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Document created: 1 June 2007
Air & Space Power Journal - Summer 2007

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Ricochets and Replies

We encourage you to send your comments to us, preferably via e-mail, at aspj@maxwell.af.mil. You may also send letters to the Editor, Air and Space Power Journal, 401 Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB AL 36112-6428. We reserve the right to edit the material for overall length.

I liked Dr. David Mets’s excellent, to-the-point, and insightful article “Service before Self or Self Service? Some Fodder for Your Reading on the Professional Ethics of Air Warriors” (Spring 2007). I especially liked the quick-reference rundown on which authors are moral absolutists and which are relativists, as well as the reasons why; the pros and cons of each book, author, and premise; and, most importantly, why that book (or another by the same author) is relevant for warriors. Additionally, Dr. Mets’s writing style is easy to read. Most often, articles on philosophy are full of complex topics further complicated by convoluted language designed to make the author seem smart rather than get his point across. Such is not the case here, and I appreciate it. Even a knuckle-dragging fighter pilot walked away more informed.

Lt Col Peter S. “Shadow” Ford, USAF
Tyndall AFB, Florida

In his article “An Untapped Resource for Stabilization and Reconstruction: The United States Air Force” (Spring 2007), Maj William Fischer does an admirable job of summarizing the challenges of postconflict operations and discussing roles and responsibilities of the military as they relate to those operations. His call for a reassessment of military roles in stability and reconstruction (S&R) operations after the shooting stops is most timely. Perhaps most noteworthy, his identification of the need for greatly expanding the combined civil-military training experiences highlights a glaring deficiency in current Department of Defense (DOD) training practices. Disappointingly, the article falls flat at the end. The On-Scene Commanders’ Course is specifically designed for crisis-management requirements during and immediately after an isolated incident. Over time, the course has evolved to meet the doctrinal training requirements for an on-scene commander (OSC) to operate as delineated within the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Particularly relevant to the author’s recommendation to expand the course is the fact that the OSC’s function fades away as an incident stabilizes and as criminal investigative services and infrastructure-reconstitution teams begin their restorative efforts. S&R activities fall into what the NIMS calls “consequence management.” These actions require a diverse set of actors and may last a few weeks, in the case of a Class A F-16 mishap, or several years, as demonstrated in both post-Saddam Iraq and the post-Katrina Gulf Coast. Put simply, the On-Scene Commanders’ Course does not prepare leaders to function in consequence management. The cat-herding skills required of a consequence-management leader are currently more available in the diplomatic corps and commercial construction-program management firms than in the DOD’s officer corps. There are more effective ways to train field-grade and future general-officer leaders to function in consequence management. Serving multiyear assignments with the US Agency for International Development or while “loaned” to the State Department at embassies/consulates in developing countries would help prepare current junior-level and midlevel officers to function in S&R. And we should immediately incorporate S&R training in the curricula of the service academies while using the Reserve Officer Training Corps program to bring in officers—to both the active and reserve components—who are academically trained in the skills needed in S&R operations. I realize that my proposal would necessitate a years-long, multibillion-dollar program of retraining and culture change, but throwing the rudder hard-over while at flank speed only violently re­arranges the occupants and equipment on deck. Course changes take time. I applaud Major Fischer for making a plausible initial proposal. A vigorous debate is now needed to develop his ideas.

Lt Col Allen R. Naugle, USAF
San Antonio, Texas

Lt Col Richard Bohn’s article “Joint Close Air Support Transformed” (Spring 2007) has a few shortcomings. As Colonel Bohn begins his argument, he briefly mentions the joint close air support (JCAS) memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by all the services and US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in September 2004. We agree with the author that the existence of that MOA clearly indicates joint military interest in JCAS. However, the MOA’s actual text offers very little guidance for tactics, techniques, and procedures. Rather, it deals almost exclusively with standardization of joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) training, certification, and currency. Colonel Bohn mischaracterizes the intent of the MOA.

He also misses some key elements in his discussion regarding Air Force JTAC support to conventional Army units and the joint community’s special operations forces (SOF). In his math, only Air Force tactical air control party (TACP) units supply non-SOF qualified JTACs to SOF. In reality, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is tasked via USSOCOM to organize, train, and equip special-tactics combat controllers to perform the JTAC mission. JTAC-certified combat controllers habitually integrate with Army, Navy, and coalition SOF and have conducted JCAS operations with distinctive success since the very beginning of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. To meet increased demand on the current and future battlefield, AFSOC’s special-tactics forces are methodically growing in number while maintaining exceptional capability. Even prior to the global war on terrorism, AFSOC’s special operators earned fierce reputations as quiet professionals through exercises and contingency deployments with their joint SOF counterparts, but Colonel Bohn overlooks AFSOC’s contributions to the JTAC mission.

The author also states that “these Airmen do not have the training to operate like special forces personnel” (p. 59). We deem it a disservice to those courageous, highly qualified enlisted and commissioned-officer JTACs currently engaged in the fight alongside their SOF counterparts to describe them as less than capable or somehow lacking in ability. We urge the author to reconsider his assessment of the quality of Air Force JTACs.

Maj Jerry Kung, USAF
Hurlburt Field, Florida
Maj Michael Martin, USAF
Maxwell AFB, Alabama

I just finished reading Lt Col Paul D. Berg’s “Focus Area” piece titled “Leading the Twenty-first-Century Air Force” (Winter 2006) and could not agree more. The very foundation of our leadership must be the Air Force’s core values. In June 2004, we senior noncommissioned officers (SNCO) at Altus AFB, Oklahoma, began a focused investment in our people as we leveraged our skills, talents, and experiences to transform our wing Airmen into future strategic enlisted leaders. We SNCOs lead from the front, take care of the troops, and serve as role models for our Airmen. Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, 1 December 2004, says that SNCOs should “be . . . active, visible leader[s]. Develop their NCOs into better leaders and supervisors. Deliberately grow and prepare their NCOs to be effective future SNCOs” (11). Our ultimate vision at Altus was to produce Airmen who are even better than those currently on active duty. We sought to develop Airmen whose very core is infused with the Air Force core values because that will prepare them to face the challenges of tomorrow’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous combat environment. We accepted the challenge and pressed on towards the goal. Our consolidated efforts produced a developmental infrastructure we call Airmen’s Time. For more information about our efforts at Altus, see https://wwwd.my.af.mil/afknprod/ASPs/CoP/Open CoP.asp?Filter=OO-ED-AE-32. To learn how we continued our work at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, see https://wwwd.my.af.mil/afknprod/ASPs/CoP/OpenCoP.asp?Filter=OO-ED-AC-24.

CMSgt Thomas S. Narofsky, USAF
Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait

I read with great interest LCDR Thomas D. Vandermolen’s article “Molecular Nanotechnology and National Security” (Fall 2006), which addressed mankind’s admirable degree of technical development. I hope that this technical knowledge will be accompanied by high moral values so that its use may promote human development. Since I’m devoted to medicine, I’m always interested in reading articles about technological advances, many of which are occurring at an astonishing rate. Congratulations to Commander Vandermolen for his excellent work.

Dr. Manoel A. Moraes
Johnson City, Tennessee

Editor’s Note: Dr. Moraes read the Portuguese version of Commander Vandermolen’s article, available at http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/apjinter national/apj-p/2006/3tri06/vandermolen.html.

In his article “Molecular Nanotechnology and National Security,” Commander Vandermolen recommends intense regulation. At the same time, he indicates fairly clearly that the United States would be seen as a pariah if it alone gained molecular nanotechnology (MNT) capability. I’m not sure that I understand the either/or position. It would seem to me that, given the strategic importance of MNT as an extraordinarily disruptive technology advance, which appears inevitable in some fashion, the United States should actually try to drive its own “MNT Manhattan Project.” The development of nuclear capacity, coupled with our military, economic, and international regulatory capacities, has governed our security since World War II. Wouldn’t you rather have the United States in the driver’s seat for the next technological revolution? Thanks for the thoughtful article.

Eric Bauswell
San Jose, California


An “MNT Manhattan Project” (MMP) may be a great idea, depending on its purpose. Is its purpose to secure US influence in an international-control regime or to produce the world’s sole MNT superpower? The first goal is highly desirable, but the second is unlikely to succeed and could make the United States less, rather than more, secure.

An MMP would be a tremendously difficult undertaking, even compared to the original Manhattan Project. Although the United States is arguably the current leader in overall nanotechnology (NT) research, some government and private programs outside the United States are leaders in their respective NT fields. Now consider that the research paths to produce practical MNT are unknown and almost certainly numerous. To assure MNT dominance, our MMP would thus have to dominate every likely research path, including currently unanticipated ones—a very expensive, unfocused, and therefore almost certainly doomed venture. Furthermore, attempts to hire or coerce expertise from non-US programs will likely alienate other nations and spur competition. The MNT Cold War would be on, and unlike the Cold War that defeated the Soviet Union, an MNT Cold War would have to contend with potentially dozens or hundreds of nonstate actors who could upset the strategic balance.

But assume that we “win.” Unless we are willing to preemptively destroy the capabilities of our competitors, they will also reach the finish line. Since developing defenses against MNT-based weapons appears more difficult than creating the weapons themselves, we still won’t be “safe” from less-advanced competitors, including nonstate actors. Thus, even a successful noncooperative approach lands us in the same situation as an international effort, only without the buy-in from other nations, making monitoring and controlling MNT that much harder. If we are to launch an MMP, developing a workable, enforceable MNT regulatory structure would be its worthiest goal.

I am also indebted to Mr. Tihamer Toth-Fejel for kindly pointing out that Dr. Eric Drexler was not, as I state in my article, the first person to coin the term nanotechnology. Prof. Norio Taniguchi of Tokyo Science University used it in his 1974 paper “On the Basic Concept of ‘Nano-Technology.’ ” (See Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Norio Taniguchi,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norio_Taniguchi.)

LCDR Thomas D. Vandermolen, USN
Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan

I commend Lt Col Rob Spalding on his cogent and germane remarks in “Why Red Flag Is Obsolete” (Fall 2006), but his analysis stops just short of a third and vital scenario: preengagement of main battle forces. Shaping the battle­space is a catchphrase that many use but few truly understand. Joint doctrine addresses shaping the battlespace, yet previous tabletop and field exercises tended to neglect both the battlespace shaping and poststabilization phases. To win a war, we must shape the battlespace upon entry and exit, but battlespace shaping for departure is always subject to unintended consequences.

The two scenarios suggested by Colonel Spalding are useful for fully engaged air and space campaigns. But we don’t start that way in the global war on terrorism’s battlespace. In fact, as Spalding mentions, the military is economically constrained. Therefore, being good stewards of taxpayer dollars, we should seek to make best use of what is already in place. And aviation counterinsurgency is a combat-advisory mission that leverages best use of available host-nation air forces in the conduct of an internal or regional engagement. This is a mission legislated to special operations forces (SOF) under the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act.

It has been my personal experience that main forces have a limited or even misinformed understanding of SOF personnel and their capabilities. Although SOF operates throughout all phases of combat operations, these forces are the initial battlespace shapers. For this reason, I propose to add a third scenario to enrich the combat reality sought by Colonel Spalding. This scenario would work to

1. develop understanding of needs, capabilities, and limitations between the phase-one SOF advisory forces and the phase-two main battle forces for campaign and tactical-level planners and leaders;
2. develop understanding of capabilities and limitations of the Air Force’s new foreign area officers for main battle-force campaign-level planners; and
3. develop an understanding of how the SOF combat-aviation advisors enhance the best use of available aircraft-to-­mission matching using existing host-nation airpower, and learn how to leverage this force into the air tasking order.

Kudos to Colonel Spalding for proposing to update Red Flag with twenty-first-century reality! Whether riding Northern Alliance horses, squaring off in M1A1 main battle tanks, or flying F-15E Strike Eagles, military power will always face the challenge of remaining appropriate, adaptive, and relevant.

Maj David C. Hook, USAF, Retired
San Antonio, Texas

Thanks to Maj Rodolfo Pereyra for his illuminating article “Clausewitz and the Falkland Islands Air War” (Fall 2006). Although I found most of his contentions valid and logical, I failed to discern the Clausewitzian belief in the linkage between politics and war. The author’s contention that the Clausewitzian definition can be applied for both countries in the Falklands War could be viewed from another perspective—particularly in the case of Argentina. The fact that the Argentinean military leadership resorted to war to “cover up economic difficulties” (112) strengthens the point that the instrument of war was abused in this case.

Indeed, the relationship between war and politics is not as axiomatic as the fact that two and two make four. Clausewitz’s deductions about war being subservient to politics were the product of rational thinking and intense human experience as opposed to the surrealistic mode demonstrated by Argentinean general Galtieri in the Falklands War. Arguably, the instrument of war was abused (by Argentina), in this case as an end for which it was probably unsuited. Moreover, politics was tailored to rationalize the war. In other words, war preceded the politics. Such irrational or subrational reasoning for waging war runs contrary to the Clausewitzian understanding of war in a true sense because it was used to rationalize the irrational. Clausewitz also warned about such possibilities of abusing the use of the military. Indeed, he asserted that “policy is the guiding intelligence and war only the instrument, not vice versa. No other possibility exists, then, than to subordinate the military point of view to the political” (On War, rev. ed., ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984], 607).

Nevertheless, the increasing attraction towards war as an end rather than a means (which I think is more appropriate in this case) is best explained by Martin van Creveld, who stated in his book The Transformation of War (New York: Free Press, 1991) that “war, far from being merely a means, has very often been considered an end—a highly attractive activity for which no other can provide an adequate substitute” (218). The Argentinean action is probably closer to van Creveld’s conception of war than to Clausewitz’s. Once again, thanks to Major Pereyra for an intriguing article.

Wing Cdr Z. I. Khan, Bangladesh Air Force
Dhaka, Bangladesh

I wholeheartedly congratulate Lt Col Edward B. Tomme, USAF, retired, for his article “The Myth of the Tactical Satellite” (Summer 2006). I have spent a career in the military-launch business, which has been and is now spending significant dollars to develop the “responsive launch” capability for these mythical “tactical” satellites. One thing that seems lost on many people is the cost of the infrastructure to support rapid launch. Even inexpensive boosters cause launchpad damage that must be repaired, and they require trained crews that must be there and ready for unplanned launches. All the boosters and satellites must be prepurchased and maintained in storage in a flight condition. It can’t be done with military crews as there is neither career growth nor continuous activity to maintain training. Thus, we pay contractors. This capability will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to pre-­position, and it might take weeks to launch a constellation of six to 10 satellites. And what would happen if one of the boosters or satellites failed during the constellation deployment? Until we develop a true tactical capability, our tactical-satellite demonstrations test strategic-augmentation systems that can be deployed as secondary payloads on other strategic missions or use current small boosters like Pegasus, Athena, and so forth.

Col Michael T. Baker, USAF, Retired
Redondo Beach, California


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University

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