You have questions, JQP has answers. Thanks for so many superb inquiries. We hope these responses scratch the itch.
From what I see, your first blog appeared on March 4, 2013. Is that the first one you published online? If not, where were you publishing prior to that date?
March 2013 was the first time I published online. Before that I was busy with the Air Force experience that gave rise to that blog and others.
What made you start blogging about the Air Force?
I decided to write about the Air Force because I felt like the internal conversation … the debate necessary for the service to stay on-track … had been smothered over the previous decade, and that we were headed in the wrong direction as a result. We weren’t focused on our mission anymore and we weren’t taking care of our people. I thought the service needed an external voice to poke at the embers and get the fire of internal debate going again.
Is this all about you being bitter because you didn’t get promoted to O-6?
No. I retired before I ever competed for O-6. And the blog is not driven by bitterness. It’s driven by the passion of expecting more. Having said that, I would have made O-6 unless I melted down a busload of nuns, and most likely BPZ.
You wrote a piece where you fancied yourself a would-be general. What makes you think you would have risen to that level?
Logic. Statistics. Reality. No one can accurately predict elevation to the GO level since it is inherently political. After all, we promote toxic losers at the expense of good leaders every cycle. But I had the right pedigree and sponsorship, and expect I’d have been in the conversation. Even so, that device was designed to get people to read the piece, and it worked. In the years since, each of the three main arguments in that article have been addressed by Big Blue. I’ll count that as a win.
I have watched your blog over the years and I’ve seen you address some very unflattering subjects for the Air Force. Why? What was the impetus for your critical view of Air Force policies and procedures?
I think the service needs to re-embrace the value of honesty. We need to stop hiding or watering down uncomfortable truths and deal with the reality of things. This means the willingness to be critical of that which deserves critique, which is a core leadership principle and sets military organizations apart from bureaucracies. We earned the trust of the public by holding ourselves to account for decades, and we will lose that trust – and the ability to win wars – unless we rediscover the willingness to confront our mistakes.
I’ll say here that I would be less critical if the Air Force were more self-critical. As it stands, the service sees honesty as discrediting, and refuses to publicly acknowledge how its policies and senior leaders go wrong. That has to change.
Why do you hate bands?
Because they are a waste of money. I don’t hate the individuals, but I want to reclassify them into useful specialties.
Why do you hate Tops in Blue?
I don’t. You can’t hate something that no longer exists.
How do you feel about the term “nonner”?
I love it. It’s a banner of pride for those who directly produce sorties. The only way to be offended by it is to adopt its assumed definition, so the victims of this term are yearning for victimization.
You’ve taken a strong stand against the PT test. Is this because you failed a test?
No. Never did. Although I am much healthier in retirement since I have the time to exercise properly. I’ve taken a stand against it because it is a dumb bureaucratic tool being misapplied to an operational domain. The predictable result is that we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, and screwing some damn fine airmen in the process.
Why do you hate Public Affairs so much?!?!
I don’t hate Public Affairs. I think the career field has been co-opted by propagandists over the last dozen years. The wrong behaviors have become ingrained to a point that the entire career field has lost perspective. It’s become a propaganda machine for generals and politicians. Meanwhile, telling the Air Force story comes in a distant second. I think PA, in current form, is little more than an engine of dishonesty. If that doesn’t change, the career field stands to do more harm than good, which is why many airmen would just as soon see it liquidated if it doesn’t adapt.
Here’s a great set of counter-questions: why do generals need professional spokespersons? Are they not military leaders? Have we not invested massively in their ability to speak to the public? Can you imagine how different answers to media inquiries would be if generals had to put their own identity and credibility on the line?
What is your ultimate goal with your blog?
My ultimate goal with the blog is a continuing, honest conversation about how we shepherd the gift of an independent air service and how we take care of the people who raise their hands to serve in it.
Why did you sell out?
Button push ignored.
Seriously, I know it sticks in the craw of some people that the blog transitioned (after two years of being funded by me personally) to a commercial posture. But there came a point where reaching a larger audience required resources I didn’t have. Competing with fake media meant developing a major league platform. So I joined a company peopled by other veterans animated by the common objective of bringing truth into the view of power. Folks will critique this choice, and I am OK with that. To those who think it was about getting rich, I offer only a hearty chuckle. I refer them to Gen. Welsh’s first pay stub from Northrop-Grumman for an account of what selling out really looks like.
Your blog is discussed in many Air Force circles and senior leadership is aware of you and your stance on many issues. Do you think that influences their response or how they direct others to respond?
I think the existence of the blog does increasingly adds a contemplative step to the response checklist for senior leaders. This is exactly how public accountability is supposed to work, and it is a reason for (very modest) optimism. I don’t worry about this warping how senior officials make decisions. I think they’ve operated without public pressure for a long time, and it is sorely needed.
What do you count as the blog’s greatest victory?
We’ll count victories when the fight is over.
What do you consider the blog’s greatest failure?
Failing to exist when Gen. Norton Schwartz was CSAF. A close second: failing to see Gen. Mark Welsh and Sec. Debbie James for what they were early in their tenures. These three did as much to destroy the USAF as Hap Arnold, Tooey Spaatz, and Stuart Symington did to create it.
Why do you hate General Welsh so much?
Hate is personal. No hate here. Resentment, yes. Because his entire persona is a lie. He never gave a toss about the Air Force, and certainly didn’t care about street level airmen. He talked a mean game but his decisions were all about falsely looking concerned while maintaining his political and commercial viability. This is worse than just admitting you don’t give a shit about people.
True to form, he immediately abandoned public service after retiring, taking a board membership with the same company that lobbied him for the B-21 contract. This guy was good at keeping his close circle loyal, but he was useless as a leader and caustic as a bureaucrat. It’s high time we got past the public shtick of these people and assessed them according to decision and actions.
What makes you qualified to say the things you say?
There’s no qualification necessary to render an opinion. The idea that age, rank, or wisdom are preconditions for a valuable offering on an important subject is an idea that needs to die in a fire. The key to life is being old enough to know but young enough to care. Our generals could use more of the latter and less of the former.
Ultimately, the audience will decide if I am qualified to opine. I think the readership numbers reflect that they have made their decision. They understanding something important: good leaders are right a lot. Enough to be confident in their offerings.
Do you think you’re smarter than generals and colonels with years more experience than you?
The premise of the question is invalid. Who is “smarter” is both irrelevant and unknowable. I don’t believe rank or experience deify anyone. We’re all part of a conversation about how to do this airpower thing best for the nation. I don’t care if the right idea comes from a talking carrot. If it moves the ball, I’ll take it.
There are rumors about you being in the conversation for SecAF. Would you take the job if offered?
The rumors are garbage because there is no conversation at this point. I doubt I will be in that conversation when it does begin. That said, I would be hard-pressed to refuse an opportunity to lead the Air Force. For myriad reasons, to include the fact I’m not eligible until 2018, I’m not expecting any such offer. I expect the next SecAF will be a DC insider and a bureaucrat. But so long as s/he’s at least a garden slug, we’ll get an upgrade over the current secretary.