Highway to the danger zone? Non-pilot given command of Air Force in Pacific

The White House has picked the first female general to head the Air Force in the Pacific, which will make her the first non-pilot to command air power in such a large theater of operation.

The Pentagon announced this week that Air Force Lt. Gen. Lori J. Robinson has been nominated for promotion to four-star general and as commander of Pacific Air Forces, the Air Force component of U.S. Pacific Command. It is a major combatant command whose air, ground and naval forces have broad responsibility for security in the Asia-Pacific region. Her nomination was sent to the Senate for confirmation.

Gen. Robinson is not a career pilot. Her military profession is air battle manager. She has served aboard the Air Force’s surveillance aircraft, the E-3 AWACs and E-8 JSTARS, and she was nominated for a promotion amid a drive for more diversity in the Pentagon.

A retired pilot said there is a reason the Air Force historically has put a pilot in charge of large combatant command Air Forces.

It is because you make operational decisions that require the understanding of what you are going to ask pilots to execute in combat where the wrong decisions mean the difference between life and death,” the retired pilot said. “Now her vice commander and director of operations will be rated fighter pilots, but still she makes the decisions.” Continue reading

Pentagon Urged to Focus on ‘Great Power Conflict’ to Save Budget

Forget terrorism. The Pentagon’s best chance to field the best military with the smaller budget imposed by sequestration may just lie in preparing for nuclear war with Russia and China.

According to a new study, United States defense leaders should focus more on a “great power conflict” reflective of a newly aggressive Russia and rapidly modernizing China. Doing so would force the Defense Department to modernize its existing force and invest significantly in maintaining technological advantages at the expense of unlikely-to-be used ships, aircraft and soldiers. Among the arsenal the U.S. should keep: the full triad of bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles meant to deter or carry out nuclear warfare.

While the space between Syria and Iraq commands headlines this month, it’s Moscow and Beijing that leads researchers to offer an unexpectedly “go big or go home” proposition for the U.S. military. The route offered on Wednesday by budget experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, calls for moving $10 billion from the procurement budget and “force structure,” (military jargon for the number of people in the military and all that is required to support them, roughly) and giving those funds to investments. The CSIS plan would increase the number of attack submarines at sea, significantly ramp-up surveillance in both air and space, and emphasize select ground troops like special operations forces and heavy infantry. The costs would be absorbed by a reduction in aircraft carriers, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and the Air Force’s shorter-range aircraft. Continue reading