Weapons of Beltway War: Bomber, Dagger, Cloak

and zipper. No Marine Corps general for Joint Chief this go-round. Seems he pissed the Air Force guys off…

Cartwright, Geeks’ Best Pal, Is Out of Race for Top General

As recently as last month, Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright was known in Washington as “Obama’s favorite general,” a leading candidate to become the country’s top military officer, and one of the biggest tech fiends ever to pin four stars to his shoulders. Now, Cartwright has been definitively ruled out as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon sources tell Danger Room — the apparent victim of a nasty Beltway whisper campaign.

It means that the military leadership will be losing one of its more original thinkers, just as the Pentagon reconsiders, well, everything: the Afghanistan war, a growing rivalry with China, a budget that could get cut by $400 billion or more.

“General Cartwright is unique. He has a quick, intuitive grasp of technologies and their military applications. And he has an equally impressive ability to clearly explain them to his counterparts in the services,” former Darpa director Tony Tether e-mails Danger Room. “All four-stars I have met have been exceptional people, for many different reasons. But only Cartwright has this particular combination.”

…But Cartwright’s ascent doesn’t seem to have been stopped by his occasional screwball, or even by his lack of war-zone experience. In Washington, rumors persisted that Cartwright had romantic relationships with women who were not his wife. Nobody could prove those allegations. In fact, a Pentagon inspector-general report cleared him of the charge that he had an affair with a female aide.

But that didn’t stop the innuendo from continuing to ooze. During my 24-hour trip to Washington last week, three separate people brought up Cartwright’s “zipper problem,” noted his separation from his wife, and connected him to all sorts of leading women in the military establishment. None of these people had first-, second- or even third-hand knowledge of these alleged dalliances.

So why the whisper campaign? At the risk of being a rumormonger myself, I’d note — as Spencer Ackerman did in this blog last February, the last time the Cartwright gossip crested — that Cartwright made many in the military establishment uncomfortable.

He lobbied to give the Vice Chairman’s office unparalleled power over decisions about which weapons the Pentagon should buy. He worked with Vice President Biden to come up with alternatives to the surge in Afghanistan, even when the buildup was accepted Pentagon wisdom.

He pushed to kill the F-22 Raptor and scrap new testing for the country’s nukes. In Air Force circles, he’s blamed for paring back plans for a new, strategic bomber fleet.

Cartwright ordered his staff not to lobby on his behalf for the Chairmanship. But one of his foes, it now appears, waged an entirely different sort of campaign.

54 Responses to “Weapons of Beltway War: Bomber, Dagger, Cloak”

  1. Dave E. says:

    Well, “Obama’s favorite general,” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement in my book.

  2. tree hugging sister says:

    So cynical and so young…

  3. JeffS says:

    I get that he’s a Marine and understands technology, which, trust me, is a RARE condition amongst flag officers. Not to mention original thinking.

    But is Cartwright a good general? Is he a Marine first, and politician second. Dave has it right. But I don’t know the man’s reputation at all.

  4. JeffS says:

    Addendum: I’m ignoring the details on the whisper campaign. Zoomies are notorious for their defense of all things that fly fast, regardless of whether they make a difference in military operations.

  5. tree hugging sister says:

    Me neither, honestly. Just really interesting the way things work, isn’t it? Certainly not “surprising”, just interesting. Very much like a previous whisper campaign that got a FANTASTIC general knocked out of the running for Commandant, our little Scotsman, General Bob Johnston. Holy CRAP, he was a bad ASS. Start a little swirl about his ticker and whaddayaknow? Scratch that name off the list.

  6. major dad says:

    Politics, just politics. Cartwright is a jet jock (F-18), has a good rep among Marines. My sense is the Air Force types don’t like him or want him especially since he helped kill the F-22 which also pissed off a lot of elected officials who had F-22 work in their states. If the prez had any balls and we know he doesn’t, he’d still pick him as JCS, screw everone else. He’s pretty good at screwing everyone else.

  7. Ebola says:

    If he understood tech, much less what China was working on, he’d never have pushed to kill the F-22. I’m with Jeff, “Obama’s favorite general” sounds like an autoloser to me.

  8. tree hugging sister says:

    AirForce pogue…

  9. Ebola says:

    Correction, w/ Dave. 😛

  10. Ebola says:

    That goes for anyone that fought for the F-22 getting boned. Anyone with two brain cells and no political motive could have seen that canning the project was a ridiculous mistake. 😛

  11. Ebola says:

    Oh, latest report of AF politics though. We just promoted 44 Generals. We were supposed to be dropping 22 due to budget constraints. But nothing stopped us from canning an as load of lower officers and enlisted! Wooo! Politics!

  12. tree hugging sister says:

    And I meant to say “puke” not “pogue”. Sorry, schweetie.

  13. Ebola says:

    Eh, I am a pogue now.

  14. tree hugging sister says:

    NONSENSE!!! You’LL ALWAYS be a puke to Daddy and ME!! And don’t you ever forget it, I don’t care WHAT the AirForce does to you!

  15. JeffS says:

    Ebola, ask around as to why ground pounders sometimes refer to Zoomies as FLAPs.

    (And you can exclude aircraft control surfaces from the answer.)

    Anywho, Obama can make good choices. Namely, someone else does the deciding, and he nods his head. That’s probably case here.

  16. JeffS says:

    PS: Hint, the “P” stands for “Puke”.


  17. JeffS says:


    Me: Zoomies are notorious for their defense of all things that fly fast, regardless of whether they make a difference in military operations.

    Ebola: Anyone with two brain cells and no political motive could have seen that canning the project was a ridiculous mistake.

    ‘Nuff said!!!!!

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  18. tree hugging sister says:

    OMG, Jeff. “Zoomies“?!?! Army pogues. You guys should just can that cute stuff and sell it ~ could pay for all sorts of neat shit then.

    In the Marine Corps, they are referred to as major dad did above, or with the more common “fuckin’ aviators” endearment. Either way, everyone knows who you’re talking about.

    “Zoomie”. Sheesh. Makes you giggle just saying it.

  19. major dad says:

    I would argue that the F-22 was being pushed at the expense of some ground attack capability and of course we bought too few. The real kicker may be the scale back of a new strategic bomber. Air Force doesn’t like a limited budget.

  20. Ebola says:

    Wow, there’s a great logical argument Jeff. “If you defend it, it’s wrong.”

    Considering Fifth Gen fighters, China’s development of the J-20 and the Russian T-50 (both of which have passed their flight quals and there is rumors the J-20 is already in production) the cessation of the F-22 was idiotic to say the least. There’s arguments that the F-35 is a better for it’s more variable roles. Problem is that it’s not operational and will not be for a damned good while at the rate the program is floundering. The Navy’s earliest date for the F-35C is 2014, with nothing particularly solid from any other service.

    So why is this a problem? Consider last week, that China has issued the statement that any further attacks in Pakistan will be considered an attack on China. China is no longer playing back field. And why should they?

    A)They have us over a monetary barrel and they have our politicians in their pockets.

    B) We are cutting back our military in every aspect but Generals.

    C) They are expanding their military capability at an almost geometric rate.

    D) They’re getting what little research we do get done somehow.

    On point D, please note how the T-50 looks almost exactly like YF-23 and the Chinese variant looks it as well.

    Pop: As for “at the expense of ground attack capability”…F-22 was designed specifically for us chair force types in a purely air superiority role. We have plenty of strike capability that would last till the advent of the F-35’s introduction. That includes stealth ground strike capability. Just so it’s noted, the F-22 was modified to have interchangeable sig. intel, EW and strike suites. So even if it’s job wasn’t simply to keep the air clear its quite capable of switching gears for platform variability.

    Side note: So, uh, Jeff, you saying you support Obama’s policies now? 😛

  21. JeffS says:

    Ebola, my point is that the Air Force has been strategically narrow minded for a long time. If it doesn’t drop bombs or move cargo, it’s not worth consideration (look up how the SR71 was suddenly pulled out of retirement when Desert Storm hit). Obama is not relevant (in more than one sense, that is).

    And even then, it doesn’t much matter if the aircraft is effective at what its supposed to do, so long as they can get it.

    Finally, the Air Force lives for interservice pissing matches. And no surprises there: it costs a lot of money to maintain an air fleet capable of global missions. Every F14 for the Navy is a loss for the Air Force. I won’t go into the Army-Air Force battle over the Mohawk, save to note that the Army lost a great battlefield intelligence asset because the Air Force was pissy about who has fixed wing aircraft.

    Nor will I discuss the A-10 (God bless ’em!), which remains in the inventory solely because Congress said so. The Air Force would have dumped it years ago, as it flies low and slow, in opposition to the AF mind set.

    And I really don’t have an opinion about the F22 and F35, except to note that being capable of doing many things satisfactory may not be suitable in situations where those capabilities need to be more….assured.

    Nope, my concern is that the Air Force is confusing territorial spats with duty and service to the nation. THat’s never a good idea.

  22. JeffS says:

    “Zoomie”. Sheesh. Makes you giggle just saying it.

    Why do you think we say it, Sis?


  23. Dave E. says:

    “…it costs a lot of money to maintain an air fleet capable of global missions.”

    I’m pretty sure a big chunk of that goes to all of those highly-paid meteorologists they have on the roster.

  24. major dad says:

    I wish it were so Dave, I wish it were so. F-35 is not an air superiority fighter, F-22 would clean it’s clock but then again it wasn’t designed for that. The AESA radar it has is impressive, that and it’s passive sensors will make it formidible but it neither has the range/maneuverability or the payload to be just a fighter. When I said the Air Force gave up some ground attack capability I was refering to CAS, an F-22 dropping SDB from 40 miles away is not CAS. I’m not too worried about the Chinese planes yet, it may look 5th generation but if it performs that way remains to be seen. Now back to the original theme, the AF hosed the Marine General, bet on it.

  25. JeffS says:

    …the AF hosed the Marine General, bet on it.

    No question about it.

  26. Ebola says:

    Pop, we just promoted 44 of the buggers. They have to go somewhere damn it.

  27. Ebola says:

    Simply put Jeff. The SR-71 had competition at a far lower cost with satellite systems and U-2s. The F-22 has no competition in the services because it is the first fifth gen fighter to serve any service. No one is arguing that the AF goes for the throat. We have to in order to maintain, just like you said. The Marine Corps would be the same if they ever got out from under the thumb of the Navy.

    Side note, considering putting in a packet to fly A-10s here in the next year I hope.

  28. Ebola says:

    Also, the SR-71s were “retired” flight capable. Not pulled apart. Hell, last I checked NASA still uses two of them.

  29. Ebola says:

    Yeah, they were “retired” flight ready in order to be reactivated at need within 60 days. Damn those forward thinkers in the storage sector!

  30. JeffS says:

    Ebola, the SR71 was pulled out of retirement because DoD needed a real time reconnaissance capability that neither U2s nor satellites could match.

    The Air Force put it away in the first place simply because it didn’t have any payload, and they wanted to save money. They figured that satellites were good enough for battlefield intelligence, and they were wrong. Satellites move in defined orbits, and are not maneuverable (Hollywood not withstanding). Their ephemeris defines when imagery can be taken. The SR71 is a lot more flexible.

    (UAVs are even more flexible when it comes to real time intelligence gathering, an excellent example of what I’m talking about.)

    As for the U2……it pre-dated the SR-71 by 10 years or more, and simply couldn’t match the SR71 in many ways. (And the U2 is still in service as well, but for different reasons.)

    This is an example of how the Air Force thinks. It’s not always a bad way of thinking, but when it becomes a habit, mistakes happen, especially when the consequences of the actions are not considered. An issue that is often ignored when budgets are on the chopping blocks, and doctrine is substituted for strategy and/or original thinking.

    And I should note that this way of thinking is prevalent amongst many agencies and services. I see it all the time. The problem is that a Marine General has been hosed because the Air Force is peeved at him.

    The oath is to defend the Constitution, not the service. Senior officers tend to forget that.

  31. JeffS says:

    BTW….good luck with the A-10s! You will never lack friends amongst the ranks of ground pounders. Just knowing those tank busters were near by were a great source of comfort back in Germany, with the Soviet army a few miles away.

  32. Ebola says:

    Yeah, I’m torn between going back to combat control/SOWT or being a pilot. Our pilot cutoff for prior-enlisted is 34.

    As for the SR-71, yer sorta making my point for me. Why, with ops not necessary for it, would they pay for it to remain operational? They essentially put it in cold storage/active NASA duty. Sooo…it was ready the entire time, but not being an active drain inside our budget. It’s not like it was in the boneyard. This is why I said this is a poor example of the “thinking” you are trying to say the AF exemplifies. Essentially you’re saying we’re forward thinkers that realize we might need something in the future, but don’t at the time need to pay for it…so put it in the storage cabinet and let our cohorts play with it on their dime. 😛

  33. Ebola says:

    “NASA crews flew four Lockheed SR-71 airplanes during the 1990s. Two were used for research and two to support Air Force reactivation of the SR-71 for reconnaissance missions.”

    Directly via the NASA site.

  34. JeffS says:

    Well, good luck, either way, Ebola. That’s one heckuva job, flying those beasts!

    Back to the thread….my point is not that the SR71 fleet was properly mothballed. I agree, it was. But the mothballing and continued use of the SR71 is not relevant.

    My point is that the SR71 was originally mothballed without considering a suitable replacement. Satellites were viewed as the suitable replacement, when in fact they were not.

    It was a convenient excuse for program managers (a species whom you will most certainly live to regret working with) to put the SR71 away, while ignoring the gaping hole left in the tactical intelligence capabilities of the time.

    In other words, the bean counters took away a perfectly usable tool that was needed without replacing it. This is not the hallmark of someone focused on the mission.

    As I recall, the mothball program for the SR71 was a compromise. I’m glad they did it, because the SR71 was badly needed to fill the gap. Now we have an extensive UAV fleet, and the SR71 is used for other, equally noble purposes. But that transition was not the result of the leadership trying to support the mission. It’s the result of a lot of people working around idiot bean counters to do the right thing.

    Alas, I see this all the time where I work. We have X dollars in the budget, so what’s the priority, fix equipment or hire people? The answer is all too often “Hire people”, even when the gear is falling apart around our ears. Working around the program managers and leadership shouldn’t be necessary, but when they’re more concerned about the overhead rate than actually getting the job done, that’s an option that becomes mighty tempting.

  35. major dad says:

    SR-71 was just badass, it just pissed the Soviets off because it could fly right over their territory and they couldn’t do squat. The geometry just wasn’t there to shoot something down going mach 3. It’s hallmark was how much territory it could canvass in a short period of time, UAVs can’t do that. It could also get to specific areas fast to, sats and UAVs can’t do that either.

  36. Skyler says:

    Darn, I miss all the good threads. Damn the times zones!

    1. We have no need for either the F-22 or the F-35. We have no air threat for the war we’re in. We should spend our money on the war we’re in. The F-15 is more than capable of establishing and retaining air superiority any where on the globe at any time. The only aircraft we need for the war we’re in is the AC-130. We need a lot more of those instead of F-35’s or F-22’s.

    2. The air force should be immediately disbanded and reincorporated back into the army where they belong. Air superiority is too critical to take away from ground commanders.

  37. Skyler says:

    Major Dad, it’s the UAV’s that you know about that can’t do that! 🙂

  38. major dad says:

    Come on Skylar you know better than that. If you’re not looking two moves ahead in chess you’ll get your ass kicked,same in warfare. We may not need F-22/35 now but we may later. To use a sports analogy, you may be able to run the ball all day against one opponent and win but if the next opponent can stop the run you better have a QB that can throw. And it’s too late to practice that once the game has started.

  39. Ebola says:

    Jeff, it wasn’t needed until we “entered another major conflict”. That was the whole point. In it’s time off satellite systems and U-2s more than filled the void. Look at the facts, even in an active war zone they only needed two. Not a fleet. Two.

    They had more actives to grab from NASA and even more under the 60 day flight ready status. But they didn’t do either.

    As for you Skylar, what the hell do you know about Army/AF ops? I’m gonna guess not much seeing as we have TACP attached to every Army command stomping dirt and more on the side. That means the commanders on the floor know their air assets on the AF side and can implement them while controlling the air space but being able to focus on the ground engagement. On the special operations side we have combat control working alone and with Army secret squirrel ops, so that takes care of that aspect too. Try again bucko. Don’t be jealous. 😛

    Pop already stomped ya on the airframe argument so I won’t even bother going into it, lol.

  40. Ebola says:

    Jeff, I do get what yer saying with using projects as poker chips to protect yer other shit though. ;P

  41. tree hugging sister says:

    When Ebola’s a rude little puke like this, it’s his father’s fault. I had nothing to do with it. The shame is, Skylar probably remembers back when the spawn was a sweet little eight year old and butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

  42. Ebola says:

    Lies. I was never any such thing, lol.

  43. Skyler says:

    Ahem. Skyler. Not Skylar.

    I never met Ebola or Major Dad, that I’m aware of. I think Major Dad was stationed somewhere else at the time I was in 242 with you, THS.

    As for the arguments young padawan Ebola, yes it’s true that we need to be prepared for the next war, but there are trade offs in every fiscal or engineering or military decision. The answer is to weigh values, as in I value winning the wars we’re in to a higher degree than I think we’re at risk of losing the next war. In fact, I wish we would take this war a bit more seriously than we seem to be.

    If we ever need these planes, they’re already designed and we can build them quickly. It only takes so long because of red tape and bureaucracy.

    As for the USAF’s sorry existence as a separate branch of the military, I have a very thorough understanding of air power, and the air force’s role in history and current events, and I have an even better understanding of military history and command and control. You can’t win a war with only air power. If there is an enemy air threat, the ground commander cannot typically win without air power. There should be one, repeat ONE integrated organization to control all the combat power in an area of operations. It works much better when the air and the ground components are doctrinally and culturally tied.

    The Marine Corps does that. I have two pilots in my infantry battalion (usually there are more) and they are men I have shared common training with since our commissioning. We have one culture, we have a shared value system and a common commander at low levels. Our Marine air-ground team is second to none in this galaxy.

    I’m not entirely sure how being a weather guesser makes someone better qualified to understand any of this so I don’t really understand the appeal to authority. I submit that the issue is one of values and not of absolute facts, so we can all have our own opinions and still be good friends. Until we run out of money because we’re spending $1B for every $1000 the enemy spends, that is, and then opinions won’t matter because we’ll have lost and we’ll be speaking Arabic.

  44. Ebola says:

    Yeah, sorry about the vowel mixup. For once I’m just gonna drop it. We’re not going to agree, lol. Have a good day.

  45. major dad says:

    Good call Jedi…Skyler how are thing over there anyway?

  46. tree hugging sister says:

    Oh, SPLAT. Well done. And the better part of valor, baby boy.

    Yes, you’ve “met” him, Skyler. (And I’m the one who fat fingered it.) But as a pukey single maintenance LT, small children running amok were beneath your notice twenty years ago.

  47. JeffS says:

    Skyler, spot on, with a quibble about this:

    If we ever need these planes, they’re already designed and we can build them quickly. It only takes so long because of red tape and bureaucracy.

    That’s true ONLY if the dies and jigs weren’t recycled. And even then, set up for production will require considerable lead time, especially if specialized materials aren’t available.

    But the designs could be updated fairly quick, methinks. Me hopes.

  48. JeffS says:

    Lies. I was never any such thing, lol.

    That, I believe! 🙂

  49. Skyler says:

    It’s an entirely different war than when I was in Iraq in 2005. Back then, we had pitched battles, my battalion would move its COC on a daily basis in some operations, and we were armed to the teeth. We had buckets filled with 5.56, and 7.62 ammo sitting by the door for anyone to top off their magazines. We gave out grenades freely. Even at the larger bases, like Al Asad, people were serious about the shooting going on.

    Here, I’m part of the base security. The CG of MarForRes has declared it too dangerous to put reservists in dangerous jobs. We are not given any bullets at all until we BZO our weapons, and then we have to sign for 30 rounds. The rest of our combat load is a different paper we have to sign and they count the number of ball and tracer rounds separately.

    We kow tow to a corrupt, ineffectual central government that refuses to let people buy property or erect buildings for schools or dig wells.

    There’s more, but that’s the general flavor. We’re just not serious about the war.

  50. Ebola says:

    Don’t ever believe my mother’s propaganda about me Jeff. I’ve always been a contrary little shit and I’ve damn well deserved the few ass whoopinz they gave as a child. 😛

  51. major dad says:

    Skyler, I am completely aghast, 30 rounds?! If that is in fact true we need to get out. Now.

  52. JeffS says:

    30 rounds? Don’t put reservists in dangerous jobs? Jeez, Skyler, that’s pathetic. Time to get out, indeed.

  53. Skyler says:

    Yeah, and I had to wait more than a week to get the first 30 rounds. It’s a weird war.

  54. Mr. Bingley says:

    Jesus christ, Skyler. That is insane.

Image | WordPress Themes