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Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force

by Robert M. Farley

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Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy, and Peace
272 pages  Pubdate: 03/03/2015  6 x 9  30 b&w photos

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The United States needs airpower, but does it need an air force? In Grounded, Robert M. Farley persuasively argues that America should end the independence of the United States Air Force (USAF) and divide its assets and missions between the United States Army and the United States Navy.

In the wake of World War I, advocates of the Air Force argued that an organizationally independent air force would render other military branches obsolete. These boosters promised clean, easy wars: airpower would destroy cities beyond the reach of the armies and would sink navies before they could reach the coast. However, as Farley demonstrates, independent air forces failed to deliver on these promises in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, the Kosovo conflict, and the War on Terror. They have also had perverse effects on foreign and security policy, as politicians have been tempted by the vision of devastating airpower to initiate otherwise ill-considered conflicts. The existence of the USAF also produces turf wars with the Navy and the Army, leading to redundant expenditures, nonsensical restrictions on equipment use, and bad tactical decisions.

Farley does not challenge the idea that aircraft represent a critical component of America’s defenses; nor does he dispute that—especially now, with the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles—airpower is necessary to modern warfare. Rather, he demonstrates that the efficient and wise use of airpower does not require the USAF as presently constituted. An intriguing scholarly polemic, Grounded employs a wide variety of primary and secondary source materials to build its case that the United States should now correct its 1947 mistake of having created an independent air force.

Robert M. Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky.

A timely, provocative, and very important book which makes a compelling case for challenging some hardened assumptions about how air power is organized in the U.S. military. The book is rich with detail and perceptive analysis that guides the reader into a vital understanding of tough strategic choices confronting America’s global role in the twenty-first century. A must read for policymakers, Congress, academics, and the public alike. -- Sean Kay, Global Security in the Twenty-first Century: The Quest for Power and the Search for Peace

“A well-written, bold, and thought-provoking book that handily sums up the feelings of many. The author is to be congratulated for articulating some of the most important issues involving the future of airpower and armed forces in general.”—Martin van Creveld, author of The Age of Airpower

"Today, Americans live with the organizational structure for our military services--a separate Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps--that was established after World War II and has not been rethought since. Grounded makes an intelligent call for a new, serious debate regarding the organizational structure of our armed forces--not proposing the abolition of the functions of any of our services--which are supremely important, but how they are integrated coherently and effectively. Such a debate would be healthy given that the circumstances that led to the creation of the current structure are now more than a half century old."--Robert Pape, University of Chicago

Based on a wide variety of sources, "Grounded" is a carefully crafted case against independent USAF. -- Bowling Green Daily News