Okay, two topics of interest today:
First, a general observation about weather forecasting. A line of severe thunderstorms blew through Kansas last night, as they are wont to do this time of year, and the weather community spent the previous two days bloviating about how conditions were “almost identical” to a past weather pattern that spawned numerous destructive tornadoes. Apparently (and thankfully) conditions weren’t identical enough, because pretty much nothing happened aside from some high winds and hail in a few localities. There was a small funnel cloud or two, but damage was minor, especially in light of the dire prediction.
This, to my mind, reinforces the fact that weather is a chaotic phenomenon, and claiming the ability to predict it consistently, accurately, and precisely is at best futile and at worst fraudulent. I’m getting a little tired of wolf-crying alarms that send my family scurrying to the basement for no reason, while the genuine big-bad-weather drops in with little or no warning. Just like the fairy tale, we lose our faith in the credibility of the forecast, and condition ourselves to ignore those responsible for keeping us out of harm’s way.
Bottom line, weather that breaks things and hurts people doesn’t call ahead to let you know it’s coming. Stick your head out the door and don’t rely on the forecast.
Off With Their Heads
Second, a word about yesterday’s sacking of the USAF Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force, ostensibly for a couple of incidents involving shoddy management and accountability of nuclear weapons and related technology. Yes, mistakes were made and stupid people did stupid things, but I don’t necessarily agree that amputating the top leadership really solves anything.
The problems, I believe, spring more from a reorganization of the Air Force that destroyed the very functional structure we used to have for controlling this stuff. If you dismantle the organization that existed solely to responsibly handle and employ (if necessary), nuclear weapons (Strategic Air Command) and give that responsibility to an organization that knows next to nothing about it (Air Combat Command, formerly Tactical Air Command), these sorts of things will happen.
At a lower level, every aircrew is responsible to know what exactly is hanging from its aircraft, and must conduct a preflight inspection that includes checking the aforesaid hanging objects. Likewise, the aircraft’s ground support team is responsible for preparing the aircraft, including its hanging accoutrements, for flight. Likewise, the people who maintain and store munitions are responsible for inventorying those munitions and knowing exactly what flavor of munitions they are delivering to hang onto any particular aircraft. Everybody in that chain of responsibility can and should be (figuratively) decapitated for fouling up to such an extent that real live nukes are flown over US soil without anybody knowing about it in advance. Yes, senior leadership carries its own responsibilities, but removing a strategic-level leader for a tactical-level screw-up only serves to make the new strategic-level leader a paranoid micromanager–a four-star “lieutenant colonel” running around straightening everybody’s tie.
It’s also quite possible these people were sacked simply because they’ve had some fundamental disagreements with the Secretary of Defense over the purpose and direction of the Air Force and how its budget should be applied toward achieving that purpose and direction. The Sec Def can certainly fire people for not playing to his sheet of music, but let’s be honest about it rather than using an unrelated “hot-button” issue as cover for what smells like a relatively straightforward bureaucratic decision.
Arrgh. I hate talking about politics, but having recently retired from the Air Force, I guess I had to say something. My retired-Army colleagues certainly aren’t shy about rolling in with their opinions.