08 February 2015

Killing the Hog (III)

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Attached is an awesome rebuttal to the Air Force’s plan to retire the A-10, known affectionately as The Hog.  The author, Tony Carr, is a retired AF pilot.  Carr dispassionately dissects the extent to which the Air Force leadership is lying about the performance of the A-10 in combat to justify its decision to send the A-10 to the boneyard.  These lies do a disservice the AF pilots flying highly effective combat missions in the A-10 — but they also shine a bright light into the murky problem that makes managing the Defense Department so intractable.  
The skunk fight over whether or not to kill the Hog may look like just another insider issue over a favored hardware toy in an arcane Pentagon budget battle. But it is also a revealing case study highlighting the moral relativity lying at the heart of the bureaucratic pathologies plaguing the Pentagon.  
Carr explains how bureaucrats and Washington insiders are pulling out the ethical stops by manipulating effectiveness statistics to justify their decision to trash the A-10.  While Carr does not say so, their cynical effort aims to place the interests of (1) the Military - Industrial - Congressional Complex (reflected in this case by the AF leadership’s unbounded lust for shoveling more money into the high-cost, problem-prone, behind-schedule F-35) and (2) the AF's institutional prerogatives before the clear combined-arms needs in an ongoing war.  The name of the AF game is to suppress  information revealing what really works and what does not work in combat.  
This kind of bureaucratic gamesmanship — which unfortunately is all too typical in all the services — goes to the heart of the behavioral pathologies that repeatedly produce the un-auditable programmatic shambles that is the Pentagon’s five-year budget plan.  This shambles takes the form of (1) a high-cost modernization plan that can not buy enough new weapons to modernize the force on a timely basis (e.g., in this case, the F-35), (2) continual budgetary pressure to reduce existing readiness to bail out the floundering modernization program (e.g., in this case, trashing the A-10), and (3) corrupt accounting system that makes it impossible to sort out the information needed to correct the first two problems (explained here).  The A-10 debate is also a window into the behavioral pathologies that have turned the relatively small, low tempo, never-ending Global War on Terror (when compared to Korea or Viet Nam) into the second most expensive war in U.S. history.

Tony Carr, John Q. Public, 7 February 2015
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and veteran advocate. He served globally as a pilot, staff advisor, and squadron commander, logging several hundred combat hours in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The A-10 is a superb weapon, but it doesn’t fit into the Air Force’s vision of the future. The service has committed itself to getting rid of the warplane, and will stop at nothing to make it happen.
“Lie: to create a false or misleading impression.”
“Win: to achieve victory in a fight, contest, or game.”
There’s a game afoot, and the Air Force is lying to win it.
The game is the annual round of sanctioned government chicanery attendant to passing a defense budget. The Air Force’s objective in this game is to rid itself of the A-10 so it can re-purpose the funding it occupies for other priorities. After failing in previous attempts to achieve this objective, the service is engaged in a take-no-prisoners effort to make it happen, and is willing to leave its integrity at the door in the process. This is extreme and regrettable behavior from an institution that claims integrity as its guiding value. What explains the willingness to betray that value?
The service says the A-10 issue is all about money, and that is has no choice but to pursue the jet’s retirement. Getting rid of the A-10, so the argument goes, is necessary to free up budget tradespace for modernization, particularly funding of the F-35. But this doesn’t really explain the willingness to resort to dishonest tactics. For that explanation, it’s necessary to think about motive.
Contrary to the Air Force’s insistence, this isn’t just a routine budget issue. This is about ridding itself of a Close Air Support (CAS) mission it doesn’t want — a function it doesn’t consider to be part of its core duty to national defense. The campaign to retire the A-10 has been ongoing for two decades, and misrepresenting its contribution to national defense has been part and parcel of that campaign.
But the current debate has occasioned a particular episode unique in its sheer mendacity, which gestures toward a more deeply-rooted intent. After being humiliated on the A-10 issue over the past several budget cycles, senior officers seem to be letting emotion trump reason. Double-dealing of this nature reflects an almost vendetta-level desire to re-establish control and squelch opposition by any means necessary. Recent attempts to chill A-10 debate within the service by marking its advocates with the stain of treason is further evidence.
The latest signal that enmity has overtaken reason among service leaders is the recent article by USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook, caustically (and disingenuously) titled “A-10 warplane tops list for friendly fire deaths.” This is a lamentable piece of journalism, with Vanden Brook perhaps unwittingly advancing a despicable bundle of lies on behalf of the unnamed officials who made him their message mule. .... continued