foundation, filed a suit against the Department of Defense. Yesterday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., sided with the government, granting DoD’s request to dismiss the suit. The ruling notes that the foundation lacks standing in the case, and affirms the Pentagon’s discretion in enforcing the Solomon Amendment.

There is more than a touch of legal irony in the court’s decision—and the administration’s handling of the case. As Paul Mirengoff writes:

The court concluded instead that the harm was caused the students and professors -- third parties who were not named as defendants. The court also thought it was pure conjecture to suppose that UCSC, deprived of $80 million in federal funds, would change its conduct and bring the students and faculty in line with the UCSC's purported policy of allowing recruiters on campus. The fact that such "conjecture" lies at the core of Congress' thinking in passing the Solomon Amendment appears to have counted for nothing.

The real fault here lies not with the court (whose core holdings may be defensible in light of the applicable precedents), but with the Bush administration. It has handed left-wing colleges and universities a free pass to circumvent the Solomon Amendment. These institutions can adopt a formal policy in favor of recruiters but stand idly by as students and faculty members drive recruiters off the campus. This was not a case in which the college attempted unsuccessfully to curb the riotous behavior of its students and faculty members, and it is clear that the Bush administration is indifferent as to whether college's make such efforts. In fact, students who lost the opportunity to meet with military recruiters at UCSC never even received a response to a letter they wrote to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld reporting this. Given its indifference, one wonders why the administration went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to confirm the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment.

Mirengoff calls it “another example of pre-emptive surrender” by a “burned-out, largely ineffectual administration.”

Sadly, I can’t disagree. ROTC detachments at Berkeley, Madison and other hotbeds of campus radicalism might want to contact a moving company. With yesterday’s court decision—and the administration’s refusal to enforce the Solomon Amendment—ROTC's days at certain colleges and universities are now officially numbered.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Whole Lotta Learning

By any standard, you can cram a lot of education into six years.

Over that period, a student could earn a bachelor's degree, and a master's (in some fields).

Or, you could earn a B.S. or B.A., and knock out the first two years of law school. Complete medical school and an internship. Finish a pharmacy program, an engineering degree, or the course work, dissertation and oral defense for a PhD.

It's also enough time to complete the U.S. Air Force Senior NCO Academy--by correspondence.

According to Air University (which runs the service's professional military education programs), the correspondence version of the senior NCO course now has an "open enrollment" period that won't exceed 72 months. Previously, NCOs in grades E-7 through E-9 had just one year to complete the program.

The change affects Course 12 of the program, which provides curricula via CD-ROM and Course 14, the on-line version. Students who previously had a one-year completion requirement can now re-enroll and take advantage of the new, open enrollment policy.

Tech. Sgt. Travis Pannell, Headquarters CEPME distance learning course manager at Gunter Annex said the policy will help all eligible Airmen complete the course while accommodating deployments and other service responsibilities.


"For students with current active enrollment who are concerned about restrictions or disenrollment, they need not worry," Sergeant Pannell said. "Enrollment data will automatically be adjusted to meet the new policy."

No one doubts the value of professional military education (PME) for non-commissioned officers. Indeed, you can make the case that the Air Force needs to increase PME for mid-level and senior NCOs, given the fact that officers receive far more professional education than their enlisted counterparts.

But 72 months to complete the correspondence version of the Senior NCO Academy? Give me a break. If officers can finish the equivalent versions of Air Command and Staff College or the Air War College in one year, there's no reason to increase the timeline for senior NCOs. I've never heard a non-commissioned officer complain that he couldn't complete the course under the old, 12-month timeline, even with the demands of deployments and other responsibilities.

In fact, the deployment argument rings a bit hollow. While some Air Force career fields constantly deploy (EOD specialists, combat controllers, pararescuemen and enlisted AWACS technicians come to mind), other career fields are tasked less frequently. In fact, the service's own statistics show that 53% of all airmen have never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan (emphasis mine).

Using that yardstick, I'd say that a lot of senior NCOs have plenty of time to finish their PME by correspondence. But, we'll leave the final word on the subject to a retired Chief Master Sergeant, one of the great enlisted leaders produced by the Air Force over the last 20 years. He could not contain his anger in an e-mail response on the policy change:

I finished the NCOA [NCO Academy] Correspondence Course in two months and the SNCOA Correspondence Course in three months. Anyone that can't finish that in 12 months does not need to be in our MILITARY!

Unholy Moron Batman -- where and when does the STUPIDITY END? I think we need a "Kinder & Gentler" Fitness Standard that will allow Lard Butts to stay for 20, 30, 40, and 50 years! More Limited Duty Morons that can only be assigned here in the Promised Land while all of US Deploy to Remotes from Hell. More Pansies that cannot carry a Weapon! More CONVICTS that cannot be Trusted. Yes Sir Ree Boob America, send US your Sorry, Sick, Lame, and Lazy Crap! We'll give them a Paycheck for 30 years and Pension for 50 more sorry years!

Well said, Chief. The new, open enrollment isn't an accommodation. It's an insult.

Connecting the Proliferation Dots

There are a number of unanswered questions about the international smuggling ring that acquired blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon, and could have shared that information with any number of countries or rogue groups.

According to the Washington Post, the weapon design information was discovered two years ago, on computers belonging to Swiss businessmen. The three men—a father and his two sons—were part of the infamous nuclear black market, led by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Kahn. A nuclear technology smuggling ring operated by Kahn and his associates was active for almost two decades, until it was exposed by U.S. and British intelligence in 2003.

Former U.N. arms inspector David Albright tells the Post that data discovered on the Swiss computers would allow construction of a much smaller nuclear warhead, one that could be easily fitted to missiles now in the inventories of Iran, North Korea and other rogue regimes.

But U.N. officials cannot rule out the possibility that the blueprints were shared with others before their discovery, said Mr. Albright, a prominent nuclear weapons expert who spent four years researching the smuggling network.

"These advanced nuclear weapons designs may have long ago been sold off to some of the most treacherous regimes in the world," Albright wrote in a draft report about the blueprint's discovery.


The A.Q. Khan smuggling ring was previously known to have provided Libya with design information for a nuclear bomb. But the blueprints found in 2006 are far more troubling, Albright said in his report. While Libya was given plans for an older and relatively unsophisticated weapon that was bulky and difficult to deliver, the newly discovered blueprints offered instructions for building a compact device, the report said. The lethality of such a bomb would be little enhanced, but its smaller size might allow for delivery by ballistic missile.

"To many of these countries, it's all about size and weight," Albright said in an interview. "They need to be able to fit the device on the missiles they have."

But exactly where did the design originate? That’s one issue that remains (officially) unresolved, although experts believe that it came from Pakistan. Mr. Albright told the Post that officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found similarities between the blueprints discovered on the Swiss computers, and those of Pakistani weapons. That suggests that A.Q. Kahn may have transferred his country’s most sensitive secrets to smugglers, allowing their potential sale to a host of customers.

Still, no one is saying if the advanced weapon blueprints represent an indigenous Pakistani design, or a blend of technology from several countries. Remember the plans given to Libya? They were based on a Chinese design from the early 1980s, transferred to Pakistan under a long-standing nuclear partnership between Beijing and Islamabad.

In fact, China was an early beneficiary of A.Q. Kahn’s nuclear proliferation network. According to a 2006 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Pakistani scientist transferred advanced uranium centrifuge technology to Beijing in the early 1980s, assisting China’s nuclear weapons program. In return, the Chinese gave Kahn blueprints for one of their early nuclear devices—the same information that Kahn later passed to Libya.

The same CRS report also notes that Kahn and his associates were active in China as late as 2002, “bribing people,” and continuing their relationships. That raises the disturbing question of what else Kahn may have gained from his Chinese connections. Lest we forget, Kahn’s activities in China coincided with Beijing’s acquisition of technical information for the most advanced U.S. nuclear weapons—the W-88.

Does that mean the design found on those computers in Switzerland was a copy of our most sophisticated nuclear warhead? The answer to that question is, thankfully, “no.” Even with detailed data on the W-88, Beijing would still face significant technical hurdles in replicating the design. Those challenges would prove even more daunting (read: impossible) for countries like North Korea-- which can produce only crude nuclear weapons--or Iran, which has yet to build its first atomic device.

However, technical information stolen from the United States could be by other nations to refine and improve existing warhead designs, particularly in the area of miniaturization. That would save years of development time (and millions of dollars) in the effort to field nuclear weapons which can fit on medium range missiles like the North Korean No Dong, or Iran’s Shahab-3.

It’s sobering to think that such information was—and probably is—readily available on the nuclear black market. Now comes the really hard part: determining who might have accessed that data, how it is being used in nuclear programs that threaten U.S. interests, and what role (if any) China played in producing that advanced design.


ADDENDUM: Sources in the intelligence community tell journalist Douglas Farah that at least 10 copies of the weapons documents found on the Swiss computers may have disappeared. Two of those copies may have been passed to Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout, while the others wound up in the hands of unknown parties. Needless to say, there’s no way of knowing how many times those copies have been reproduced--or who might have gained access to them.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Next Round in the Tanker War

While the GAO is still reviewing the Northrop-Grumman tanker deal, opponents of the contract are already plotting their next move.

Aviation Week reports that Washington Congressman Norman Dicks is working with Pennsylvania's John Murtha on legislation that would prevent the Air Force from awarding the tanker contract to Northrop-Grumman and its European partner, EADS.

The Government Accountability Office has been scrutinizing the contract since February, when rival Boeing filed a formal protest. GAO officials are expected to release their recommendations later this week. Since the Air Force falls under the executive branch--and the GAO reports to Congress--the service isn't required to follow the recommendations of the watchdog agency. But with its legislative bosses controlling military budgets, the USAF will accept the GAO's findings.

At this point, it's unclear if the agency will uphold the original contract, or recommend re-opening the project for new bids.

But Mr. Dicks (and other Boeing supporters) aren't waiting for the GAO to release its recommendations. If the agency validates the original deal, they will try to amend a defense spending bill, and effectively will block the contract.

But "no matter what happens with the GAO, if it doesn't stop this, Congress has a responsibility to review this," Dicks told AVIATION WEEK after a House Aerospace Caucus luncheon June 12. "We're going to take whatever action we have to take."


Dicks said some estimates have put the total lifecycle costs for the Northrop/EADS KC-45 tanker at $50 billion higher than Boeing's proposed KC-767. He complained that the acquisition process was not transparent and the Air Force misled Congress about how it evaluated the proposals (Aerospace DAILY, March 12). He and other lawmakers opposing the Northrop-EADS win have discussed trying to halt the award for months (Aerospace DAILY, April 29)."The more I get into this, the angrier I get," Dicks said.

Mr. Dicks' legislative plans are evidence that the tanker battle will continue for months after the GAO decision. General Norton Schwartz, who has been nominated as the next Air Force Chief of Staff will face a full plate of critical issues when he (presumably) takes the job later this year. But none are more important than the tanker deal. General Schwartz's ability to get a tanker contract through Congress will be one of the defining issues of his tenure.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Doodlebug Summer

Marker commemorating the impact point of the first V-1 attack on London, 13 June 1944 ( photo)

Along Grove Road in east London, at the spot where the highway passes beneath a railway bridge, there is a small, blue, circular marker. It reads: “The First Flying Bomb on London Fell Here 13 June 1944. Sixty-four years ago this week, Hitler unleashed his vengeance weapons on Europe, ushering in a new era in warfare.

The first of these was the V-1 flying bomb that landed alongside that railway bridge. Six Britons were killed in that first attack, and over six thousand more would die in the months that followed. At the height of the V-1 blitz in late June, as many as 100 buzz bombs were reaching London every day, killing scores of civilians. The euphoria that followed the D-Day invasion was replaced by a “Doodlebug Summer," punctuated by the familiar buzz of the V-1’s pulse-jet engine, which sounded like the Australian insect.

While British papers wrote of “robot bombers,” the appearance of the V-1 was no surprise to Allied intelligence. Allied agents had been providing information on Hitler’s vengeance weapons (including the V-2 ballistic missile) since early 1942, prompting an effort to delay or prevent their introduction. Nicknamed Operation Crossbow, the effort included dozens of raids by U.S. and British bombers against targets in Germany, France and the Low Countries.

One of Crossbow’s most famous attacks occurred almost a year before the first V-1 attack. On the night of 17-18 August 1943, almost 600 RAF heavy bombers struck the German research center at Peenemunde, on the Baltic Coast. British intelligence analysts knew that much of the work on the V-1 and V-2 was being conducted at the complex; the massive raid was aimed at killing German scientists and technicians, and destroying facilities used to build and test the vengeance weapons.

The RAF attack on Peenemunde produced mixed results. Over 800 workers died—including center’s deputy director, Dr. Walter Thiel—and tons of high explosive bombs caused some damage to technical facilities. By some estimates, the raid may have caused a delay of six months or two weeks in the introduction of Germany’s V-weapons. By that point, the programs were too advanced to be eradicated in a single attack. Personnel and equipment were shifted to other locations, and development of the V-1 and V-2 continued.

Crossbow adapted as well. In December 1943, Allied bombers began hitting suspected V-1 launch sites in northern Europe, an effort that continued through the summer of 1944 But the Germans had already built thousands of buzz bombs and hundreds of launch sites; it was impossible for U.S. and British aircraft to locate (and destroy) all of them before launch.

With its simple navigation system, the V-1 was only suitable for attacks against area targets, such as London or the allied port at Antwerp. But, some of the buzz bombs found their mark. An excellent website called does an excellent job detailing the deadliest attacks against the British capital.

One of them came barely a week into the buzz bomb blitz. On Sunday 18 June, a V-1 struck the Guards Chapel, in the Bird Cage Walk, not far from Buckingham Palace. The chapel was crowded with Royal Guardsmen from the nearby Wellington Barracks, along with their families and friends. At least 121 died; it took rescuers more than two days to pull victims from the debris. The incident provided an awful example of what a V-1—and its 1800-pound warhead--could do in an urban area.

Residents quickly learned the warning signs for a buzz bomb attack; about 15 seconds before impact, the V-1’s pulse jet went silent, giving Londoners enough time to dive under a table, or flatten themselves on the ground. But the daily barrage of V-1s also prompted an exodus from London; many who rode out the German "Blitz" of 1940 decided not to press their luck, and left the city in droves:

People left London in their thousands both through official and unofficial evacuation schemes. By mid July 15,000 a day were leaving the terminal stations on packed trains. Some reports describe a situation at the main stations of near panic as people struggled to get tickets and onto the over flowing trains. It is variously reported that somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million people fled the capital during this period. This created and eerie and empty feeling in many parts. Children disappeared from the streets and food stuff's which had been in short supply became easier to get again. This evacuation must have saved many many lives.

It was a cold dank summer and some of the prevailing impressions of the period are the grey, the Doodlebugs scuttling along in and out of the heavy clouds. The smell of powdered brick dust and plaster filling the air. Mingling with this the smell of crushed leaves stripped from trees by the blast waves. In some places spring arrived twice and trees were reported blossoming and leafing again later in the summer due to their confusion at the conditions. Underfoot the crunch of broken glass and slates from millions upon millions of windows and roofs.The day and night punctuated with the Doodlebugs coming over, sometimes in flights of 10 or more at a time , the ear splitting noise of the engines and then the periodic explosion.

The V-1 menace prompted additional defensive measures. More anti-aircraft guns were deployed around London and their locations shifted, in response to changes in German operations. But gunners quickly discovered that shooting down a buzz bomb was no mean feat; cruising at 2-3,000 feet, the V-1 was just beyond the range of light anti-aircraft guns, but below the optimum engagement envelope of medium-caliber weapons. Additionally, the “Doodlebug’s” relatively high cruise speed (390 mph) made it difficult for AAA gunners to get a bead on their target.

Aerial intercepts of the V-1 were equally challenging. Only the fastest fighters were assigned to the job, primarily P-51 Mustangs, Spitfire XIV’s, and most famously, the Hawker Tempest. One of the most powerful fighters of World War II, the Tempest had enough speed to “run down” a V-1 at low altitude. The RAF’s No. 150 Wing, led by Wing Commander Roland Beamont, shot down 638 buzz bombs—more than half of those credited to allied air defenses. Beamont accounted for 32 V-1s by himself.

Contrary to legend, most buzz bombs destroyed by allied fighters were brought down by cannon fire, instead of the more dramatic “toppling” technique. Using that approach, the fighter pilot maneuvered his plane’s wingtip to within six inches of the V-1’s airfoil, disrupting airflow and causing it to pitch out of control and crash. It was an exceptionally demanding maneuver that required extraordinary flying skill. Only a handful of buzz bombs were downed by that method.

While the V-1 barrage continued during the summer of 1944, allied countermeasures proved increasingly effective. By late August, AAA crews were using American-built gun-laying radars and proximity fuses—inventions based on British scientific breakthroughs. The number of shoot-downs increased dramatically, with the expenditure of fewer shells.

But the allied ground advance across France proved to be the most effective defense. By September, the buzz bomb threat had ended, with British and American troops overrunning the last V-1 launch sites in northern Europe. While the era of the Doodlebug was relatively brief, it demonstrated the viability of pilotless weapons, which would evolve into the cruise missiles of today.

About that same time, a German artillery unit in Holland unveiled a new menace, the V-2 ballistic missile. The first V-2 attacks against Britain began on 8 September, when two missiles landed in west London. Over the next nine months, almost 1,500 more would be launched, primarily against England and Antwerp, the allies’ principal resupply port in Belgium.

While the V-2s inflicted fewer casualties, there was no practical defense against the ballistic missile. One British scheme envisioned a 40 kilometer-wide barrage of AAA fire, along a predicted path for a V-2. That plan was abandoned because the number of unexploded AAA rounds falling to earth presented a greater threat than the German rocket. Viable systems for shooting down ballistic missiles were still 50 years away.

Indeed, of all the V-2s launched by the Nazis in the last months of World War II, only one was shot down--by a burst of .50 machine gun fire from a B-24 bomber, which happened to fly over the V-2’s launch pad as it was lifting off. It was the only confirmed combat “kill” of a ballistic missile prior to the first Gulf War.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mr. Gates' Power Play

Just days after he decapitated Air Force senior leadership, Defense Secretary Robert Gates effectively terminated production of the service’s most prized aircraft—the F-22 Raptor. It was a neatly-executed bureaucratic power-play that gave Gates a “win” in two of his most contentious battles with the USAF.

Dr. Gates revealed his F-22 decision earlier today, during his “tour” of three USAF bases that followed last week's firing of the Air Force Secretary and the service's chief of staff. Speaking with reporters, Gates announced that he will defer a final decision on continued F-22 production to the next administration. As Air Force Times reports:

“I made the decision that we would allocate enough money to keep the production line open so the next administration could decide on the balance between buying more F-22s and buying more Joint Strike Fighters,” Gates said. “I felt that was a significant procurement decision that ought not be made in the last six or seven months of the administration.”

At first blush, Dr. Gates’ decision makes eminent sense. At $180 million a copy (or higher, depending on whose estimate you accept), the F-22 is an expensive weapons system, though it offers unmatched capabilities in aerial combat and precision attack. Building more Raptors could mean less money for other programs, including the C-17 airlifter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. As the stewards of national security for the next four (or eight) years, the incoming administration should take the lead in deciding which aircraft programs will be funded.

Trouble is, we already know what that decision will be. While Barack Obama has two retired Air Force generals as his top advisers, the presumptive Democratic nominee has said little about the service on the campaign trail. In fact, Obama’s only “recent” mention of the USAF was a critique of the KC-X tanker contract, which was tentatively awarded to Northrop-Grumman/EADS earlier this year. Mr. Obama believes that Boeing should have won the contract, since it would mean more jobs for U.S. workers.

Obama’s opponent, John McCain, could hardly be described as a friend of the Air Force. Five years ago, he was among the first lawmakers to demand a probe of the ill-fated tanker lease deal. When the investigation revealed wrong-doing by the service’s top civilian procurement official, Senator McCain used that revelation to torpedo the career of a highly-regarded USAF General, Gregory “Speedy” Martin.

While the general’s involvement in the tanker deal was tertiary (at best), McCain thought it was enough to scuttle Martin’s nomination as commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. General Martin would have been the first Air Force officer to hold that position, which has been filled by Navy officers for more than a century. Did we mention that McCain’s late father was CINCPAC in the 1970s? At any rate, McCain’s opposition to the tanker deal—and the Martin nomination—cemented his reputation as an Air Force foe.

And, there’s no indication that McCain’s views on the USAF have changed. After the DoD Inspector General released its report on the “Thunder Vision” contracting scandal, McCain and Michigan Senator Carl Levin requested a second probe, focusing on the conduct of senior officials, including the outgoing Chief of Staff, General Mike Moseley. Senators McCain and Levin have shown no willingness to halt the probe, despite the fact Moseley will leave his post in a few weeks.

Bottom line: the Air Force will face tough sledding with the next administration, regardless of who wins the presidential election. In fact, a political analyst delivered that same message last month, during an air power symposium at Langley AFB, Virginia, sponsored by the Air Force Association. According to the analyst, the USAF will face tougher scrutiny and tighter budgets under an Obama or McCain administration. For the Air Force, he said, the short-term political outlook is bleak.

Accordingly, that means no additional money for extended F-22 production under Barack Obama or John McCain. Both candidates have promised to expand ground forces as part of their defense strategy, with programs supporting that goal receiving top priority. In that environment, the USAF may find it easier to get more money for UAVs and C-17s, which provide direct support to Army and Marine Corps units.

By comparison, convincing Congress--and the new administration--to build more Raptors would an extremely difficult (read: impossible) task. As a result, the Raptor assembly line in Marietta, Georgia will almost certainly shut down next year, after production of less than 200 aircraft. At one time, the USAF wanted to build over 600 F-22s, and earlier this year, senior Air Force officials claimed the service needed at least 381 Raptors. With the SecDef’s deferral, that goal is nothing more than a pipe dream.

And that’s just the way Dr. Gates wants it. The Defense Secretary and his top aides have repeatedly emphasized that the F-22 has a marginal role in the Global War on Terror (at best); they believe money earmarked for more Raptors would be better spent on other airframes, including the JSF.

It’s almost certain that the next administration will adopt a similar position on the F-22. Before Gates announcement, some in the Air Force believed they could secure funding for another 30-40 Raptors, enough to outfit at least one more squadron, or increase the number of airframes in existing F-22 units. But, by deferring the production decision to his successor, Mr. Gates has essentially closed the Raptor assembly line, achieving another bureaucratic victory over the USAF.

The SecDef’s decision also creates an interesting dilemma for the next Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz. As we noted in a previous post, General Schwartz is the first non-fighter pilot nominated for the Chief of Staff position since 1982. Having spent his career in transport and special operations aircraft, General Schwartz has less invested in the F-22 than the “fighter pilot mafia” that has dominated top ranks for more than 25 years.

But as the service’s top uniformed officer, Schwartz must represent the entire Air Force, and that includes making a case for additional F-22s. It will be interesting to see how the gifted, collegial Schwartz presents that argument, knowing that extended Raptor production is now a lost cause.

We’re guessing that General Schwartz has already read the tea leaves. He’ll make a pitch for the F-22 during his confirmation hearings, but it won’t be as forceful or urgent as those offered by General Moseley and his predecessors. Instead, General Schwartz will save his ammunition for programs still facing important production decisions, including the C-17 and the JSF.

As for Dr. Gates, he has literally “schooled” the Air Force in bureaucratic warfare over the past week. Tired of battling senior leaders over various issues, the defense chief simply waited until he had enough ammunition to force a change, then purged Moseley and USAF Secretary Mike Wynne on a quiet Friday morning.

With fallout from that episode still settling, Gates moved quickly on the F-22 issue, making a “non-decision” that will actually spell the end of Raptor production. It was an executive tour-de-force that stunned the Air Force, a service that’s used to getting its way in Pentagon turf wars and budget battles.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama’s Pending VP Blunder?

Barack Obama’s search for a running mate is off to a less-than-rousing start. First, there was the disclosure that one of his vetters, Jim Johnson, took millions in discount loans from Countrywide, the mortgage firm that Obama has roundly criticized.

Confronted with that revelation from The Wall Street Journal, Senator Obama took a page out of the Jeremiah Wright playbook, and distanced himself from his own VP vetting team. From the Washington Post’s campaign diary:

Pressed on the involvement of one of the members of his vice-presidential search committee with a controversial mortgage company, Sen. Barack Obama said of the people helping him find a running mate that they are serving in a "volunteer, unpaid position" and "these aren't folks who are working for me."

The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that Jim Johnson, an Obama fundraiser and backer, received $7 million in loans from Countrywide, a mortgage firm Obama blasted in March for giving its executives huge bonuses in the midst of the home foreclosure crisis. Johnson, who is one of three members of a committee that will help "vet" Obama's vice-presidential pick, received the mortgages at rates below market averages, according to the paper, a claim Obama aides have disputed.

Reading the senator’s response, it’s tempting to ask just who in the hell Mr. Johnson and his colleagues are working for. Paid or unpaid, they were selected to screen potential vice-presidential nominees for Mr. Obama. While the final choice rests with the candidate, the vetting team has tremendous input on who makes the cut—and who does not. Because of that, the background (and connections) of the “vetters” is a valid concern. Obama told reporters that digging into the history of his advisers is a “game,” suggesting that Mr. Johnson is safe, at least for now.

On a related note, it appears that the Obama team is considering a running mate that would “balance” the senator’s meager background in foreign affairs and national security. North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad tells the AP that Mr. Obama is considering “former top military leaders” to be his running mate.

North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad told The Associated Press said the team asked him about potential candidates from three broad categories — current top elected officials, former top elected officials and former top military leaders.

Conrad would not disclose which names they discussed, and the Obama campaign has been keeping the process a closely guarded secret.

"We talked about many names," Conrad said, including "some that are out of the box, but I think would be very well-received by the American people, including former top military leaders."

The AP’s Nedra Pickler, who wrote the story, has an established reputation as a Democratic cheerleader, no small feat in today’s MSM. So, it’s hardly a surprise that she would gush over Obama’s consideration of a “military” running mate, someone who could counter John McCain’s bonafides as a career naval officer and Vietnam War hero.

But some of the names mentioned by Ms. Pickler are non-starters. Former Air Force Major General Scott Gration, one of the first retired officers to endorse Obama, is virtually unknown outside military circles. He never led a Numbered Air Force, let alone a major command. While General Gration has extensive experience as a foreign area specialist, it is extremely doubtful that Obama would run with a retired general who never reached four-star rank.

A better choice would be retired Marine Corps General James Jones. Before leaving the military in 2007, General Jones was the first Marine to serve as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. A few months after his retirement, Jones was appointed a special envoy for Middle East security by Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, a position he still holds.

The prospect of General Jones running with Obama first surfaced last April on a Meet the Press segment featuring James Carville and Bob Shrum. Despite the obvious interest in General Jones, we can’t find any evidence that he’s actually endorsed Obama, and Carville admitted that he “didn’t know” if the former Marine Corps Commandant is even a Democrat.

Other names being mentioned are General Wesley Clark, a Hillary Clinton supporter who ran his own, failed presidential bid in 2004; General Hugh Shelton, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill “Tony” McPeak.

The prospect of McPeak as a running mate should make Republicans salivate. General McPeak became the Air Force’s top uniformed officer in October 1990, after the dismissal of General Michael Dugan. Widely revered in the Air Force, General Dugan was fired for his candor—publicly admitting that killing Saddam Hussein would be an objective of any U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq.

Unfortunately, Dugan’s departure opened the door for McPeak, and four of the most miserable years in Air Force history. General McPeak took it upon himself to reinvent the service, and he tried to do just that, reorganizing units and even redesigning the Air Force uniform. Speak to anyone who served in the USAF during that period, and you’ll learn that “Tony” McPeak was the most reviled Chief of Staff in Air Force history.

And, his experimentation came at a price. While the service maintained combat commitments in Southwest Asia, McPeak moved aircraft and personnel around like toys, creating “composite” wings that were supposed to provide more combat power. Instead, they created operations, maintenance and logistical nightmares, with some wing commanders trying to operate four different types of aircraft at the same base.

Even units that had only one type of aircraft were swept up in McPeak’s reorganization mania. Trying to find the optimum structure, some wings reorganized multiple times, sowing dissention and confusion in the ranks. By one account, the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan AB, Korea, reorganized three times in two years. Airmen of all ranks cheered when McPeak retired in 1994. His successor, General Ronald Fogleman, immediately imposed a one-year moratorium on change, to give the weary Air Force a break.

By one GAO account, McPeak’s composite wing experiment cost the U.S. taxpayer more that $5 billion, with no appreciable savings or improved combat efficiency. He spent millions more on a “new” service dress uniform, featuring “Navy-style” rank on the sleeves for officers. The “airline” uniforms didn’t survive McPeak’s tenure, although variants of the new wing structure are still around today.

If Barack Obama wants to lose the vote of thousands of Air Force veterans—and their families—all he needs to do is put Tony McPeak on the ticket. But, that’s a longshot, in our estimation. Lest we forget, General McPeak has recently assumed a lower profile in the Obama campaign, after telling reporters that U.S. policies toward Israel would be decided by “voters in New York and Miami.” Under normal circumstances, that would be enough to disqualify McPeak as a VP candidate, but with the Obama gaffe machine, you never know.

Assuming the Democratic nominee wants someone with a military background, the smart money is on candidates like General Jones, or Virginia Senator James Webb, who won the Navy Cross in Vietnam, and later served as Navy Secretary under President Reagan. But, Webb’s out sized ego and legendary temper present their own problems, something that Obama and his advisers might want to avoid.

It also seems evident that the vetting team is looking for someone who won’t hog the limelight from Obama. That’s why a retired general makes sense; someone with legitimate credentials in national security, but no threat to the candidate’s “rock star” status.

Following that logic, it’s no wonder that those retired generals are being discussed as potential running mates. That may also explain why Tony McPeak was such an early backer of Obama, sensing an opportunity for bigger and better things if the senator won the nomination. McPeak is still a longshot for the VP slot, but the fact he’s in the mix speaks volumes about Obama’s selection process.

The GOP should be very happy that Obama is considering someone like General McPeak. Putting him on the ticket would be cause for celebration. He's one retired flag officer who can bring out the vote--for John McCain.

The SecDef's Accountability Roadshow

Barely three days after announcing the biggest leadership change in Air Force history, Defense Secretary Robert Gates hit the road, explaining his actions to a group of airmen at Langley AFB, Virginia.

It was the defense chief's first public appearance since accepting the resignations of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and the service's Chief of Staff, General Michael Moseley. Both were forced out last Friday, less than a week after Mr. Gates received a new report that detailed continuing problems with Air Force nuclear security procedures.

The message Gates brought to Langley was that of accountability--up and down the chain of command. As the Newport News (VA) Daily Press reports:

"I have emphasized to all the services that accountability must reach all the way up the chain of command — and that the military as a whole must be willing to admit mistakes when they are made," Gates said. "When systemic problems are found, I believe that accountability must reach beyond NCOs and even colonels."

Accountability problems among Air Force leaders were highlighted in a recent report by Admiral Kirkland Donald, who was appointed to evaluate the service's nuclear operations and security procedures. Donald, a Navy officer, found an erosion of performance standards, a lack of oversight, and an Air Force-wide decline in nuclear expertise.

That decline became embarrassingly public over the past year, when a B-52 bomber mistakenly carried six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on a cross-country flight. More recently, officials at Hill AFB, Utah discovered that fuses for an ICBM were accidentally shipped to Taiwan two years ago.

The USAF's inability to fix its nuclear problems was the official reason for the leadership change mandated by Dr. Gates. But, as we noted in an earlier post, the Air Force's accountability problems date back more than 20 years. Critics believe that the service's leadership--dominated by career fighter pilots--had become arrogant and unresponsive, with little accountability for senior officers and civilian officials.

Gates' remarks at Langley suggest that the USAF culture is about to change. But no one knows how far the SecDef will take his purge of Air Force leadership. When the departure of Moseley and Wynne were announced last week, Gates suggested that more flag officers--and civilians--would follow.

So far, there have been no additional resignations or dismissals, although there are rumors about a wave of pending retirements, brought about by the Donald report and the forced resignations of Wynne and Moseley. The number of senior officers and civilians who might retire as part of the leadership change remains unknown.

Along with his push for accountability, Dr. Gates also promised relief for airmen, who have been deploying in support of Middle East operations for the past 18 years. During his speech at Langley, the defense secretary announced an end to proposed cutbacks of Air Force personnel. The service had planned to trim 40,000 members from its ranks, part of a draw down that began in 2005.

According to Gates, the reduction will now end at the current force level--330,000. He did not explain his reasoning behind the move, or how the Air Force will pay for more personnel and planned aircraft acquisitions. The USAF draw down was aimed, in part, at paying for new aircraft, scheduled to enter the inventory over the next decade.

For the most part, the defense secretary's speech received polite, even positive reactions. An intelligence officer in the audience told the Daily Press that he was impressed with Gates' demand for accountability, but more pleased with the personnel announcement.

Ending the draw down will give commanders more personnel to meet deployment requirements. But many of the Air Force specialists needed in Iraq and Afghanistan--such as combat controllers, pararescue specialists, and explosive ordnance disposal technicians--are in short supply, and subject to frequent overseas tours. It's not clear how much relief the Gates plan will offer to those airmen.

Along with Monday's appearance at Langley, the defense secretary is also scheduled to visit Peterson AFB, Colorado and Scott AFB, Illinois later this week.

Before leaving Washington, Dr. Gates announced that General Norton Schwartz will be President Bush's nominee to fill the Chief of Staff vacancy. General Schwartz is a veteran of airlift and special operations units--the first non-fighter pilot nominated for the Chief of Staff position since 1982.

Wynne's expected replacement as Air Force Secretary is Michael Donley, who has held high-level defense positions in three administrations. Donley's nomination was announced Friday, shortly after Mr. Wynne stepped down.