New Chief Aims To Restore Air Force's Reputation
by Tom Bowman
(original article on npr)

The Air Force has a new top officer - Gen. Norton Schwartz - who says he plans to focus on getting more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq, and on improving the handling of nuclear weapons.

Schwartz, a 56-year-old officer from small town New Jersey, replaces Gen. Michael "Buzz" Moseley, who was fired by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June for Air Force mishaps involving the handling of nuclear weapons - and amid complaints that the Air Force wasn't doing enough to help ground forces in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Schwartz says he may set up a new nuclear command, like the defunct Strategic Air Command, or place a more senior officer in charge.


Click "original article" above to read the whole article or "Read the Rest" below to read the remainder of the article plus an interview with Gen Schwartz.

It's high time we do something about our nuclear arsenal. Design, management, deployment, policies, the whole enchilada. To whom much is given, much is required. I’m not going to get started here on this blog (not today – but catch me after the Consecration), but I will say that our nation holds such immense power in its hands, yet in taking that strength for granted we are watching it crumble. I hope our leadership will lead a drive to look, not only how the Air Force manages these weapons, but also how we (as a nation) employ them, and what we (as a nation) can do to preserve the knowledge that can only be gained by working with these materials. Knowledge that is dying off as we speak. It’s not that I want to nuke the world. But if the world is going to have nukes, I want to have the best. And be able to use them. Well, I said I wasn’t going to get started, and I feel the “old man” rising up. So let me “crucify him,” hit the sack, and we’ll take up this discussion after the Fast.

The Air Force has a new top officer - Gen. Norton Schwartz - who says he plans to focus on getting more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq, and on improving the handling of nuclear weapons.

Schwartz, a 56-year-old officer from small town New Jersey, replaces Gen. Michael "Buzz" Moseley, who was fired by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June for Air Force mishaps involving the handling of nuclear weapons - and amid complaints that the Air Force wasn't doing enough to help ground forces in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moseley publicly complained about sending his airmen to drive fuel trucks and guard prisoners in Iraq, saying, "I'm less supportive of things outside our competency."

Schwartz, meanwhile, says he appreciates the need to send Air Force officers and enlisted men to Iraq. "There's a need, the nation's at risk, and this is what we're called on to do," he says.

Schwartz also says he will redouble efforts to send more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq. That's another problem Gates had with Moseley - the general was not moving fast enough to get things like Predator drones, which can take pictures and drop bombs, to the fight.

Getting the Air Force to move quickly on this, Gates said during a speech last spring at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, was "like pulling teeth."

And finally, Schwartz says he will move to improve the Air Force's handling of its nuclear weapons. Gates was incensed when nuclear fuses were inadvertently sent to Taiwan. And a B-52 crew accidentally flew from North Dakota to Louisiana with a load of nuclear missiles.

Schwartz says he may set up a new nuclear command, like the defunct Strategic Air Command, or place a more senior officer in charge.

Schwartz's History

Schwartz, the son of a New Jersey typewriter salesman, was only accepted into the Air Force Academy after the prime candidate flunked his physical.

In April 1975, he took part in the American evacuation of Saigon as a second lieutenant. Schwartz was a green co-pilot with a seasoned crew.

"We flew several missions into Saigon, both into Bien Hoa and Tan Son Nhut," he remembers. "You know it was an exciting time for a young fella and a good way to get started."

But it was another evacuation - a botched one, five years later - that had a deeper impact on Schwartz and lingers to this day.

Schwartz remembers watching President Jimmy Carter tell the nation about the failed attempt to rescue the American hostages from Iran. American aircraft were refueling in the desert when they slammed into each other. Carter called off the mission. Five American rescuers were killed, three others seriously injured.

"It was a searing experience for America," Schwartz says.

Just a few months later, Schwartz was training for a possible second rescue attempt of the American hostages. He was among a select group of pilots flying a C-130 cargo plane fashioned with rockets for quick takeoffs.

But that second attempt was never ordered. The hostages were released just as a new president, Ronald Reagan, was being sworn in. No matter for Schwartz; just being part of it meant something, he says.

"I mean, this was all about bringing Americans home," he says.

What He Believes In

Schwartz chooses his words carefully, with the precise cadence of a pilot. He's tall, with sharp, angular features - he could easily pass for Mr. Spock in his later years.

He sits in a massive Pentagon office, with unopened boxes piled around. The walls are mostly bare.

Schwartz will hang a framed copy of a Time magazine essay - titled "The Essence of Courage"- on his office wall. It's a moving piece by the late Hugh Sidey about that failed Iran hostage rescue and the mettle of the men who took part.

"I recommend you Google it," Schwartz says quietly. "Because it will tell you a lot about what I believe in."

What he believes in is the ethos of the special operator, the term for the military's elite commandos on the ground and in the air. It's stayed with him as he moved on to staff jobs, then took over the U.S. Transportation Command - a somewhat mundane job of making sure troops and equipment make it overseas.

"His motto was, 'A promise made is a promise kept,'" recalls retired Maj. Gen. Jim Hawkins, a longtime friend. "It tells what his inner being is like. The special operators really rely on one another and entrust their lives to one another."

Former bosses recall a quiet and driven officer. Retired Maj. Gen. Jim Hobson remembers Schwartz sticking his head inside his office soon after arriving in Florida to fly the Talon, a plane that brings commandos into the fight.

Schwartz wanted to teach pneumatics, hydraulics and electrics to the lieutenants in the squadron in his spare time.

Hobson knew the Talon course was among the most demanding - learning to fly in low, quick landings and takeoffs in the darkness or under fire.

"So I said, 'Schwartz, your No. 1 job is to finish first in the class. And if you got time, you know in the evenings or whatever, to teach, pneumatics, hydraulics and electrics to lieutenants, then be my guest.' Well, he taught pneumatics, hydraulics and electrics to all the lieutenants and the captains who needed it, plus finished first in his class," Hobson said.

Hobson came to see Schwartz as his "racehorse." A go-to guy who was soon plucked by a more senior officer for his staff.

He rose up the ranks, as a planner and special operations commander. Schwartz was always looking to where the Air Force could help in the fight.

After 18 American soldiers died in a gunfight in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 - an event made famous in the book and movie Black Hawk Down - Schwartz argued that Air Force precision bombs and the powerful AC-130 gunship could have been used to save more Americans.

"Don't go downtown without us," Schwartz wrote.

The Invasion Of Iraq

As the U.S. prepared to invade Iraq, Schwartz was at the Pentagon, as director of operations. Under the critical eye of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he was deciding when troops and equipment would move in.

"Gen. Schwartz was always, if you will, under the gun. Sometimes we would hit a home run. Sometimes we would have to go back for more homework," recalls Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, who was then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"But it never changed his demeanor. ... He's very level when it comes to his demeanor and the way he approaches problems," Myers says.

For Schwartz, it's about getting the Air Force into the fight. Still fresh in his mind are the memories of Vietnam and what might have been accomplished in Mogadishu and in the Iranian desert.

But Myers says Schwartz's greatest challenge will not be in fixing the Air Force's nuclear team or in getting more Predators to Iraq, but with finding money.

"What he faces is a lot of old hardware," said Myers, "All types of airplanes, and trying to get the budget to put the capital fleet, if you will, back on its feet."

Schwartz acknowledges that the Air Force will have to suppress its appetite for some of that hardware.

"But at the same time, I don't intend to be timid about explaining why it is America needs to invest in its Air Force," he says.

That explaining will begin this winter when a new Pentagon budget arrives on Capitol Hill.





New Chief Shares Vision For Air Force

NPR.org , August 26, 2008 * NPR's Tom Bowman interviewed the U.S. Air Force's new top officer , Gen. Norton Schwartz. Schwartz talked about his plans for the service - from handling its nuclear arsenal to rebuilding its aging fleet. The following is an edited version of the interview.

NPR: Your predecessor, Gen. Mike Moseley complained about sending thousands of airmen to Iraq to drive fuel trucks or guard prisoners. He said that was not a job for Air Force personnel. What's your sense?

SCHWARTZ: The bottom line for me is the nation is at war, and we will do whatever we can to make sure that America succeeds. And that includes using people in nontraditional roles. And I will tell you, I celebrate what our youngsters are doing in areas that are not traditional. But there's a need - the nation's at risk - and this is what we're called to do.

NPR: Moseley was also criticized for not doing enough to send more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Iraq. Defense Secretary Gates said it was like "pulling teeth" to get the Air Force to move on this. Now, can you improve on this mission?

SCHWARTZ: We are. ... Let me give you a couple of metrics just so you have a sense. We just passed the 400,000-hour milestone on unmanned vehicles just the other day. It took us 12 years to get to the 180,000 hours, and it took us an additional eight months to do the remaining 220,000 hours. That gives you a sense of what's going on out there.

My sense is that the Air Force in this area is on a war footing. Over the next five years, over a third of the flying assets we will procure for the Air Force will be unmanned vehicles.

NPR: The Air Force now has 26 continuous combat air patrols with the Predator, meaning that they can fly 24/7 in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The plan is to increase that to 50 by 2012. Can you accelerate that? Or even increase the number?

SCHWARTZ: We will accelerate, for sure. If we need to go above 50 [continual combat missions], we can do that. It will require more resources.

(Schwartz says part of the problem is limits on the industrial base to build more unmanned drones and also creating experienced pilots to fly them. There is a plan to increase the number of pilots by opening a second school at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, with the first graduates expected by next May. Over the next five years, the number of drone pilots, now at 300, will grow to more than 1,100.)

NPR: Now those drone pilots, who sit inside a building at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, have to be actual pilots who are rated to fly aircraft. Will that continue?

SCHWARTZ: I think that is an open question, and there are a number of things that affect this.

(There are some requirements both here and overseas for pilots to be instrument rated, Schwartz says. And also, you want "the right level of maturity" for drones that can drop bombs, "because that's a significant obligation without a doubt.")

Gen. Moseley thought this was a pilot's domain. I'm undecided on that at the moment.

NPR: The Air Force has had some troubles with the handling of its nuclear arsenal. Nuclear fuses were inadvertently sent to Taiwan, after that country requested helicopter batteries. And a B-52 crew mistakenly flew cross-country last year with six nuclear missiles. What can you do to make sure the Air Force sees this as important?

SCHWARTZ: It is important, and there's no escaping the fact that we collectively in our Air Force have lost focus on that mission. And there are a multitude of reasons for that, some organizational. .... We're going to remedy that. There's a whole range of things we will do. We certainly look at organizational alignments. Clearly there will be a champion and there will be an an organization focused on making sure we serve the nuclear missions with the attention it requires.

NPR: Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the former chairman of the joint chiefs, says your greatest challenge will not be in the nuclear area, but it will be with budgets. Meaning, the challenge of rebuilding an aging Air Force fleet. Is he right?

SCHWARTZ: Clearly, when the era of war supplementals end, we will be in a much more challenging financial situation. In that instance, discipline - being able to array our needs from most to least important, being able to articulate crisply both to our leadership - both here at the Pentagon and very importantly, Capitol Hill - on what the needs are, I think are most important. We're probably going to have to suppress some appetites. But at the same time, I don't intend to be timid about why America has to invest in its Air Force.

We have to achieve balance for the current fight and future fights, so ideally they never come to pass. And this will require brutal honesty on everyone's part. What's needed, what comes first, what can I compromise on?

NPR: Do you see a need for more unmanned aircraft, like the Predator, as opposed to piloted aircraft like the F-22?

SCHWARTZ: I think it's inevitable. Now whether 50 percent of the force is unmanned of 60 or 40, I don't have a good sense of that just yet. I think we will grow, the percentage will increase over time. And the reason for that is very simply: Our technology allows us to do things that would have been unthinkable, shoot, even three years ago, certainly 10 years ago.

NPR: The planned number for production of the new stealth warplane, the F-22, is 183. Gen. Moseley says that the need is nearly double that number - 381. What is your sense?

SCHWARTZ: There are studies that suggest, credible studies - I need to become intimately more familiar with the arguments - that suggest 240 is another sweet spot. As I suggested on the Hill, I think that 183 is not enough, 381 is excess.

NPR: What about those who suggest that there is little need for the F-22, that there is no threat out there that it is suited for? What Air Force is more powerful than the United States Air Force?

SCHWARTZ: If the Georgian Air Force had had a credible capability, the outcome might have been different. This is why we need a full spectrum force. And not just fighter business, this is certainly naval aviation. This is space. This is cyber. This is ground forces, compelling ground forces. This is something America must have. And it will be up to the leadership department, civilian and military, to make it clear what that mix is and what it will take to achieve that.

NPR: Your predecessor, Gen. Moseley, was particularly concerned about China and its buildup of missiles. Saying that should there ever be a war, such missiles would pose a problem for the Air Force. And really pointed out a need for such stealthy planes as the F-22.

SCHWARTZ: The truth of the matter is that it's relatively inexpensive to field very capable missile systems relatively to their aircraft counterparts. [China is] and others are. There are very capable missiles on the commercial market. And so it is important for us to have a capability that is survivable, that can penetrate and that can, if necessary, intimidate.