The Big Switch: Ralston In ...
Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was tapped to become Supreme Allied Commander Europe when that key NATO post comes open next spring.
If the past is a guide, he will at the same time become the commander of the multiservice US European Command.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen's surprising move, disclosed July 27, would make Ralston the first Air Force officer in 38 years to head a major geographic warfighting command.
The only USAF officer to command NATO and USEUCOM was Gen. Lauris Norstad in 1956-62. [See "Those Who Led Both NATO and USEUCOM," p. 27.] Before him came two Army generals; after him came eight, the most recent being Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who commanded Operation Allied Force this year.
Elsewhere in the world, US Atlantic Command always has been led by Navy admirals, except for one Marine general; US Pacific Command by Navy admirals, with one exception-an eight-day stint by an Army lieutenant general; US Southern Command by Army generals and one Marine general; and US Central Command by either an Army or Marine general.
Ralston became vice chairman in 1996. He will complete his second term in February and had planned to retire. Ralston would have had to do so unless he moved to another post within 60 days. Cohen values Ralston's skills as a military and diplomatic troubleshooter and was eager to retain him.
Officials said that the NATO position-the most prestigious of regional commands-was the only one interesting to Ralston.
Ralston's most recent Air Force assignment was as commander of Air Combat Command, headquartered at Langley AFB, Va.
... And Clark Moves On
Gen. Wesley K. Clark, today's SACEUR, will have to relinquish his post prematurely-and amid much speculation about the reason. His nominal three-year tour at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe was supposed to end in July 2000. However, he was told to vacate the position in April instead.
Some said the step stemmed from the fact that Clark and Cohen did not see eye to eye on the Balkan War strategy, but Pentagon officials said that the timing of Clark's departure was dictated by a desire to move Ralston into the position. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon said: "He's obviously a proven warrior; he's a proven diplomat and a proven politician. He's got great skills in all those areas just as General Clark did."
Bacon said Cohen had recommended to President Clinton that Clark be considered for a high-level ambassadorship.
Clark confirmed on July 28 that he would step down three months early, but he turned aside suggestions that the move was due to actions during the Alliance's 11-week air campaign against Yugoslavia. When a Reuters reporter asked if his leaving was linked to his handling of the Kosovo conflict, Clark said, "Not that I know of."
However, no one disputes the unusual nature of the move. Clark would be the first European commander in decades to be told to retire before completion of a full three years. Six generals in his position have served longer than that.
For First Time, Woman Commands Shuttle
When the shuttle Columbia blasted into orbit July 23, it established at least two NASA firsts. It carried the heaviest payload a shuttle has yet lifted into orbit, the X-ray observatory Chandra. Perhaps more notably, it was also the first shuttle commanded by a woman-Air Force Col. Eileen M. Collins.
"I'm not too concerned that I'm the first woman shuttle commander," Collins said before liftoff. "What's important ... is that we fly a perfect mission. Whether you're commanding as a man or woman really doesn't matter when it comes to getting the mission done."
Female astronauts have come a long way since the Mercury program, when 13 women were picked for astronaut training but never flew into space. Twenty-five percent of NASA astronauts today are women-36 out of 144.
Only Collins is a shuttle commander, however. Two other women are pilots, the next highest astronaut rank.
NASA has now flown 11 consecutive shuttle flights with at least one female crew member, dating back to February 1997.
Columbia ended its mission on July 27. Collins took control of Columbia at about 30,000 feet, executed a 236-degree overhead turn, and landed the spacecraft like an airplane.
USAF Was the Training Ground
Shuttle Commander Collins got her start in 1978 as one of the first women to undergo undergraduate pilot training at Vance AFB, Okla. As a new lieutenant, she was inspired to shoot for a space career after seeing the first female astronaut candidates go through parachute training at Vance.
Collins spent her early Air Force years as an instructor pilot for T-38 trainers and C-141 transports. In Operation Urgent Fury in October 1983, she flew a C-141 with 200 troops of the 82nd Airborne Division into Grenada. She flew out carrying 36 US medical students who had been held captive on the island.
Collins went on to teach mathematics at the Air Force Academy and earn two master's degrees, one in operations research and one in space systems management. She was selected as an astronaut in January 1990 while attending USAF test pilot school at Edwards AFB, Calif.
She has logged more than 5,000 flying hours in 30 different aircraft, including two previous shuttle flights.
In the Air Force, "you need to learn how to work with people and use people to get the mission done effectively," Collins said at a preflight press conference. "I think all of that experience has really helped me with this job here."
Peters Gains Top Air Force Post
The Senate on July 30 confirmed F. Whitten Peters to be the new Secretary of the Air Force.
The confirmation moved up Peters from the post of service undersecretary, the No. 2 civilian job. He had been in that position since November 1997.
During those same 20 months, Peters also functioned as the acting Secretary of the Air Force. The office officially had been vacant since Nov. 1, 1997, when Sheila E. Widnall stepped down to return to academic life.
Peters, a former officer in the US Navy Reserve, is the 19th confirmed Secretary of the Air Force. There have been six acting Secretaries.
USAF Recruiting Falls Short
With the end of the fiscal year in sight, Air Force officials predict that it is likely they will miss their recruiting targets for the first time since 1979.
The goal for Fiscal 1999 (which ends Sept. 30) was to sign up 33,800 new Air Force men and women. As of midsummer, the Air Force Recruiting Service predicted the service would fall short of this number by about 2,500 people.
A major reason for the recruiting problem is that the booming economy has all the military services in a vise. Civilian jobs are luring veterans out of uniform, while keeping potential recruits from joining in the first place.
"There are a lot of other opportunities in today's job market. Competition is tough," Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters told recruiters recently. "Hopefully, working the retention side of the problem will help reduce the number of people recruiters need to bring in."
Already Air Force officials are looking to increase their emphasis on getting back prior-service members as a means to help plug recruit holes.
The Enlisted Prior-Service Program has been around for some time but has not been used extensively since the early 1980s, when it was drawing 1,000 to 3,000 former Air Force personnel back into the ranks annually. This year, officials doubled their target for prior-service recruits from 300 to 600. As of midsummer, 424 exAir Force men and women had returned to military life.
That number "doesn't seem very high unless one of those airmen is going out to a unit that's working 14 or 15 hours a day because they're one or two people short. Then, it's a lot," said CMSgt. Danny Roby, chief of enlisted accession policy for the Air Force.
Top Recruiting Target: Recruiters
In today's tough environment simply keeping recruiting offices open is tough enough.
Filling, and keeping filled, 1,209 non-prior-service recruiter positions across America is the No. 1 near-term priority for Air Force Recruiting Service, says AFRS commander Brig. Gen. Peter U. Sutton.
Every year, Recruit the Recruiter teams travel to every Air Force installation, looking for top-notch senior airmen through master sergeants. The teams interview applicants and spread the word about the benefits of recruiter service, which include more money and greater control over living location.
"It's generally location, location, location," said CMSgt. James Williams, Recruit the Recruiter team leader, referring to the office location choices new recruiters value.
Pay is an additional $375 per month in special-duty assignment pay and an extra $192 in annual clothing allowance.
"Recruiters are in a unique position," said Williams. "Very often, they are the only Air Force representation in some towns and are generally their own bosses. They manage their own offices, and the level of their success depends greatly on the effort and commitment they put forth."
USAF Raises Flying Training Age Ceiling
For the first time in 45 years, the Air Force is raising the age limit for flying training. The change raises the upper bounds for entering pilot and navigator programs from 27 and a half years of age to 30 years of age and less than five commissioned years of service.
The change is being made to broaden the pool of qualified applicants and not because there is a shortage of those eager for coveted flying spots, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan. "The age limit is being raised to provide maximum opportunity for otherwise qualified candidates," said the Chief. "It will increase the pool of highly motivated applicants who, for various reasons, started their Air Force careers slightly later in life, and allow the Air Force to pick the best of that group."
The new age limit of 30 was derived by balancing the need to provide greater opportunity with Air Force medical, safety, management, and warfighting standards, said Ryan.
C-141 Makes Daring Antarctic Drop
On July 16, a C-141 flight crew from McChord AFB, Wash., returned home to a hero's welcome after conducting a daring drop of emergency medical supplies to scientists at the AmundsenScott South Pole Station.
The station houses 41 National Science Foundation researchers. The supplies were for one of these scientists, herself a medical doctor responsible for station health, who had detected a lump in her breast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the arm of the US government which runs the station, withheld the woman's name and further details of her condition out of respect for her privacy.
The Air Force airdrop was conducted in daunting weather conditions. From March through October, during the polar winter, airplanes are unable to land at the NOAA station's small airstrip. Residents of its geodesic dome are marooned.
Temperatures during the mid-July mission were so low that water bottles in the cockpit froze. Outside windchill reached 150 degrees below zero.
To guide the incoming airplane, scientists lit 27 smudge pots in the shape of a large C, marking the drop zone. The C-141 roared in at 700 feet, with crew members pushing out two packages. Four more were dropped in a subsequent pass.
Besides medical supplies, the boxes contained fruits and vegetables and fresh-cut flowers for the endangered woman. One was covered with the entire flight crew's signatures and well wishes.
In an e-mail message posted on NOAA's Internet site, one station scientist wrote: "The aircraft was low enough that I actually saw a person at the side cargo door, arms and legs spread out, braced against each side of the door frame, body silhouetted by light from inside the airplane. He was obviously looking down to us, and we up to him. ... I was choking on the emotion."
MOOTW Draining US Forces, Warns GAO
The numerous peacekeeping and no-fly zone enforcement operations that the US military is now being called on to perform are wearing down key equipment and personnel, according to a new study by the Congressional General Accounting Office.
"There is a greater demand during peacetime for some military assets than the services can meet without degrading the readiness of these assets and causing lost training opportunities and reduced quality of life for personnel in these units," said the study, which was completed before the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia but only recently released to the public.
USAF airplanes used in Military Operations Other Than War, primarily F-15Cs, F-16s, and A-10s, are running up more flight hours than planned and are encountering unexpected maintenance problems which lower their flight readiness ratings, said GAO.
The study cites the 1st Fighter Wing's deployment to Southwest Asia in December 1997. Deployed F-15Cs accounted for 35 percent of the wing's sorties but 60 percent of its flying hours. The wing was putting about two years' worth of wear on deployed aircraft in about six months, wing officials told GAO.
But more hours do not add up to greater pilot skill. A-10 pilots told GAO that flight restrictions kept them at such high altitudes that they received only limited practice in their two primary missions, close air support and air-to-ground combat. F-16 pilots in Southwest Asia rated their opportunity to train in such key skills as Maverick missile employment to be poor.
C-17 Getting Dual-Row Airdrop Capability
Boeing and Air Force Materiel Command's Aeronautical Systems Center have developed a new, dual-row airdrop capability for the C-17 that increases the aircraft's cargo airdrop capacity by 266 percent.
The change largely relies on hardware already in place on the aircraft, plus a few minor modifications. The C-17 is the only US military aircraft with this capability. The first dual-row model was delivered to the Air Force in April. Among other things, the change will reduce the number of C-17s required by the Army's Strategic Brigade Airdrop, which calls for delivery of 2,400 troops and their support equipment.
"We will have an initial operational capability for the SBA by the fourth quarter of 2000," said Capt. Scott Shuttleworth, C-17 dual-row airdrop program manager.
The dual-row technique takes advantage of the airplane's existing set of rails. The airplane flies at a four-degree nose-high angle, and gravity-not a parachute-pulls cargo out the airplane's back door. A static line activates a drogue parachute, which in turn deploys main recovery parachutes. The method allows airdrop of eight 16-foot platform loads. Each load has a weight limit of 14,500 pounds.
New anchor cables and software for the mission computer were among the tweaks which make dual-row airdropping possible. Fourteen weeks of testing at Edwards AFB demonstrated it would work.
"We mainly worked on developing rigging procedures for the Humvees and Howitzer cannons," said Capt. Don Lytle, who served as the dual-row airdrop program manager during development. "We wanted to make sure we could get them secured and land safely."
Pentagon Plumbs Kosovo Conflict
A panel co-chaired by Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, is overseeing the gathering of data for a Pentagon report on the military lessons learned from the Kosovo conflict.
The effort has three primary goals, Hamre told reporters July 8. One is to develop recommendations that will help the US fight better if it has to go to war again. A second is to decide whether anything new needs to be included in the next Pentagon budget, due to Kosovo concerns. The third is to put in place the foundation of knowledge for the next Quadrennial Defense Review.
Three major areas of effort will be to study the deployment and employment of forces, intelligence support for operations, and the results of Alliance and Coalition warfare.
The CINCs and services will all be asked to provide input. Early fall is the target date for a rough draft.
Tricare Dental Expands Overseas
Beginning Oct. 1, military families living anywhere overseas will have the option of obtaining care from host-nation dentists through the Tricare Family Member Dental Plan.
That option has been available to those living in remote military overseas locations since May 1.
"We're identifying host-nation providers and developing the infrastructure necessary to make this program successful in all locations around the world," said Navy Dr. (Capt.) Lawrence McKinley, senior consultant for dentistry at the Tricare Management Activity.
Tricare intends to identify host-nation dentists who speak English and practice dentistry to US quality standards, said McKinley.
"At nonremote locations, care will continue to be available in overseas military dental treatment facilities, whether or not family members are enrolled in the Tricare Family Member Dental Plan," said McKinley.
The overseas extension of the plan will augment existing dental services where military facilities cannot provide the full range of services that Tricare members are used to back in the States.
Family members already enrolled in the dental plan will not have to re-enroll to participate in the plan overseas. Nor will costs increase, according to Tricare officials.
Washout Rate for F-15 Pilot Trainees Doubles
The failure rate for F-15 pilot trainees at the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall AFB, Fla., has more than doubled in the past year. The situation has reached the point where commanding officers are becoming concerned.
The failure rate is now 12 percent. Through mid-July, 10 pilots had washed out this year, compared to four in all of last year. Eighty-four F-15 pilots are expected to graduate in 1999, seven fewer than in 1998.
There is no link between the failures, say officials. Pilots are washing out for the same reasons they always have.
Donald D. Engen, 75, director of the National Air and Space Museum, died in a motorized glider accident in Nevada July 13. He was a retired Navy vice admiral, a pilot for 57 years, a naval aviator in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and former head of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Engen had been director of the museum since 1996. His predecessor was driven from office after Congress blocked an attempt by museum curators to use the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, as a prop in a politically distorted exhibit that would have depicted Japan as the victim rather than the aggressor in World War II.
Engen restored stability to the museum, an element of the Smithsonian Institution, and took it back to its basic charter, which is to collect, preserve, and display the nation's aerospace heritage. Much of his considerable energy went into a project leading toward a major museum annex at Dulles IAP in Virginia. Many historic airplanes now in storage, including the Enola Gay, will be on permanent display there.
Engen's deputy and friend, Donald S. Lopez, was named acting director of the museum until a new permanent director is chosen.
Charles "Pete" Conrad, former Apollo astronaut and the third man to walk on the moon, was killed in a motorcycle accident July 8 near the town of Ojai, Calif.
He lost control of his Harley-Davidson on a curve and was thrown onto the pavement, said California highway authorities. He was 69.
A veteran of four spaceflights, Conrad's shining moment was when he commanded the second lunar landing, Apollo 12, on Nov. 19, 1969. He said, "Whoopee!" when his feet touched the moon's surface. He later commanded the Skylab 2 mission, which was forced to repair launch damage to the space station in three harrowing space walks.
Aerospace World Special Report
For a time, the Air Force and Lockheed Martin thought 1999 might be a quiet year for the F-22. Hearings in Congress had been tame. The Balkan War had demonstrated anew the value of advanced airpower. Lawmakers were talking about USAF budget increases, not cuts. As the key to future air dominance, the Raptor was in a strong position, officials concluded.
How wrong they were. In midsummer, the fighter program suddenly was thrown into turmoil as the House, following the lead of a small band of defense appropriators, struck a major blow. It voted July 23 to deny $1.8 billion needed to buy the first six F-22s and, at the same time, put the fighter on research-only life support. The F-22 soon found itself in a fight for survival.
The attack on the F-22 came as a thunderous surprise to Pentagon and USAF officials. Leaders of the Congressional defense establishment were similarly stunned. Seldom if ever had such a limited number of lawmakers moved so swiftly, successfully, and secretively against a major program so close to production.
"Maybe we should have seen it coming, but nobody did," maintained Tom Burbage, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems, the F-22's prime contractor. "We thought this would be the first year that we wouldn't have a battle." Instead, Burbage noted, it turned out to be "the biggest we've ever had."
The battle for the F-22 quickly shifted to a House-Senate conference of negotiators charged with ironing out differences in their defense appropriation bills. The two sides started out far apart. Unlike the House, the Senate had fully funded the F-22-a fighter designed to be stealthy, maneuverable, supersonic without use of afterburner, and potent in air combat or ground attack.
Showdown and Solution?
As the showdown moved toward the fall, many predicted a HouseSenate compromise that would preserve several F-22s, at the least. The Senate team included many staunch F-22 backers who were unlikely to give ground. The House team itself wavered. Even Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), who had led the anti-F-22 charge, said he only wanted to slow the program, not kill it.
Until July 12, few had any inkling the fighter was in for trouble. Lewis, the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), its ranking Democrat, then delivered the shocking news: The panel had zeroed out F-22 production funds, diverting that money to boost pay for pilots, study F-22 alternatives, and fund other aircraft.
Within a few days, the full appropriations committee and the full House had adopted the subcommittee position.
Why did the House appropriators strike at the F-22, USAF's top priority? The official reason given: fears that escalating F-22 costs were eating away at the service's general health.
A House report accompanying the panel's F-22 decision indicated that F-22 cost increases were becoming intolerable. The Air Force had at one time claimed it could acquire 750 F-22s for $67.5 billion, said the appropriators; now, approximately the same amount of money would pay for only 339 fighters.
Lewis charged that the F-22's unit cost (total program cost divided by the number of aircraft) had skyrocketed from about $90 million in the early 1990s to some $187 million today.
Moreover, House critics plainly doubted they had seen the end of cost growth. The panel report cited alleged problems with the Raptor's wings, brakes, fuselage, fuel lines, and engines, which might be costly to fix. The onboard computer was untested, appropriations members complained.
The panel noted with concern the F-22 was one of three huge fighter programs (others are the Navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the multiservice Joint Strike Fighter) currently under way. The implication was that the effort was excessive.
The Air Force was spending so much money on the F-22, Lewis charged, that other critical needs were being starved to death. The biggest problem, he said, was slack recruiting and retention. For the first time since 1979, USAF would miss a recruiting goal, and the service was already short 1,100 pilots. Lewis thought USAF needed to spend more in those areas.
The House appropriators also noted "critical shortfalls" in Air Force reconnaissance, airlift, air refueling capability, and advanced munitions.
"The Air Force has such tremendous needs in so many other areas ... that we believe it is imperative for them to reassess their priorities," Lewis said July 16.
At the same time, critics claimed, the F-22's military rationale had vanished. They contended that the Raptor had been designed to counter Soviet fighters which now would never be built in large numbers, and no nation would soon challenge USAF's dominance of the air. Typical of these claims was this statement in a July 22 New York Times editorial: "It makes no sense for the Pentagon to proceed with three separate advanced fighter programs when no other country has a chance of threatening America's air superiority in the foreseeable future."
Under those circumstances, House critics said, USAF had an obligation to take a serious look at low-cost alternatives to the F-22. Such alternatives did exist, claimed these critics.
Lewis, for one, contended that the F-15 could fill the air-superiority bill for decades more, well beyond current plans, and that the Air Force should study possible upgrades to keep that fighter going. Another suggestion: Let DoD accelerate production of the Joint Strike Fighter and use it to supplant the F-22 as the air-dominance fighter.
In the end, Lewis and his backers said they sought an indefinite pause in F-22 production. He explained that the Air Force could use the time-out to review its priorities and reconsider all options in a new context.
Needless to say, Air Force and Pentagon officials strongly disagreed with virtually every premise and conclusion put forward by the House critics and their supporters in the press. They said so frequently in the press, at public forums, and in private meetings on Capitol Hill.
What rankled many was what were viewed as distorted cost claims. For example, the proposed number of F-22s had indeed gone down, but the reductions came mostly from political decisions and not from massively rising costs. When the program began in the mid-1980s, USAF projected a need for 750 fighters. The Pentagon BottomUp Review, conducted in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union, trimmed the number to 442. The Quadrennial Defense Review in 1997 took the projected number down further, to 339. Not surprisingly, these steps drove up the cost per airplane because the cost of development-a constant-was spread over fewer fighters.
Air Force officials take issue with the committee's portrayal of the fighter's unit cost--$187 million. They pointed out that USAF already has expended more than $20 billion, a third of total program funds, developing the fighter. By factoring out that sunk cost, one arrived at a far lower "to go" sticker price--$85 million per airplane.
That was not much more than the cost of a new but far less capable F-15E. A recent Air Force fact sheet said: "An improved F-15 would only provide one-third the effectiveness of the F-22 at nine-tenths the cost."
Nor would the F-22 squeeze out spending on other critical needs, said the Air Force. As evidence, officials cited the fact that the Air Force, at peak production, will spend 6 percent of its budget on the F-22. This is about the same percentage share that was devoted to developing and buying the F-15.
Especially puzzling to Air Force officials was the House's relaxed attitude about future fighter threats to the nation's air superiority. USAF agrees that the aging F-15 can still do a good job today, as was seen in the recent Balkan air war. However, it insists that this Vietnam Warera fighter faces a real and increasing risk around the world.
Six to Worry About
In a July 24 New York Times article, Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters summarized the situation in this way: "At least six other aircraft--the Russian MiG-29, Su-27, and Su-35, the French Mirage 2000 and Rafale, and the European Consortium's Eurofighter--threaten to surpass the aging F-15, our current top-of-the-line air-to-air fighter." All are either in or near production today and are available for export.
There are mounting concerns, too, about today's advanced Surface-to-Air Missile systems such as Russia's SA-10, SA-12, and SA-20. "These lethal SAMs will overwhelm our current fighter force's ability to gain air superiority," said one recent Air Force paper.
Given this situation, the House recommendation to make do indefinitely with an updated F-15 or perhaps the new Joint Strike Fighter did not appeal to USAF officials or supporters on Capitol Hill, who viewed them as false alternatives. They pointed out that the F-15 fighter was already 25 years old and based on 1960s technology. The F-15 is not stealthy and cannot be made so. Its ability to absorb upgrades is diminishing.
As for the JSF: Defense officials explained that it is supposed to complement the F-22, not replace it. The two fighters do different things and would work in unison, as do today's F-15 and F-16 jets. The F-22 would provide high-end air superiority, while the JSF would act as the less expensive-and less capable-fleet workhorse at the lower end of the threat spectrum.
JSF's principal selling point-its relatively low cost-would quickly vanish if the F-22 program were to collapse, warned officials. The change could be so great, said Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Chief of Staff, that the Air Force might have to revamp its force structure.
"Our assumption is we are going to get the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter," Ryan said Aug. 3. "If that doesn't occur, then we are going to go back and rethink the whole program."
In explanation, officials noted that JSF was optimized for ground attack, not air combat. To turn JSF into an air-dominance fighter, its contractors would have to redesign it, which would add greatly to its cost, if it could be done at all.
Moreover, plans called for the later-developing JSF to piggyback on the Raptor for its advanced engines, avionics, and stealth technologies, meaning it could avoid the cost of developing them independently. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told the Senate July 20, "The [F-22] stealth capabilities, the supercruise capability--all of that technology along with the avionics is going to be instrumental in terms of helping to keep the costs down on the Joint Strike Fighter."
Some observers saw the House's declared reason for the "pause" as weak--so weak it might actually be a cover story. They suspect that the authors of the pause might have had a different goal--to force the Clinton Administration to propose breaking the defense spending caps imposed in recent years. The theory is that, to get the F-22, the White House (and Senate) would have to accept higher defense spending than otherwise permitted.
Whatever the motive, few dispute that the stakes are high. Maj. Gen. Bruce Carlson, the Air Force's director of operational requirements, said losing the F-22 would mean "we can no longer guarantee that we'll be able to dominate the sky," with all that that implies for US casualties and battle effectiveness.
In the drive to overturn the House action, F-22 supporters faced a tough task. The House subcommittee members broadened the political appeal of their action by shifting millions of F-22 dollars to the production of extra F-15s in Missouri (home state of the House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt), F-16s in Fort Worth, Texas (home state of several powerful Republican leaders), and C-130J transports in Marietta, Ga. (home state of the F-22's main Congressional backers).
However, the F-22's supporters also held some high cards.
For one thing, Ryan noted that the F-22 has overwhelming support of the nation's uniformed military leadership and "almost every living [former] Secretary of Defense." Those individuals who are "knowledgeable" about the threats emerging in the next 15 years "are convinced that this airplane is what the joint system needs," Ryan said.
On July 28, military leaders rallied to the F-22's cause, signing letters of support to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (RMiss.) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
In one letter, all six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asked for reinstatement of F-22 funds. Signing it (in addition to Ryan) were the JCS Chairman, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton; the vice chairman, Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston; the Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki; the chief of naval operations, Adm. Jay L. Johnson; and the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. J.L. Jones.
"The F-22 is the aircraft we are counting on to guarantee control of the skies in the next century," they said. "[W]e speak with one voice on this issue: America needs the F-22."
Lott and Hastert received a second letter of F-22 support signed by all nine unified commanders, the four-star generals and admirals who lead US forces in geographic regions or in US-based support organizations.
"In every theater of operation and for every military task across the spectrum of conflict, there is an underlying need to control the skies," said the officers, who added that today's air superiority fighter, the F-15, is getting old and must be replaced by the F-22.
The Air Force made the point that blocking F-22 production could come back to haunt lawmakers in predictable ways.
Officials said the move would delay F-22 deployment by at least two years, jack up costs by $6.5 billion, and increase the risk that US pilots will face in the years ahead. That's the best case; USAF thinks it far more likely that the House cut would bring about the death of the F-22 program altogether.
On July 21, President Clinton threw his support behind the F-22, saying it would be a mistake for Congress to abandon plans to produce the next-generation stealth fighter and that he would fight for its production.
Meanwhile, Cohen publicly declared, "I cannot accept a defense bill that kills this cornerstone program." Cohen's words had been cleared by the White House and was viewed as an authorized White House threat to veto any defense bill that did not provide funds for F-22 fighters.
-By Robert S. Dudney
Verbatim: The F-22
"The committee believes that ... continued F-22 production is not justified at this time. The committee thus recommends an F-22 'production pause.' ... The committee specifically denies the $1.8 billion F-22 production funding requested for Fiscal Year 2000."--House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, final report on Fiscal 2000 Defense Appropriations, released July 12.
"The committee remembers vividly how just two years ago the thenChief of Staff of the Air Force explained ... how his service had consciously decided to give up force structure and manning levels in order to free up additional resources for modernization. Now, that gamble and others taken by this service have come home to roost, leading to what the committee believes is an Air Force personnel and readiness crisis, even while the Air Force still confronts a modernization crisis of considerable size and scope." -House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee report, released July 12.
"The F-22 ... made sense when we faced enemies who had the expertise to develop advanced aircraft and the ability to produce large numbers of them. But the events of the past eight years-most especially the engagements we have fought in the Persian Gulf and Kosovo-have made it clear that we must also address other needs that have become more pressing. The most urgent crisis facing the Air Force is finding a way to recruit and train the pilots and support crews who will fly and maintain the technologically advanced aircraft we already have in the air." -Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), subcommittee chairman, July 12.
"Yesterday's subcommittee vote is totally unacceptable. ... To dominate the wars of the future, we will have to dominate the air. We cannot do that without the F-22." -Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), statement, July 13.
"I have not said it's the end of the program, but there's no doubt that it will be the first step of a serious discussion about whether the F-22 is the answer to our air superiority problems or whether we shouldn't be looking in the final analysis to other alternatives." -Lewis, Legis-Slate News Service (LNS), July 15.
"This decision, if enacted, would for all practical purposes kill the F-22 program, the cornerstone of our nation's global airpower in the 21st century." -Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, letter to Congressional committees, July 16.
"That program was eating a huge hole in the ability of the Air Force to do anything else to deal with the real world. [USAF] will be afraid to fly it and afraid to lose it." -Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), LNS, July 15.
"The Air Force has such tremendous needs in so many other areas-air tankers, airlift transports, aerial reconnaissance-that we believe it is imperative for them to reassess their priorities." -Lewis, press release, July 16.
"We need to concentrate on those things that work." -Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), supporting continued funding of today's F-15s and F-16s rather than investing in the F-22, New York Times (NYT), July 17.
"The Air Force's money and everything in the Air Force's mind is focused on the F-22. ... We need to fix it [the Air Force]. ... Now, can we fix it if we put all our money into one basket? No, we can't." -Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young (RFla.), chairman of full House Appropriations Committee, NYT, July 17.
"It's really a remarkable occurrence, one of the rarest imaginable. I'm absolutely amazed." -Former Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.), a longtime F-22 critic, NYT, July 17.
"We can no longer guarantee that we'll be able to dominate the sky [without the F-22]." -Maj. Gen. Bruce Carlson, director of Air Force operational requirements, NYT, July 17.
"I can assure that, if the F-22 is canceled, that technology, which is being developed [and] which would ... be incorporated in the Joint Strike Fighter, will send the costs of the Joint Strike Fighter much higher. ... And so the concept of having a highlow mix, so to speak, of having a very high-performance F-22 and a lower-performing but capable Joint Strike Fighter with a lower cost-that will be eliminated." -Cohen, SASC testimony, July 20.
"Neither I, nor anyone in this building, or anyone in the service ... was aware of the effort under way on the part of the committee. The purpose was quite obvious, I think, and that is to avoid any public discussion, public debate, and any ability of the Air Force or contractor to respond to questions raised about the system." -Cohen, DoD news briefing, July 20.
"There are many systems being produced today that can challenge the capabilities of the F-15. ... So if we want to give our pilots ... air dominance in the years 2005 to 2015, it seems to me that we ought to continue with the F-22." -Cohen, news briefing, July 20.
"As a career naval aviator who appreciates and knows firsthand the value of air superiority, this decision did not come easy for me. Nonetheless, I fully support the committee's decision, knowing that there are other priorities that are being squeezed out and because of the F-22's troubled past." -Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), letter to House colleagues, July 21.
"I consider this plane absolutely essential for America's inventory of fighter aircraft." -Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), SASC chairman, remarks at a hearing, July 21.
"There has been much discussion in the House about whether the Joint Strike Fighter could perform the same role [as that of the F-22], and the answer is, it really cannot." -Then-acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters, SASC hearing, July 21.
"If we were to take F-22 out of the inventory, we would be looking at a massive change of direction ... on Joint Strike Fighter." -Peters, SASC hearing, July 21.
"The Air Force has a deliberate planning process where we go out for ... a period of over 18 years, and we look at aircraft out of that period of time ... to see if they will fit within reasonable budget assumptions. And F-22 does, in fact, fit within those assumptions. By comparison, at its highest point F-22 will take no more of the Air Force budget than F-15 did in its day when it was being built up." -Peters, SASC hearing, July 21.
"If we go forward, the additional cost per airplane, on average, is about $85 million in '99 dollars. ... That price is less than the cost of the modern Eurofighter, Gripen, and similar airplanes that are coming out today which have less capability, which are in the $95 million to $100 million price range." -Peters, SASC, July 21.
"It is ironic that we're talking F-22 because the B-2 was the subject of these same discussions about killing the program, as was the C-17, as was the F-15, and as was the F-16-four platforms that proved to be so valuable in Kosovo." -Peters, SASC hearing, July 21.
"To me, the F-22 is the key to the strategy of airpower for the future. Without the F-22, we'd have to change the level of our forces. We would have to bring back the 'Wild Weasels' [aircraft equipped to jam enemy air defenses] and all the other systems that we let go out of production because we knew we were going to have the F-22." -Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee, LNS, July 21.
"I must tell you that I cannot accept a defense bill that kills this cornerstone program." -Cohen, Defense Daily, July 21.
"We are not buying this airplane to fight a war in the year 2000. We are buying it to fight and win America's wars in 2010 and 2030 or beyond." -Carlson, Defense Daily, July 21.
"We can fund the F-22 without compromising the basic priorities of our national defense within the funds set aside and that is what I will fight to do. I think it would be a mistake to abandon the project. I think it has real potential to add to our national defense. I have always supported it, and I hope that it can be preserved." -President Clinton, White House media briefing, July 21.
"I think beyond any doubt, it will survive. It is a program that is essential for America's future defense. It's as simple as that." -Warner, interview with Bloomberg News, July 21.
"In today's environment, if you match airplane to airplane, we're at near parity with the MiG-29, the Su-27-the airplanes that are deployed around the world in large numbers." -Carlson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 22.
"It makes no sense for the Pentagon to proceed with three separate advanced fighter programs when no other country has a chance of threatening America's air superiority in the foreseeable future." -NYT, editorial, July 22.
"It's ironic ... that, coming out of what's been called the most successful air engagement in history, that Congress would even contemplate denying us the hardware that would allow us to maintain this dominance well into the next century." -Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon, press briefing, July 22.
"Clearly, this is a very important weapon, and it's not just important to the Air Force. It's important to all forces that depend on air dominance as one of the keys to success." -Bacon, press briefing, July 22.
"I don't think we build planes to be cheap. We build planes to be effective." -Bacon, press briefing, July 22.
"Look at the C-17, now regarded by everybody as a huge success. The last story I wrote when I covered the Pentagon in 1980 for the Wall Street Journal was about whether the C-17 would be approved, whether it would ever be built because there was so much criticism both of its lack of ability and its high cost. Now we consider it indispensable to our operations. The B-2, obviously the focus of enormous debate for a number of reasons-cost, capability, need over the last couple of decades-has proved to be a decisive weapon in Operation Allied Force." -Bacon (Wall Street Journal Pentagon reporter in the late 1970s and early 1980s), press briefing, July 22.
"While many in the Air Force may question the decision, some of the most pro-defense members of the House are sending an important message. The Air Force has such tremendous needs in so many other areas-air tankers, airlift transports, aerial reconnaissance-that we believe it is imperative for the Air Force to reassess its priorities." -Lewis, House floor statement, July 22.
"The F-22, no doubt about it, is a beauty of an airplane. It is like a Jaguar or a Cadillac. It would be a great plane to have if we had all of the money in the world, but the problem is that its costs are taking off faster than the airplane is expected to if it is ever constructed." -Obey, floor statement, July 22.
"Make no mistake about it: ... If we cancel the F-22, we are making a decision to stake the lives of American soldiers on inferior equipment because some in Congress think they know more about air warfare than the United States Air Force." -Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), floor statement, July 22.
"I flew the F-15 when I was active in the Air Force. That has been over 25 years ago. Can my colleagues believe that we are trying to retrofit an F-15 that will be in service for over 33 years by the time the F-22 achieves initial operational capability? If a 33-year-old aircraft had been used in Korea, we would have been fighting MiGs with Sopwith Camel biplanes. If a 33-year-old aircraft had been used in the Gulf War, we would have been fighting third-generation Soviet fighters with Vietnam-era F-4s." -Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), retired USAF colonel and Vietnam War POW, floor statement, July 22.
"It is not enough to say that something better may be available in the future. Something better is always available in the future. Serious threats to American air superiority may arise sooner, and the nation's security cannot tolerate a loss of command of the air. Congress and the Administration must focus on this fundamental reality and fully fund the nation's only truly stealthy air superiority fighter." -Letter from seven former defense secretaries--James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Harold Brown, Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, Richard Cheney, and William Perry, quoted in floor debate, July 22.
"Just as the Air Force is poised to field an aircraft capable of assuring air dominance through the first three decades of the next century, the Congress seems poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by killing the F-22. This rash act will commit future generations of airmen to fight the air war with weapons no better than those of our foes." -Gen. Richard E. Hawley, recently retired head of Air Combat Command, Washington Times, July 26.
"If they take the production money out of the F-22, we have to go back and rethink the Joint Strike Fighter. ... If you bust that [relationship], you start questioning whether the Air Force needs the JSF at all." -USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Wall Street Journal, July 27.
"I cast aside almost out of hand the suggestion that this pause automatically kills this program. The fact that in a day's time they [Air Force officials] could come up with an added-on cost of $5 [billion] or $6 billion [resulting from a one-year pause in production] says that they will use almost any data, accurate or not, to support their position." -Lewis, Defense Daily, July 28.
"This airplane is not going to break the bank. In its most expensive year, the first year of high-rate production, it will consume less than 6 percent of the Air Force budget and only 1.7 percent of the DoD budget. That's very much in line with the amounts that were spent on the F-15 back in the late 70s, early 80s on the F-16. ... So these are well within the norm for fighter airplane procurement. And I think this debate has focused so much on costs that people have lost sight of the need for these high-end capabilities." -Hawley, PBS "NewsHour," July 27.
In the aftermath of the Kosovo campaign, the Air Force is facing anew a question about which kind of next-generation long-range strike system to acquire: Bomber or cruise missile?The first successful use of the B-2 in combat has caused some members of Congress to call for reopening the B-2 production line. B-2 booster Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) is pushing for another independent study of the bomber force, for instance. Dicks has long said he thinks the US should have 40 to 60 of the stealthy aircraft, not 21.The Air Force would gladly accept new B-2s if provided, but officials have maintained that procurement priorities lie elsewhere. On the long-range strike question, the service has begun work on a next-generation cruise missile that might pre-empt calls for more B-2s or a B-3."Increasingly, the long-range precision missiles are the competitor for the bomber," Pentagon acquisition chief Jacques S. Gansler told defense reporters July 7.Air Force officials are currently refining their requirements for the new standoff weapon. Several contractors have submitted preliminary proposals. It would enter the procurement cycle only after the joint air-to-surface standoff missile, a shorter-range cruise missile, enters production in 2000.Combat operations over Kosovo nearly depleted Air Force stocks of Air Launched Cruise Missiles. Some 322 replacement ALCMs could be obtained by replacing the warheads on surplus nuclear-tipped ALCMs with conventional weaponry. Such missiles can be fired from 500 to 700 miles out. The Air Force would like its standoff cushion to be greater still.Both bomber and cruise missile advocates make economic arguments for their favored systems. Dicks and others say that the precision guided weapons dropped by the B-2 are far cheaper than long-range cruise missiles. Thus the marginal cost of operations, once the initial investment in a bomber force has been made, is relatively low.Cruise missiles can be fired from much less sophisticated and less costly aircraft, pointed out Gansler. Using the B-52 for decades more is considerably less expensive, up front, than paying for a new generation of launch platforms.
Gen. Michael E. Ryan, the Air Force Chief of Staff, warned that any postponement of F-22 production would "probably kill the program." It would also force the service into a number of other expensive work-arounds USAF hadn't counted on, Ryan added.Contrary to press reports, the Air Force is not "standing down" in the wake of the Balkan War, only reconstituting itself in a normal fashion, Ryan reported. In other remarks, he said today's Air Force is underequipped in airlift, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets, bombers, and specific kinds of capabilities within fighters. And while the Air Force has been experiencing recruiting difficulties, the pilot retention picture has brightened.Speaking with defense reporters in Washington Aug. 3, shortly after the House voted to lock the F-22 into a research-only mode, Ryan said that such action would unacceptably drive up the cost of the program, beyond Congressionally set caps.Many vendors would be free to leave the program, requiring expensive certification of new vendors if Congress later wants the airplane built.The Air Force has said such costs would add about $6.5 billion to the F-22 effort.More importantly--and probably more expensively--Ryan said USAF would have to rethink many decisions about the size and type of forces it fields if the F-22 is absent from its future plans."We made decisions in the Air Force on the assumption that the F-22 comes on board," Ryan said. Those decisions about jamming capability, suppression of enemy air defenses, and maneuverability of the Joint Strike Fighter would all have to be reconsidered. The Air Force is counting on the F-22 to defend critical sensor platforms like the E-3 AWACS and E-8 Joint STARS aircraft, he said.Without the F-22 to fend off attacks from high-flying, fast-moving threats like the Su-35, those leveraging capabilities like AWACS and JSTARS could be lost, and "we lose a lot in the synergism of our forces," said Ryan. It is clearly not true that the JSF and F-22 are redundant, as some have suggested, Ryan added. The F-22 represents the high end of the Air Force's highlow mix, he said, while the low-end JSF comes nowhere close to meeting that level of performance. Loss of the F-22 would compel the Air Force to rethink the JSF's requirements, which have been so finely drawn that it, too, might be undone.The F-22 is a technology pathfinder for the JSF, as well, Ryan noted. The JSF will depend on the F-22 to mature the F119 engine core, as well as avionics and stealth capabilities. The JSF price would go up if the F-22 were not around to help offset such costs.He noted that the F-22s in flight test are flying very well, and the program as now structured is very executable.Ryan said the Expeditionary Aerospace Force structure, which USAF was planning to move into before Operation Allied Force in Kosovo took place, will be up and running by Oct. 1. He took umbrage at reports in the press that the Air Force would be temporarily out of action because of the need to reconstitute after the Balkan air campaign."The Air Force is not standing down," he said, but he acknowledged there is a backlog of training that must be caught up before USAF is truly back at par. He predicted that, just as there was a 12 percent drop in combat readiness after Operation Desert Storm in 1991, there will be a similar short-term decline after Allied Force."It took us about a year [after the Gulf War to recover]," Ryan said. "We'll come back up faster this time."The Yugoslavia operation highlighted the fact that the Air Force is not sized or structured to carry out two simultaneous Major Theater Wars, Ryan observed."On a day-to-day basis, we have sufficient airlift," but the national strategy calls for ability to manage two MTWs 90 days apart chiefly because of lift requirements, he said."I don't think we can afford to have a twoMajor Theater War airlift force," he said. "That would drive the numbers completely out of the reality realm."USAF, he said, can prosecute two MTWs nearly simultaneously. As long as the conflicts are 90 days apart, USAF can safely swing forces between them, he said."We have shortfalls in lots of areas," he acknowledged. While he acknowledged that the Air Force is about to miss its recruiting quotas for "the first time in a long, long time," Ryan said the service never before made a big press in recruiting because, up until now, it met its goals. "Now we need to," he said. There will be prime-time TV advertising, as well as a fuller roster of recruiters working at attracting enlistees. There will be additional bonuses for six-year enlistments in certain career fields, as well, but the service will not relax its educational standards.Ryan also said there is heartening news on pilot retention, which by the end of the third quarter was running at 41 percent vs. 27 percent last year.
-By John A. Tirpak
Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway,Army, Aug. 1, 1952
Gen. Alfred M. Gruenther,Army, July 11, 1953
Gen. Lauris Norstad,Air Force, Nov. 20, 1956
Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer,Army, Nov. 1, 1962
Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster,Army, May 5, 1969
Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr.,Army, Nov. 1, 1974
Gen. Bernard W. Rogers,Army, June 27, 1979
Gen. John R. Galvin,Army, June 25, 1987
Gen. John M. Shalikashvili,Army, June 23, 1992
Gen. George A. Joulwan,Army, Oct. 21, 1993
Gen. Wesley K. Clark,Army, July 10, 1997
Gen. Joseph W. Ralston,Air Force, is slated to join this list next spring.
The first SACEUR was General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served until Aug. 1, 1952. The post of CINCEUR did not exist until that date.
Source: US European Command
Sir Michael's Lament
In 1994, British Gen. Sir Michael Rose served as commander of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia. Last July 12, Rose became greatly annoyed at an article he read in The Times of London and responded with this letter, published July 14:"I am surprised to see you [The Times] supporting the current propaganda campaign by NATO and British politicians who are repeatedly stating that NATO's air campaign over Kosovo met its campaign objectives. It manifestly did not."When NATO went to war on March 24, its objectives were, in the words of the Secretary General of NATO, 'to prevent more human suffering and more repression and violence against the civilian population of Kosovo.' Put another way by our own Ministry of Defence, the purpose of going to war was 'to curb the Serbs' capability to repress the Kosovo Albanian population-and thus avert a humanitarian catastrophe.'"After 11 weeks of one of the most intensive air campaigns in the history of warfare, it is clear that NATO had tragically failed to accomplish these initial objectives, for thousands of people were brutally murdered and more than a million people were driven from their homes by the Serbs."The Alliance was thus compelled to redefine the purpose of the war as being that of allowing the safe return of the Kosovo Albanian people to their homes. Its success in achieving this lesser task should not be allowed to obscure the fundamental message that it is not possible to safeguard a people by bombing from 15,000 feet."Rather than engage in cynical propaganda exercises, NATO should examine how it is going to be able more effectively to fight humanitarian wars in the future. This will require the Alliance to develop better leadership and to demonstrate a greater preparedness to deploy troops on the ground. Sadly, both these critical elements seem to be missing at present."
Anthrax--the Official View
The Defense Department decision to require US troops to be immunized against anthrax has stirred fierce controversy. A July 12 Air Force Times editorial, "Stop Mandatory Anthrax Inoculations," drew this reaction from William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense, and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff:"Your editorial ... may have been well-intentioned and designed to benefit men and women in uniform. In truth, the argument does them a significant disservice."Anthrax, as lethal as the Ebola virus, presents a clear and present danger to US service personnel. Anthrax is the weapon of choice for germ warfare. It is very easy to weaponize and almost always deadly."At least 10 potential adversaries have worked to develop the offensive use of anthrax against US forces."The anthrax vaccine now being administered to US servicemen and servicewomen has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration for nearly 30 years and is highly effective."There are no known long-term side effects from the anthrax vaccine. The use of the anthrax vaccine has been endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the Institute of Medicine. It would be unconscionable not to protect our entire force with a safe and effective vaccine."To date, our servicemen and servicewomen have received nearly 1 million vaccinations. We have each taken five in the full series of six anthrax shots required by the FDA."Many other senior military and civilian leaders have begun the immunization process, including-[contrary to the assertion in the editorial]-Adm. Jay Johnson, chief of naval operations. ..."In today's environment, active duty and reserve forces may be deployed at a moment's notice and be confronted with the threat of anthrax. Because the FDAlicensed vaccine requires multiple shots over many months, vaccination must begin prior to deployment in order to ensure full protection against the use of anthrax."Our commanders must know that all, not simply some fraction, of their forces are protected from this biological threat."Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines fight in teams, and they need to know that all team members are protected from anthrax."Wearing helmets in battle isn't voluntary because everybody needs protection. The same is true of anthrax. Allowing a voluntary vaccination program is inadequate in the face of this deadly threat."
With Tricare, Even the Boss Gets Confused
It's a familiar scene for many Tricare users.A service member arrives home to find his or her spouse distraught over a surprisingly large medical bill which doesn't make sense but threatens to ding the family budget.It even happened to the Army's top medical officer, Lt. Gen. Ronald R. Blanck. In an interview, Blanck recalled one recent evening being met by his wife waving a medical bill the Blancks received from a civilian hospital."This is what it's like," Blanck recalled her saying. "This is what your soldiers have to go through."While away at college, Blanck's daughter had had her tonsils removed. Outpatient hospital services totaled $3,000. Tricare Standard, the military's fee-for-service insurance formerly known as CHAMPUS, would pay only $700. The Blancks, it seemed, were stuck for $2,300."I looked at the bill and said, 'Holy smokes!' " recalled Blanck. Perhaps even more than the typical American consumer, the instinct of military people is to pay their bills-and promptly. "Nobody wants to stand before their commanding officer or first sergeant as a debtor," said Blanck. "I had a credit card halfway out of my wallet when I looked at the bill again and said, 'Wait a minute. This isn't right.' "As the Army surgeon general, Blanck could turn to his own expert staff for a refresher on Tricare payment rules. His staff reminded Blanck that a hospital that accepts Tricare Standard patients can't charge more than the Standard program deems allowable.If that's the case, what was this hospital trying to do?Blanck called the hospital for an explanation. The second doctor with whom he talked told him to just ignore the bill. "I'd turn them in for fraud if I could," Blanck said. "They're sending out incorrect bills, [looking] for someone stupid enough to pay in excess of what they have to."For Blanck, the experience drove home two points:·Tricare is too complex and needs to be simplified.·Beneficiaries need to be aware of that complexity and take every opportunity to educate themselves on the system."I'm the stupid surgeon general, and I almost paid that bill," Blanck said. "How many soldiers are out there paying those [false] bills and then bad-mouthing Tricare?"Blanck remains a Tricare advocate, saying the military needed a managed care system that requires enrollment, goes into partnerships with networks of civilian physicians, and emphasizes "getting seen early, even while healthy," so attention could be paid to habits and specialists can see whether early intervention might be needed.The problems-particularly delays in getting appointments and errors and delays in the claims process-revolve around the system's administrative complexity, Blanck said. There are too many Tricare regions, too many civilian contractors, and too much disparity in the way regions operate. "If you're doing 25 million claims a year, and only 1 percent are wrong, you have 250,000 bad claims," said Blanck. "Boy, that's a lot of anecdotes."Blanck said he would like to see Tricare evolve from 12 regions to perhaps three or even down to a partnership with a single network of providers. Any differences in contracts should be invisible to beneficiaries moving between assignments. While that's not the case now, he said, the surgeons general and Department of Defense health affairs officials are working hard toward that goal.
-by Tom Philpott
Pentagon Investigator Hit for Questions About Hart
A veteran DoD investigator was stripped of his badge and credentials and reassigned to a desk job after he asked colleagues of Gary W. Hart about the former Colorado senator's relationships with women.Defense Security Service employee David Kerno asked the questions as part of a security-clearance review, following Hart's appointment to a national security commission by his old friend, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen.Did he cross the line and bring up inappropriate subject matter? Or do well-connected people get preferential treatment when undergoing clearance investigations?Kerno "thought he was doing the right things," said his lawyer, Daniel Minahan, following disclosure of the incident by USA Today on July 14.The story begins in 1998, when Hart was asked by Cohen to serve on the National Security Study Group. A panel of prominent Americans, the NSSG was tasked to conduct a comprehensive review of national security needs.To Cohen, the former Colorado lawmaker seemed a natural choice. He served on the armed services and intelligence committees during his time in Washington and became something of a defense gadfly-although his mantra of buying large numbers of inexpensive lower-tech weaponry is no longer as fashionable as it once was.Kerno was the field investigator assigned to vet Hart for clearance. Based in Lakewood, Colo., he is a Vietnam War veteran and a 19-year DSS employee who has never before ignited such a controversy.Kerno informed his supervisor in advance that he intended to conduct a thorough review, given Hart's past conduct. Hart's 1988 Pesidential campaign imploded after he was caught in a compromising situation with part-time model Donna Rice. That the married Hart had previously dared the media to tail him, saying they would find nothing of interest, suggested a certain recklessness.On Sept. 18, 1998, Kerno interviewed Hart's personal assistant and two attorneys, at Hart's Denver law firm. He asked them about the state of the ex-senator's marriage and the extent, if any, of his relationships with other women.Kerno's subsequent accounts say no one seemed particularly put off by his inquiries. But Hart himself, whom Kerno never questioned, surely was.After discovering what Kerno had done, Hart complained that day to Cohen's office. Though one document obtained by USA Today suggested he spoke to Cohen himself, he actually spoke with Cohen's chief of staff, Robert Tyrer, according to the Pentagon.Tyrer says that Hart's point was that people would decline to serve on such panels if security clearances were inappropriate and intrusive.Barely a day later, Kerno was stripped of his badge and job and reassigned to a desk. As of mid-July he was also facing a possible 30-day suspension without pay due to a disciplinary action filed by the same supervisor whom he originally informed of his plans.Kerno's questioning was overly detailed and verged on the prurient, according to some Pentagon officials. But Kerno's defenders say he is being railroaded. They note that regulations say sexual behavior can be considered a security concern if it indicates a personality disorder or reflects lack of judgment or discretion.Hart was granted his security clearance. Earlier this year he was named co-chair of the National Security Study Group, while Kerno still sat at his desk."Dave Kerno ... was asking the right questions about the wrong guy," Minahan told USA Today.
An otherwise exemplary junior Air Force officer has received a potentially career-crippling performance review for refusing to serve with women in the cramped confines of a nuclear missile launch center.1st Lt. Ryan C. Berry, a West Point graduate and devout Catholic, believes that working alone with women, for 24 hours in a bus-sized underground room with little privacy, violates biblical teaching to avoid the appearance of sin."I hope Lieutenant Berry's moral stand can be seen to be a worthy response to the noble goal to which [the Air Force motto 'Integrity First'] challenges," wrote Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, whose diocese is the US military, in a June 23 letter to service leaders.Berry's superiors do not see things quite that way. His commanding general, Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Neary, has endorsed a performance review which calls the junior officer's conduct "unprofessional."An Air Force statement says that the service has attempted to personally accommodate Berry and his beliefs but that the needs of the service have resulted in an end to that accommodation."Berry's unwillingness to perform his duties as a missile combat crew member has been reflected in his officer performance report, and Berry has been assigned duties not requiring him to serve as a missile combat crew member," said the statement.A missileer at Minot AFB, N.D., home of Minuteman III ICBMs, Berry was at first granted a religious accommodation for his beliefs. From May 1997 through December 1998, he worked only with men on the two-officer missile center watches.His wing controls 150 Minuteman IIIs from 15 launch control centers, which are small capsules 60 to 90 feet deep that contain one bed and a small bathroom. Officers can work in the capsules up to 48 hours without relief.But other officers, including at least one woman, saw this treatment as favoritism, and his exemption was revoked in December.Berry has said he did not know he would be required to work in mixed-sex conditions when he opted for the missile career track. The Air Force disputes this, saying he was instructed on the possibility of serving on gender-integrated crews while training at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.Berry's attorney, Henry Hamilton, charges that the whole thing boils down to a clash between feminist ideology and Catholic theology. He pointed out to the Washington Times that the Army allows the practice of witchcraft at Ft. Hood, Texas."The military can accommodate whatever they want to accommodate," Hamilton told the Times.
Federal Agents Seize CAP Records
Federal agents with search warrants seized Civil Air Patrol records, data, and computer files in five states July 21. The FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations confiscated records at the CAP national headquarters at Maxwell AFB, Ala., and at wings in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and West Virginia in conjunction with "the alleged misuse of appropriated funds by CAP personnel," said AFOSI spokesman Maj. Steve Murray.The seizures were the latest development in a controversy that has gotten progressively worse since an Air Force audit in 1996 found significant problems in CAP financial management and accountability, flying safety, professionalism, and standards of conduct.The CAP is a civilian auxiliary of the Air Force and receives about $28.3 million in federal funds each year through the Air Force budget.In May, the Senate Armed Services Committee sought a reorganization of CAP, with a new board of directors to be appointed by the Secretary of the Air Force. An amendment to that bill postponed action until a year-long review of the matter was concluded.According to Donna Leinwand of Gannett News Service, "The Air Force accused the 60,000-member group, known for its search and rescue operations, of mismanaging federal money, traveling first class on the taxpayer tab, retaliating against members who pointed out abuses, and losing track of its equipment. Auditors said they could not account for 70 percent of the federally purchased communications equipment in one branch of the group."Civil Air Patrol officials have denied the allegations.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: The day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
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