Friday, June 06, 2008

Guest Post by Captain America


Gates ousts Air Force leaders in historic shake-up

"Defense Secretary Robert Gates ousted the Air Force's top military and civilian leaders Thursday, holding them to account in a historic Pentagon shake-up after embarrassing nuclear mix-ups.

Gates announced at a news conference that he had accepted the resignations of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne - a highly unusual double firing.

Gates said his decision was based mainly on the damning conclusions of an internal report on the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four Air Force electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads. And he linked the underlying causes of that slip-up to another startling incident: the flight last August of a B-52 bomber that was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

The report drew the stunning conclusion that the Air Force's nuclear standards have been in a long decline, a "problem that has been identified but not effectively addressed for over a decade." LINK

Well this is kind of a shocker. The Secretary of Defense has fired the two top dogs in the Air Force. WOW! Thats pretty big stuff folks. Thats FIRED to you and me. I am pretty stunned. At the same time I applaud his decision wholeheartedly.

Let me explain: I love the USAF as I do all of our Military branches. I am absolutely a dedicated fan of the Military like some people are fans of sports. I believe as a organization no one in the world beats our armed forces. They are the best in the world at what they do. Too often our country sells them short. Think about this for a second: The United States has never lost a major war. Never. Even Vietnam wasn't a loss militarily. It was a political loss and thats like having the game stolen by the Ref's. So it really doesn't count. I don't doubt for a second that we couldn't have killed every last V.C. on the planet if our soldiers had been allowed to. So we have pretty near a perfect record. Imagine a professional sports team with a perfect record. Big stuff.

So that being said the Air Force admittedly has been letting their game slip. At least their NUCLEAR game. I can understand that. Since the end of the Cold War there isn't the fear that we may need to use our Nukes anytime soon. The Nuclear path may not be the most desired career path in the Air Force these days. Long boring days stuck in a missile silo in Kansas or Nebraska isn't exactly a young man's dream. So it may have become a dead end. Flying fighters and strike bombers in the Middle East is probably where it's at these days.

So organizationally there are problems in the Air Force. They admit that. Specifically problems within their Nuclear Mission. Thats not good. In fact that's totally unacceptable. Following these major blunders the Secretary of the Air Force decided that heads must roll and roll they did. At the top. While these guys weren't responsible for strapping the warheads on the B-52's or sending the triggers to Taiwan, it happened on their watch and with rank goes responsibility. Sure the airmen
involved will get their punishments as well, but it's the top dogs that are being held accountable as well.

Why do I think this is such a good thing? Because we have become a "Pass the buck culture". Realize this: Not one high ranking government official was fired as a result of 911. Not one official of any consequence to my knowledge. No one was fired for the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil in the history of this country much less prosecuted.

As a society we have become entirely too acceptant of failure even going so far as to REWARD it in many cases. Ray Nagin was RE-ELECTED Mayor of New Orleans after Katrina. Wilson Goode was RE-ELECTED Mayor of Philadelphia after bombing and burning the city half to the ground. Sure neither of these guys did the actual deeds but they FAILED when leadership was most needed with catastrophic consequences for both cities. Yet both were REWARDED with second terms.

No one is responsible for their screw ups in our culture anymore. The one place where traditionally failure was dealt with harshly was the Military. The competition for top spots is usually so fierce that any screw up was nearly impossible to overcome for top officers. This move by Secretary Gates restores that standard. By firing the top dogs it sends a clear message about organizational excellence: Excellence is demanded at every level. But you can't demand it from the bottom or the middle while giving the top a pass.

It sucks when anyone's career ends like this especially guys who I am quite sure are patriots and have devoted their lives to serving their country honorably. They never wanted something like this to happen. But that's the burden top commanders carry. You wonder why C.E.O.'s get the big bucks? This is why. Because when something goes wrong on their watch it's SUPPOSED to be their heads that roll.

The United States Air Force is much to professional an organization to be brought down by sloppy standards. Getting to the top is the easy part. Staying on top... well second place is still the first loser.

Go Air Force!

(You can read Captain America daily at First In!)

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