Gates Says U.S. Air Force Mired in “Old Ways of Doing Business”

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The U.S Air Force was created to drop bombs and lots of them. It’s a task the service has performed with great enthusiasm over the years… and the job has given way to the image of the Tom Cruise-style fighter jock—the smart-talking, glamour-boy pilot who’s a pain in the butt on the ground and your best friend in the air. But just as technological advances have brought into question the usefulness of manned space exploration, the fighter jock is quickly being supplanted by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can track and destroy targets without risking the life of a human pilot, all from the comfort of an airbase in Nevada.

Perhaps sensing that its Top Gun image stands to suffer from new technologies, the Air Force has continued to invest heavily in big-ticket, Cold War-era defense systems like the F-22 Stealth Fighter, an amazing machine to be sure, but one that is, shall we say, of limited use in a war against IED-planting insurgents.

Now the Air Force’s continued insistence on expensive, pilot-operated planes is under new scrutiny. In a speech today at the Air Force’s Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates (himself a former Air Force officer), offered some plain talk on what he expects from the service in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, namely more emphasis on UAVs.

Excerpts from Gates’ speech, as reported by the Associated Press:

In my view we can do and we should do more to meet the needs of men and women fighting in the current conflicts while their outcome may still be in doubt. My concern is that our services are still not moving aggressively in wartime to provide resources needed now on the battlefield…

Regarding the slowness to deploy UAVs to the battlefield:

People were stuck in old ways of doing business, it’s been like pulling teeth… All this may require rethinking long-standing service assumptions and priorities about which missions require certified pilots and which do not. I’m asking you to be part of the solution and part of the future.

Consider the gauntlet thrown down.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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