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A Service in Transition: Forging an Integrated Institutional Identity for the United States Air Force

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Technical Report

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Air War College School of Advanced Air and Space Studies Maxwell AFB United States

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The United States Air Force is in the midst of a significant institutional transition. As noted by Dr. Thomas P. Ehrhard, Air Force culture has always been centered on the man, the machine, and the choreography of flight the combat pilot, the aircraft, and the aviation system. In its current manifestation, the pilots of the Combat Air Force have assumed the iconic warrior role because they, unlike the rest of their service, are the only ones who deliver ordnance. As the standard-bearers of the warrior class around whom the service culture revolves, the bomber and fighter pilots of the Combat Air Force exert the most significant influence within the organization. Of the two, the fighter pilot now sits atop the Air Force caste system. This social stratification has resulted in the development of a permanent underclass and created rifts within the service that have eroded the warfighting potential of the entire organization. The Air Force has evolved into an institution in which ability means less than being in the proper career field for advancement and command opportunity. In the aftermath of the 2008 dismissal of the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff, the time is now ripe for the United States Air Force to forge a new institutional identity and warfighting ethos that reflects its entire force structure.This study asks how the Air Force should forge that new identity. It opens with an examination of the general issue of organizational culture and the current institutional identity of the Air Force. This sets the stage for a historical analysis of the evolution of the Air Forces identity from its establishment as a separate service in 1947 until the dismissal of Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General T. Michael Moseley in 2008.

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