Editor's Note: For background and history of the "Dear Boss" letter, see this post.
I don’t just quit. I give up.
Why should I keep on bleeding myself and my family dry on MQT, CMR, FMC, UTE, RAP, FLUG, DTS, TDYs, OPRs, ATSO, SARC, CBTs, AT/FP, IA/IP, UCIs, SORTS,OREs, ORIs, AEFs, IPUG, BMC, when in the end nothing that I do seems to matter? To put it another way, why should I put service before self when my Chief is systematically dismantling my service? To use a perhaps appropriately joint analogy, I’m a strong swimmer – so why stay aboard a ship whose captain is running it aground?
You might think that out in the field we don’t notice what’s going on at Headquarters. You might think that we’re too busy doing more with less, coping with the administrivia of yet another ancillary ground training requirement from some staff puke’s rice bowl, trying to magically improve our “readiness” reporting with geriatric jets that can’t make UTE [See Note 1] and a glut of inexeperienced wingmen that we can’t absorb – that we are too busy to notice that what leadership is doing. Well, we aren’t. When I was an FNG [New Guy], all I cared about was sounding good on check-ins, staying visual, flying good formation, and studying the 3-1. But now I know that senior leadership matters, and what my leadership is showing me is that nothing I do matters or ever will.
As if twelve years wasn’t enough of boring meaningless holes in the sky while our most demanding combat skills atrophied and we prematurely aged our inventory. Now, after a decade of drinking “green” tea and filling “in-lieu-of the Army doing its job” taskings and the “Cult of COIN,” I’m not sure if I’m in the Army or in the Air Force. I’m “all in”: CAS is king, and my Chief publically endorses Gate’s decision to kill the F-22 because Airpower is really just airborne artillery (who needs air dominance in Low Intensity Conflicts?). We’ve instituted two weeks of bivouacking and other mud-infested activities into our basic training so our young enlisted troops are better equipped to integrate and employ with the Army as the Army. We’re all hooah, nation building, and winning hearts and minds. Last I checked, infantry wasn’t an AFSC, and occupation wasn’t part of our 4+1. [See Note 2]
Even AirSea Battle is a setback for the Air Force. Tell me how AirLand Battle, a linear, sequential, and attrition based doctrine in which Airpower is subordinated to Land maneuver, is a good inspiration for AirSea Battle? Tell me how the Navy has the necessary expertise to have input and a vote regarding the requirements and design of our new bomber, or anything else in our portfolio? Tell me how AirSea Battle exploits the inherent asymmetric, parallel, strategic, and effects-based advantages of Airpower, and how USAF senior leadership is championing Airpower so we can do what is needed in this pivot to the Pacific? Joint does not mean the same or subordinate, but we’ve clearly forgotten that over the last decade. We’ve bent over backwards to prove that we’re “all in,” eviscerating our unique, core capabilities in order to prove that we’re good joint team players. I have no trust that AirSea Battle will end up any different.
Why should I have any hope? Being a good joint team player, my leadership offered up $4.8B in cuts (out of a total $5.2B cuts across the DOD baseline) while the Navy only lost $900M and the Army grew inside their baselines. I understand that this might be a rational approach to managing my household budget, but this is not home economics. Is this how we signal that Airpower is an essential element of AirSea Battle and our new strategic guidance? The last time we bought this few aircraft was in 1916, when we were still the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps. In just FY13, the Army and the Navy will buy more aircraft than the Air Force will buy in the entire FYDP [Future Years Defense Plan]! Everything I see indicates that senior leadership doesn’t understand, or worse, doesn’t care, why we have an independent Air Force. I thought the job of the CSAF was to organize, train, and equip – and be the strongest advocate for those responsibilities? When will my Chief have the integrity to put service before self? When will my Chief have the moral courage to stop being a yes-man and start telling the truth, start protecting our unique capabilities, start advocating for, even championing his Air Force?
I’ve never heard a Marine apologize for being a Marine. Every Soldier I know will proudly and loudly promote the Army. Sailors don’t feel compelled to marginalize or deny the Navy as a “Global Force for Good.” Yet my Chief can only say that we’re “all in” and are committed to being good, supporting partners in the joint team – as if we are just auxiliary members. Has my Chief ever read FM 100-20? What about the Key West Agreement? I’m accused of being an “Airpower zealot” because I proudly believe in my Air Force, what is unique about it, and what we do. I have worked with and have tremendous respect for and admire the other services. They are consummate professionals and an integral part of our national power as Littoral, Land, and Sea forces. But I became an Airman for a reason and I’m tired of apologizing for being an Airman. None of the other services can do their jobs without us. We bring policy options, capabilities, and alternatives to our Nation that no other service can. If you don’t have an Air Force, you don’t have a joint force. The Navy is buying twice as many fighters as the Air Force is this year, and you wonder why my faith is shaken?
So now my Chief tells me that we will get smaller, but that we will remain a ready force. Really? We’ve already divested so many fighters that our squadrons are broken. It doesn’t matter how much O&M you throw at us (as if there were any budget left after the cuts our leadership offered up); we cannot make the UTE necessary to create the training capacity required. Now we’re divesting more aircraft, and we’ll never be able to adequately train our young guys. We’re getting smaller and less capable and we can’t stop it. Although we never received as many Raptors as the national strategy requires, senior leadership emphatically denied any fighter shortfall. We refused a “4.5 Generation” gap-filler, and now the F-35 is slow-rolled with no plan B on the table. Our force was humiliated and betrayed by the shameful and disingenuous capitulation written by the Chief and Secretary after the F-22 cancellation. What happened to our core values? Instead, we’re changing the scenario to fit the tactics! Drop the requirements to meet force structure realities which are dropping to meet budget bogies. So much for a strategy-driven force structure, or even any strategy at all. Next we’ll probably drop experience definitions to meet our aging rate and PCS cycle. Avoiding a “Hollow Force” is a nice talking point; but at least in the 1970s we got the F-15, F-16, and A-10, while simultaneously developing the B-1 and F-117. My Chief is out of airspeed with full aft stick and a boot-full of rudder in an unrecoverable spin [See Note 3].
So you can keep your Bonus Take Rate and whatever other variables go into your Rated Distribution and Training Management models. Money isn’t going to keep me here. I didn’t become a fighter pilot because I wanted to get rich. I became a fighter pilot because I believed. And after everything I’ve seen, my trust and faith in the Air Force is so broken I don’t know why I’m doing this anymore. This flight path marker is buried in the dirt. I’m punching out.
Editor's Note: If you didn't click through to the link at the beginning of the letter, please go there now to read about the history of the storied USAF "Dear Boss" letter and for some additional background.
Note 1: UTE is Utilization rate, the number of times an aircraft can fly per month. Mission capacity, whether training or combat, is dictated by the number of aircraft available in a squadron (based on maintenance and depot availability) multiplied by UTE. The less aircraft a squadron has, the more each aircraft has to fly.
Note 2: "4+1" Refers to the unique Air Force capabilities, also known as the Air Force enduring contribution: (4) Air & Space Control (which includes Air Dominace), Global ISR, Global Mobility, and Global Strike; (+) plus Command and Control in Air, Space & Cyberspace.
Note 3: Aft stick and full rudder deflection are pro-spin control inputs; that is, they are deliberate and conscientious control inputs that will cause an aircraft to enter a spin and will keep the aircraft in the spin condition.