Monday, June 09, 2008

Forget the Interview Tour

Defense Secretary Robert Gates--and President Bush--have found their nominee for Air Force Chief of Staff. General Norton Schwartz, the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Transportation Command, was nominated for the chief of staff post this morning, replacing General T. Michael Moseley. Along with Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, General Moseley was forced to resign last week, amid continuing problems with nuclear accountability.

If confirmed by the Senate, General Schwartz will be the first non-fighter pilot to lead the Air Force since 1982. Schwartz spent his career flying transport and special operations aircraft. He served as Commander of the USAF's 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida in 1995, and became Vice-Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command just five years later.

More on General Schwartz's career from Air Force Times.

Before today's announcement, it was widely assumed that Mr. Gates would use a planned tour of Air Force commands to interview potential candidates to replace General Moseley. The Secretary of Defense is scheduled to visit Air Combat Command (headquartered at Langley AFB, Virginia) this week, along with U.S. Space Command (Peterson AFB, Colorado) and Air Mobility Command, at Scott AFB, Illinois. The four-star generals in charge of those commands had been mentioned as possible contenders for Chief of Staff.

Along with the Schwartz nomination, Mr. Gates has also selected a new Vice Chief of Staff. Lieutenant General William Fraser III, who current serves as Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been nominated for his fourth star and the vice chief position. General Fraser is a career bomber pilot who has participated in diplomatic missions to the Middle East, aimed at brokering a peace deal between the Israeli and Palestinians. Before entering his current post, General Fraser served as Vice Commander of ACC.

Fraser will replace General Duncan McNabb, who has been nominated to replace General Schwartz at Transcom. Like Schwartz, General McNabb has broad experience in transport aircraft and operations.

Today's announcements represent a blow to the so-called "fighter mafia" that has dominated the senior Air Force ranks for more than two decades. The last Chief of Staff without a background in fighter aircraft was General Lew Allen, Jr., who retired in 1982.

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