GEOPOLITICAL WEEKLY: THE U.S. AIR FORCE AND THE NEXT WAR
By George Friedman
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has fired the secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force chief of staff. The official reason given for the firings was the mishandling of nuclear weapons and equipment related to nuclear weapons, which included allowing an aircraft to fly within the United States with six armed nuclear weapons on board and accidentally shipping nuclear triggers to Taiwan. An investigation conducted by a Navy admiral concluded that Air Force expertise in handling nuclear weapons had declined.
Focusing on Present Conflicts
While Gates insisted that this was the immediate reason for the firings, he has sharply criticized the Air Force for failing to reorient itself to the types of conflict in which the United States is currently engaged. Where the Air Force leadership wanted to focus on deploying a new generation of fighter aircraft, Gates wanted them deploying additional unmanned aircraft able to provide reconnaissance and carry out airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.