April 1, 2009  

Nonlinear Air Force

Charles Ray’s article “Defining lines of authority” [February] was interesting, but the author makes one glaring error. He says “military organizations … tend toward linear thinking.” That may be a valid conclusion for his service (the author is a retired Army officer), but our country is blessed with an entire branch of the armed forces that has broken free from the stereotypically linear thinking of infantrymen. The Air Force prides itself in developing airmen who think in terms of effects, systems and adaptive planning/targeting (i.e., nonlinear approaches).

The author also implies that “nuanced thinking” is a skill endemic to State Department officials and not service members. Although the State Department is a talented organization, it certainly does not hold a monopoly on nuanced thinking.

With that said, let me compliment Ray on his “fresh look at the question of who has authority over U.S. government personnel and programs abroad.” Although he readily admits that he does not have answers to the questions he raises, Ray is the perfect person, given his 47 years of service in both the Defense Department and the State Department, to help us bridge the cultural gap between the two organizations and to help suggest ways to clarify formal lines of authority.

Lt. Col. Lawrence Spinetta, Air Force

Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.