Interview With Air Force Chief Of Staff

Interview With Air Force Chief Of Staff
August 28th, 2008  
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Topic: Interview With Air Force Chief Of Staff

Interview With Air Force Chief Of Staff
August 26, 2008

All Things Considered (NPR), 8:00 PM
ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Aman with a long and dramatic history with the Air Force is taking over there. This month, General Norton Schwartz became the new commanding officer. His path in the Air Force began in the secretive world of special operations. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has this profile.
Unidentified Man #1: Five a.m., the airlift from the American embassy downtown begins.
TOM BOWMAN: April, 1975, the American evacuation of Saigon begins. Taking part in that evacuation is a lanky Air Force second lieutenant, Norton Schwartz. He's a son of a New Jersey typewriter salesman who only got into the Air Force Academy because a leading candidate flunked his physical. Schwartz is a green co-pilot with a seasoned crew. They could hear the rumble of explosions off in the distance.
GEN. NORTON SCHWARTZ: You know, it was an exciting for a young fellow and a good way to get started.
BOWMAN: But it was another evacuation, a botched one five years later, that had a deeper impact.
PRESIDENT CARTER: Late yesterday, I canceled a carefully planned operation.
BOWMAN: President Jimmy Carter tells the nation about the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.
SCHWARTZ: A searing experience, notwithstanding the fact, of course, that we lost five brave souls on that mission and had three others who were seriously injured.
BOWMAN: Not long after, Schwartz himself was training for a possible second rescue attempt, but it was never ordered. The hostages were finally released.
SCHWARTZ: I mean, this was all about bringing Americans home. And it's one of those things that I'm still cooking on gas, you know, now, 30 years later.
BOWMAN: Schwartz chooses his words carefully, the precise cadence of a pilot. He's tall, with sharp, angular features, could easily pass for Mr. Spock in his later years. He sits in a massive Pentagon office, unopened boxes piled around, the walls mostly bare. Schwartz will find a place on the wall for a framed copy of a Time magazine essay. It's a moving piece about that failed Iran hostage rescue and the mettle of the men who took part, titled "The Essence of Courage."
SCHWARTZ: I recommend you Google it, because it'll tell you a lot about what I believe in.
BOWMAN: What he believes in is the ethos of this special operator, the term the military uses for the elite commandos on the ground and in the air.
MAJ. GEN. JIM HAWKINS (USAF, Retired): It tells what his inner being is like. The special operators really rely on one another and entrust their lives to one another.
BOWMAN: Retired Major General Jim Hawkins is a longtime friend who also says Schwartz, with his wide experience, is the right leader now for the Air Force.
HAWKINS: We have a guy who is not stove-piped in any one area of our Air Force, but truly has been exposed to all of it.
BOWMAN: Former bosses recall a quiet and driven officer. Jim Hobson remembers Schwartz arriving in Florida as a young captain to fly the Talon, a plane that brings commandos into the fight. Schwartz wanted to teach courses to lieutenants. Hobson thought he was foolish. The Talon training was among the most demanding. There was little time for diversions.
MAJ. GEN. JIM HOBSON (USAF, Retired): So I said, Schwartz, your number one job is to finish first in the class. And if you've got time, you know, in the evenings or whatever to teach pneumatics, hydraulics and electrics to lieutenants, then be my guest. Well, he taught pneumatics, hydraulics and electrics to all the lieutenants and the captains that needed it, plus he finished first in his class.
BOWMAN: Rising up the ranks, Schwartz was always searching for how the Air Force could help in the fight. It's the Air Force itself that needs help now. Among the problems: an Air Force B-52 crew last year mistakenly flew nuclear missiles across country. But former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Air Force General Richard Myers, says the greatest challenge for Schwartz is financial.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS (USAF, Retired): What he faces is a lot of old hardware, all types of airplanes, and trying to get the budget to put the capital fleet, if you will, back on its feet.
BOWMAN: Schwartz acknowledges the Air Force will have to suppress its appetite for some of that hardware.
SCHWARTZ: But at the same time, I don't intend to be timid about explaining why it is that America needs to invest in its Air Force.
BOWMAN: That explaining will begin this winter, when a new Pentagon budget arrives on Capitol Hill.
Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.
SIEGEL: You can hear more from General Schwartz about his plans for the Air Force at
Interview with Gen. Schwartz (NPR. org)
NPR's Tom Bowman interviewed the U.S. Air Force's new top officer, Gen. Norton Schwartz. Schwartz talked about his plans for the service from handling its nuclear arsenal to rebuilding its aging fleet. The following is an edited version of the interview.
NPR: Your predecessor, Gen. Mike Moseley complained about sending thousands of airmen to Iraq to drive fuel trucks or guard prisoners. He said that was not a job for Air Force personnel. What's your sense?
SCHWARTZ: The bottom line for me is the nation is at war, and we will do whatever we can to make sure that America succeeds. And that includes using people in nontraditional roles. And I will tell you, I celebrate what our youngsters are doing in areas that are not traditional. But there's a need the nation's at risk and this is what we're called to do.
NPR: Moseley was also criticized for not doing enough to send more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq. Defense Secretary Gates said it was like "pulling teeth" to get the Air Force to move on this. Now, can you improve on this mission?
SCHWARTZ: We are. ... Let me give you a couple of metrics just so you have a sense. We just passed the 400,000-hour milestone on unmanned vehicles just the other day. It took us 12 years to get to the 180,000 hours, and it took us an additional eight months to do the remaining 220,000 hours. That gives you a sense of what's going on out there.
My sense is that the Air Force in this area is on a war footing. Over the next five years, over a third of the flying assets we will procure for the Air Force will be unmanned vehicles.
NPR: The Air Force now has 26 continuous combat air patrols with the Predator, meaning that they can fly 24/7 in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The plan is to increase that to 50 by 2012. Can you accelerate that? Or even increase the number?
SCHWARTZ: We will accelerate, for sure. If we need to go above 50 [continual combat missions], we can do that. It will require more resources.
(Schwartz says part of the problem is limits on the industrial base to build more unmanned drones and also creating experienced pilots to fly them. There is a plan to increase the number of pilots by opening a second school at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, with the first graduates expected by next May. Over the next five years, the number of drone pilots, now at 300, will grow to more than 1,100.)
NPR: Now those drone pilots, who sit inside a building at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, have to be actual pilots who are rated to fly aircraft. Will that continue?
SCHWARTZ: I think that is an open question, and there are a number of things that affect this.
(There are some requirements both here and overseas for pilots to be instrument rated, Schwartz says. And also, you want "the right level of maturity" for drones that can drop bombs, "because that's a significant obligation without a doubt.")
Gen. Moseley thought this was a pilot's domain. I'm undecided on that at the moment.
NPR: The Air Force has had some troubles with the handling of its nuclear arsenal. Nuclear fuses were inadvertently sent to Taiwan, after that country requested helicopter batteries. And a B-52 crew mistakenly flew cross-country last year with six nuclear missiles. What can you do to make sure the Air Force sees this as important?
SCHWARTZ: It is important, and there's no escaping the fact that we collectively in our Air Force have lost focus on that mission. And there are a multitude of reasons for that, some organizational. .... We're going to remedy that. There's a whole range of things we will do. We certainly look at organizational alignments. Clearly there will be a champion and there will be an an organization focused on making sure we serve the nuclear missions with the attention it requires.
NPR: Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the former chairman of the joint chiefs, says your greatest challenge will not be in the nuclear area, but it will be with budgets. Meaning, the challenge of rebuilding an aging Air Force fleet. Is he right?
SCHWARTZ: Clearly, when the era of war supplementals end, we will be in a much more challenging financial situation. In that instance, discipline being able to array our needs from most to least important, being able to articulate crisply both to our leadership both here at the Pentagon and very importantly, Capitol Hill on what the needs are, I think are most important. We're probably going to have to suppress some appetites. But at the same time, I don't intend to be timid about why America has to invest in its Air Force.
We have to achieve balance for the current fight and future fights, so ideally they never come to pass. And this will require brutal honesty on everyone's part. What's needed, what comes first, what can I compromise on?
NPR: Do you see a need for more unmanned aircraft, like the Predator, as opposed to piloted aircraft like the F-22?
SCHWARTZ: I think it's inevitable. Now whether 50 percent of the force is unmanned of 60 or 40, I don't have a good sense of that just yet. I think we will grow, the percentage will increase over time. And the reason for that is very simply: Our technology allows us to do things that would have been unthinkable, shoot, even three years ago, certainly 10 years ago.
NPR: The planned number for production of the new stealth warplane, the F-22, is 183. Gen. Moseley says that the need is nearly double that number 381. What is your sense?
SCHWARTZ: There are studies that suggest, credible studies I need to become intimately more familiar with the arguments that suggest 240 is another sweet spot. As I suggested on the Hill, I think that 183 is not enough, 381 is excess.
NPR: What about those who suggest that there is little need for the F-22, that there is no threat out there that it is suited for? What Air Force is more powerful than the United States Air Force?
SCHWARTZ: If the Georgian Air Force had had a credible capability, the outcome might have been different. This is why we need a full spectrum force. And not just fighter business, this is certainly naval aviation. This is space. This is cyber. This is ground forces, compelling ground forces. This is something America must have. And it will be up to the leadership department, civilian and military, to make it clear what that mix is and what it will take to achieve that.
NPR: Your predecessor, Gen. Moseley, was particularly concerned about China and its buildup of missiles. Saying that should there ever be a war, such missiles would pose a problem for the Air Force. And really pointed out a need for such stealthy planes as the F-22.
SCHWARTZ: The truth of the matter is that it's relatively inexpensive to field very capable missile systems relatively to their aircraft counterparts. [China is] and others are. There are very capable missiles on the commercial market. And so it is important for us to have a capability that is survivable, that can penetrate and that can, if necessary, intimidate.
July 2nd, 2012  

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