Editor’s note: This article is Part II in a series. Click here to read Part I.
The U.S. Department of Defense must restructure to accommodate deep budget cuts and, more importantly, be ready for the challenges of 21st-century warfare. Those challenges will include unconventional operations and wars fought in vastly expanded battle spaces. Reforms are needed in three areas.
First, today’s DoD—structured around land, air, and sea forces to accommodate Industrial Age conflict—is inadequate for Information Age warfare. The U.S. Air Force received separate service status in 1947 by a mating of the atomic bomb to the long-range delivery system of the day, the B-29 bomber. For five decades, air-power enthusiasts argued that air power formed the tip of the spear while land and sea forces constituted the supporting shaft. That is no longer the case.
Human-piloted combat aircraft undergird the Air Force’s reason for being. It is likely that the 20 B-2 bombers currently in the inventory, at $2 billion dollars a copy, will be the last of the manned bombers. Additionally, the F-35 is likely to be the last manned fighter developed by the United States. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be the fighting platforms of the future. They can do more for less cost because UAVs are not designed for pilot survivability. Additionally, in the current war, the Air Force has been the supporting—rather than the supported—service. It’s time to reintegrate the Air Force into the U.S. Army. This eliminates an entire service with accompanying bureaucracies while minimally expanding an Army likely to experience reductions throughout its other branches.
The U.S. Navy should assume primary responsibility for space and cyber warfare. Movement in space is more analogous to that at sea than it is to operations on land or air. The global reach of the Navy also makes it appropriate to place cyber operations under its purview.
Earl Tilford is a retired Air Force officer and college professor who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of several books on the air war in Vietnam. His latest book, Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s has been accepted for publication by the University of Alabama Press.