Gates Reshaping the Air Force

New Air Force Leaders Donley and Schwartz Photo Defense secretary Bob Gates continues what he started in firing the Air Force secretary and chief of staff by replacing them with people who are from a decidedly different mold: Michael Donley, currently the Pentagon’s director of administration and management, and General Norton Schwartz, the head of Transportation Command who came up through the special operations chain. As Phil Carter notes, Gates seems to be explicitly working to break the Air Force’s “fighter-bomber jock culture.”

It’s high time.

Unfortunately, time’s running out on Gates, unless he’s kept on by the next administration. In any case, changing the core service culture of the Air Force will take years of sustained effort.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    unless he’s kept on by the next administration.

    What sort of relationship do Gates and McCain have? If they’re on good terms, it would be a good idea and might happen.

    If the next administration is the Obama Administration it would be a brilliant move but unlikely to happen. One can always dream.

  2. DC Loser says:

    I think Gates has earned respect from both sides of the aisle. Just as Clinton appointed a Republican (Cohen) to head the DoD, I think it would be smart to keep Gates on to undo the harm that had taken place under Rumsfeld.

  3. Derrick says:

    I’m not a big fan of Bush’s appointments but I do have a sizeable respect for Gates. He’s actually attempting to do what Rumsfield gave lip service to. I was ignorant of how deep the problems were in the military leadership, so its good to see someone willing to take on such a powerful bureaucracy. Obama is probably going to want his own people, but Gates wouldn’t be a bad person to at least give another year or two to see what he could do without a lame-duck presidency.

  4. Timmer says:

    If Senator Obama wins, I have a funny feeling that Retired General McPeak could get the Secretary position. He’s been advising Senator Obama. That would take us back to the 90s and the Fighter-Jock culture would become even more imbedded.

  5. Bob says:

    Gates has been clear since he started that his is gone in January. The Secretary will get replaced in 2009 too. His choice for AF Chief of Staff is good for 4 years. One hopes McPeak wouldn’t get SECDEF.

  6. anjin-san says:

    As a Democrat, I would have no problem with keeping Gates on in an Obama administration, he has done a fine job after inheriting a real mess…

  7. Bob Bob says:

    I believe this is a much larger problem in the Air Force then we realize. To say Secretary Wynne and Gen Moseley are at fault is not completely true and to say it is just in the involvement of nuclear weapons is not completely true; what is true is that they did the honorable thing. I understand leadership is from the top and yes they are responsible, but this is a larger problem as a whole which is why I say it is not completely true. Here is what I mean; a former Squadron I was in a few individuals have tried to physically hurt other people, lied, forged documents and committed fraternization. When I tried to stop this and could not, I brought this to the attention of my Squadron Commander who told me to turn my head. I in turn told him I would not and he has held this against me and taken every action he can against me.
    What am I trying to say? The Air Force teaches us we must all get along in a professional environment, which I completely agree with but it is often interpreted we are to turn our heads on everything and if we do not we are hurting the team or individuals which is what led to the problems that the investigative report by Adm Donald revealed. People in the Air Force know they will be attacked for being a whistle blower and instead choose to turn their heads. SECDEF Gates said it best” Embrace accountability in all that you do – for everything in your area of responsibility. When you see failures or growing problems in other areas – outside your lane, as it is often described – throw a flag: bring them to the attention to people who can do something about it” I hope the SECDEF is right as I believe this is the root cause of the Air Force problem.