I’m With the Air Force, Trust Me

The Air Force can win back the trust of Congress by repairing its personal relationships with members on Capitol Hill, presenting realistic plans, acknowledging differing views, and having all its facts together. So said senior Air Force statesmen this week at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. Appearing on a panel to discuss integrity, retired Gen. Bruce Carlson, former National Reconnaissance Office chief, said he’d had luck turning around that organization’s reputation on the Hill by offering lawmakers “a single . . . guy to go to,” who would have all the facts on the agency at his fingertips. He also insisted that NRO offer realistic plans. Previously, NRO had sent up plans “we couldn’t execute,” and earned a reputation for being devious. Retired Gen. Gregory Martin echoed Carlson’s comments, saying it’s “critical we represent ourselves properly” and be mindful of how the Air Force is perceived. Service officials must work to ensure that Congress understands the Air Force’s plans, even if it is “not a pleasant conversation,” he said. Retired Gen. Ron Keys said he’s “not persuaded” that the Air Force has done anything to earn a reputation for deceit, arguing that lawmakers simply don’t like to see constituent programs cut and shoot the messenger. However, “the best thing you can do is have all your numbers together” and not fail to include evidence that doesn’t support the Air Force’s argument, he said. “You’ve got to own up to that,” said Keys. Do all this, Martin said, and “you become a trusted agent.”