The Icarus Syndrome: Air Power Theory and the Evolution of the Air Force
RAND PROJECT AIR FORCE SANTA MONICA CA
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Over the past decade, many in the Air Force have expressed concern about the health of their institution. They question whether the Air Force has lost its sense of direction, its confidence, its values, even its future. Among the troubling tendencies they find are weak ties between Air Force people and their institution, and a narrow focus on systems and commands rather than missions and strategies. For some, the growing expression of such concerns reflects nothing more than the maturation of the most youthful of Americas military institutions. For others, it suggests a crisis of spirit that threatens the hard-won independence of the Air Force. A recent RAND study, The Icarus Syndrome by Carl H. Builder, points to the abandonment of air power theory in the late 1950s to the early 1960s as the key to understanding the current institutional problems of the Air Force. This study argues that the Air Force, as an institution, rose and then fell on the wings of air power theory-rising when it adhered to the theory but falling when it later abandoned the theory in favor of a devotion to vehicles. The diagnosis is followed by a provocative prescription for the Air Force if it hopes to regain its institutional health.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics