April 26, 2008

Gates Applauds Dissent, Wants More Predators

Here's another recent story that might flesh out more on the loose nukes theme. It certainly is rare to hear the Secy of Defense criticizing his own forces AND praising dissent, but these are rare and strange times:
Gates: Air Force Lagging In War Effort Pentagon Chief Says Getting Air Force To Send Aircraft To War Zones "Like Pulling Teeth" WASHINGTON, April 21, 2008
(CBS/AP) Defense Secretary Robert Gates [...] said in a speech at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., that getting the Air Force to send more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq and Afghanistan has been "like pulling teeth."
[...] He cited the example of drone aircraft that can watch, hunt and sometimes kill insurgents without risking the life of a pilot. He said the number of such aircraft has grown 25-fold since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said he has been trying for months to get the Air Force to send more surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, like the Predator drone that provides real-time surveillance video, to the battlefield.
[...] Gates said he established last week a
Pentagon-wide task force "to work this problem in the weeks to come, to find more innovative and bold ways to help those whose lives are on the line."
[...] "All this may require rethinking long-standing service assumptions and priorities about which missions require certified pilots and which do not," Gates said, referring to so-called unmanned aerial vehicles that are controlled by servicemembers at ground stations.
The military's reliance on unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft has soared to more than 500,000 hours in the air, [my bold] largely in Iraq, according to Pentagon data. The Air Force has taken pilots out of the air and shifted them to remote flying duty
[my bold] to meet part of the demand.
"The secretary of defense is essentially saying, 'tough - we need these Predators over Iraq more than you need to keep training new pilots'," reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.
Gates, who served in the Air Force in the 1960s as a young officer before he joined the Central Intelligence Agency, urged the officers in his audience to dedicate themselves to thinking creatively.
[...] "Dissent is a sign of health in an organization, and particularly if it's done in the right way," Gates said. [Who's way? MY way! And my bold]
Gates made no direct mention of a series of mistakes and missteps involving the Air Force in recent months, beginning with an episode last August when a B-52 bomber flew from an Air Force base in North Dakota to another in Louisiana with the crew unaware that it was carrying nuclear weapons.
Last month Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne announced that four Air Force nose cone assemblies designed for use with nuclear missiles [previously described as ballistic missile fuses] were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in 2006. The error was not verified until shortly before Wynne made the announcement, and the matter is under Pentagon investigation.
C'mon, gang, let's think creatively! Let's listen to Chairman Gates and put the pieces together re loose nukes, ballistic missile fuses, Syria, North Korea, etc. The first to solve the puzzle gets a full year's subscription to DANCE AWAY BLUES!

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