Last Thursday, USA Today published an article titled “A-10 Warplane Tops List for Friendly Fire Deaths.” It purported to use data provided by sources inside the Air Force to substantiate the article and its title. In fact, the article performed no significant, even rudimentary, analysis of the data the Air Force sources provided, let alone the history of the A-10, the operating characteristics inherent in its design and its long time record in four wars since Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The USA Today article had every appearance of being a megaphone for spoon-fed misrepresentations to fortify the Air Force’s case to retire the A-10 prematurely and use the funds “saved” to force feed still more money into the disastrous F-35 program.
The gambit from those Air Force sources backfired—big time.
In the next few days a series of pieces started to appear that devastated the conclusions propounded in the USA Today article—and that I can only conclude originated in the Air Force, not at USA Today. First out of the box was an extraordinary article by Tony Carr, a retired Air Force officer at the JQPublic-Blog.com. The article, “Lying to Win: Air Force Misrepresents Combat Records in Campaign to Retire A-10,” parses through the USA Today article’s misrepresentations one by one. This article is below; I urge you to read it. Imagine if the Air Force sources had origially tried to push their agenda with Carr: An act of extraordinary journalism would have resulted.
Next out of the box was an article by the Arizona Daily Independent titled “USAF Desperation behind A-10 Friendly Fire Death Message.” It too went behind the baloney to better understand the data the Air Force sources spread around, rather than create false headlines.
Third, on Monday, my former colleague and successor at the Straus Military Reform Project, Mandy Smithberger, released an analysis of the data the Air Force leaked to USA Today. Summarized in The Hill, the piece also discusses the data the Air Force failed to divulge, which—if released–would likely tell a tale the Air Force sources did not exactly have in mind. That analysis, “Air Force Headquarters Declassified and Released Incomplete Data to Further A-10 Smear Campaign,” is below, as well.
Mandy’s bottom line is to commission a GAO study on these data and for GAO to report back to Congress before it starts to consider this year’s defense bills. Clearly, the people in the Air Force pushing their “Kill the A-10” agenda will not want that to happen. It would mean more complete, not carefully selected, data is available on a question like friendly-fire and civilian casualties–let alone A-10 effectiveness against the enemy–in comparison to other aircraft the Air Force leadership prefers, the B-1B and the F-35.
It will make for some interesting journalism.
The Carr and Smithberger pieces follow:
February 7, 2015