Robert Farley: David Ignatius, Parochialism, and the USAF:
This is some pretty gruesome stuff: "Governors united across party lines to protest the potential loss of their pet C-130s and other planes. Members of Congress lined up behind the potent lobbying pressure of the Guard and the reserves. The result: The Air Force was ordered not to make the cuts it thought were best for the nation’s defense, and it instead had to retain scores of planes it wanted to retire…." Ignatius seems completely unaware of several problems: There is a long-running dispute between the Air Force, the Army, and Congress over the utility of the A-10, based in profoundly different understandings of the utility of close air support and battlefield interdiction. People have even written books about it. The Air Force has tried to kill the A-10 several times since the early 1970s, with Army protests and Congressional action preventing the mothballing of the Warthog. Of the transport aircraft that Ignatius identifies… the C-130 has been in continuous production since 1957, and is regarded as one of the most useful military transport aircraft in history…. Anyone familiar with the history of the USAF understands that it has long been accused of having an institutional predisposition against transport (which it regards as fundamentally a support function), and that the commentary of USAF officers and PR flacks regarding the utility of transport aircraft should be understood against this background. “Pet” uses of the C-130 Hercules include firefighting, hurricane relief, search and rescue, and humanitarian assistance…. The national interest isn’t “lost” in a debate over the relative utility of F-35s, C-27s, and C-130s, because the answers in that debate aren’t self-evident…. THIS IS THE DEBATE THAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. Ignatius just can’t manage to see it.