AF Gen. Gets Slap-Down from the Big Boss

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I LOVE it!

From today's LA Times:

In an intensifying dispute over weapons priorities, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Thursday privately rebuked a four-star general for suggesting the Air Force intended to buy twice as many sophisticated F-22 Raptor aircraft as the Bush administration had approved, according to Air Force officials.

One senior defense official called the remarks by Gen. Bruce Carlson, who heads the Air Force command responsible for testing and developing new weapons, "borderline insubordination," because they contradicted a decision by the president.

In its 2009 budget submitted to Congress earlier this month, the White House approved multiyear plans to buy 183 of the stealthy new fighters at an estimated $140 million apiece. Many Air Force officials, however, continue to insist they need 381 of the F-22s to deter global threats.

The rebuke by Gates on Thursday, in a telephone call to Carlson's superior, reflects a deepening debate within the Defense Department over the direction of the military in the post-Iraq era. In particular, the clash over the F-22 -- the Air Force's premier fighter plane -- has become a microcosm of the argument over what kind of wars the United States is likely to encounter in the future.

With defense spending expected to decline as U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq, some in the Pentagon have argued for shifting money to high-end weapons systems, like fighters and Navy ships, that can be used if needed against rivals with larger militaries, like China and Russia.

Gates prefers a focus on equipment and personnel needed to wage low-grade counterinsurgencies, like Iraq, arguing that such fights are more likely to occur in the near future.

"The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater," Gates told a Senate committee last week.

Carlson, however, told a group of reporters earlier in the week that the Air Force was "committed to funding 380" of the fighters, regardless of the Bush administration's decision.

According to an Air Force official briefed on the Thursday rebuke, Gates telephoned Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne, who was on vacation at the time, to express his displeasure with Carlson.

The senior defense official said Carlson's remarks, reported Thursday by the trade publication Aerospace Daily, angered the Pentagon's top leadership, adding that they were "completely unacceptable and out of line."

"Gen. Carlson and others in the Air Force may not like it, but 183 is the number of F-22s approved first by Defense Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld, then reaffirmed by Defense Secretary Gates and provided for in budgets presented to Congress by President Bush -- Gen. Carlson's commander in chief," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing internal debates.

Although the comments by Carlson reflect widespread thinking within the service, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff, has been careful in recent weeks to shy away from a direct confrontation with Gates, saying he would take the F-22 up again with the new administration.

"I'm being very, very, very careful not to get pitted against Dr. Gates, because I've said to him over and over, when we've had this conversation, 'Just don't shut the [assembly] lines down,' " Moseley said in an interview with The Times last week.

Oh I bet Moseley is being VERY careful...

(Gouge: NC)

-- Christian

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