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AETC: A Long History of Education
Air University was established to provide a single military organization that was free to concentrate all of its energies on developing the leadership, strategies, concepts, and doctrines necessary for winning future wars. To this end, Air University continuously revised the course content and subject matter at its various schools to keep abreast of current technologies, international situations, and military concepts and capabilities. Air University also attempted to avoid traditional thinking in the development of its courses' content, least the Air Force fight future conflicts as it had fought previous wars. As General Fairchild once put it, Air University was a pre-war educational system, not a post-war school.
To ensure this, AU commanders have sought and acquired the most highly qualified military and civilian instructors available for staff and faculty duty at their schools. They have also made a deliberate effort to encourage the rapid turnover of these individuals to prevent stagnation and to facilitate fresh and open views of the future. At the same time, these commanders have always taken actions to ensure that the most promising and highest qualified students attended AU schools in residence at the most appropriate points in their careers. These concerns, necessary for fostering and producing the brightest and best future planners and leaders of the United States Air Force, are as critical today as they were when the command was first established.
And so, Air University continues in the proud tradition of its predecessors, the Air Corps Tactical School, AAF School of Applied Tactics, and the AAF Schools by providing professional military, specialized, and continuing education to officers of the US Air Force, sister services, foreign countries, and DOD civilians. The university also continues to play an important role in formulating USAF concepts, doctrines, and strategies for the employment of air power and, today, manages two of the Air Force's major precommissioning programs. Air University forms a vital link in the Air Force's overall readiness chain and remains a key element in building and maintaining an Air Force that is second to none.
During World War I, air power's smashing success at the battles of St Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne provided unquestionable proof that air forces were capable of significantly affecting ground operations and decisions on the battle field. As a result, during the post-war era nearly every country in the world established an air arm as an integral part of its armed forces. While many countries created autonomous air forces, the US Army Reorganization Act of 1920 established the US Air Service as a combatant arm of the US Army. Though this fell short of most American air leaders' hopes of obtaining a separate and independent air force, it strongly supported their profound conviction that airpower would be a dominant weapon of future wars.
Unfortunately, most of the officers assigned to the newly established Air Service were poorly trained in air tactics and techniques and lacked actual aerial combat experience. Worst still, the principles of employing the new arm were still relatively new to the airmen of that time and there was little precedent on which to build solid air doctrines and concepts. Thus, Air Service leaders quickly realized that their principal need was for an efficient school system for training and educating officers to command air units and to develop aerial concepts and doctrine. As a result, in February 1920, the Air Service established several specialized and general schools to provide professional education and training for its future planners and leaders.
Among these schools was an institution located at Langley Field, Virginia, called the Air Service School. A year later, on 10 February 1921, the Air Service redesignated this institution as the Air Service Field Officers' School to reflect the school's primary mission of "preparing senior officers for higher Air Service command duty." It retained this name until 8 November 1922 when the Air Service changed the institution's name to the Air Service Tactical School. This was as a result of the decision to let all Air Service officers (not just field grade personnel) attend the institution. Then, in conjunction with the 1926 redesignation of the Air Service as the Air Corps, on 18 August 1926 the institution became known as the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS). This school continued to operate at Langley until the summer of 1931 when the Air Corps moved it to Maxwell Field, Alabama.
Throughout its existence, the Tactical School, as it was known, was the intellectual center of the pre-World War II Army air arm. Though its basic mission was to educate air officers in the strategy, tactics, and techniques of air power, the school, by necessity, also became inextricably involved in the development of air doctrine. In fact, doctrinal development subsequently emerged as one of the school's primary functions, and for over 20 years, this institution served "as the sounding board for ideas concerning the critical issue of the role of airpower in war."
Much of the school's basic instruction centered around the belief that the airplane provided a new and highly effective method of waging war. As Lt Col Kenneth Walker, a member of the faculty at the Air Corps Tactical School, often explained, "the object of war is now and always has been, the overcoming of the hostile will to resist . . . . When that will is broken down, when that will disintegrates, then capitulation follows." Airpower, according to Colonel Walker, "offered a revolutionary means whereby pressure could be applied directly to break down the hostile will without first defeating or containing the hostile surface forces."
Initially, the school's curriculum reflected the dominating influence of Gen William "Billy" Mitchell. Mitchell, a strong believer in the importance of gaining and maintaining air superiority during a conflict, argued strongly for pursuit aviation as well as bombers. He regarded enemy pursuit forces as the most serious threat to successful bombing operations and felt that the task of American pursuit was not necessarily to escort bombers but to seek out and attack enemy fighters. During the first five years of the school's operation, Mitchell's beliefs formed the basis for instruction at the tactical school.
By the mid-1920s, however, the school's emphasis had shifted from pursuit to bombardment aviation. While previous texts had identified the enemy's air forces as the chief targets, the school's 1925-26 training manuals suggested that independent strategic operations could have a decisive impact in war by destroying vital parts of an enemy's industrial life. Once these targets were destroyed, the texts maintained that a collapse in the enemy's entire economic structure and ability to wage war would follow.
Additionally, such technical advances as heavier bombs and more capable bombers caused the emphasis at the school to lean increasingly more toward precision daylight bombing unprotected by pursuit. In fact, by the early thirties, the general feeling at the tactical school was that pursuit aviation was obsolete and that "a well-planned and well-conducted bombardment attack, once launched, cannot be stopped."
It was from this belief in the invincibility and destructibility of bombers that the basic tenets of the school's airpower employment theories evolved. Using this basic premise, brilliant young officers--such as Haywood Hansell, Harold L. George, Kenneth Walker, Laurence Kuter, Robert Webster, Claire Chennault, Donald Wilson, and Muir S. Fairchild--were able to hammer out the aerial warfare doctrines, tactics, and strategies that were later employed during the air battles and strategic bombing campaigns of World War II.
The tactical school was also successful in producing most of the World War II Army Air Forces (AAF) leaders. Of the 320 AAF general officers serving on V-J Day, 261 were Air Corps Tactical School graduates, including three four-star generals and eleven of thirteen three-star generals. In addition, the first generation of post-World War II Air Force leaders had been associated with the tactical school, including USAF Chiefs of Staff Carl A. Spaatz, Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Nathan F. Twining, Thomas D. White, and Curtis E. LeMay. Thus, the tactical school also successfully accomplished its primary objective of producing the Air Corps' future planners and leaders.
Yet, in spite of the school's many successes, the wartime requirements for well-educated and trained officers proved too great to permit the continuation of academic pursuits. As a result, on 30 June 1940, the Army Air Corps suspended instruction at the Tactical School and reduced its staff and faculty to five Air Corps officers and two officers from the other services. Though they initially assumed that the school would be reopened as soon as possible, during the summer of 1941 the Air Corps moved the skeletonized academic section of the Tactical School to Washington and placed it under the Directorate of Individual Training. Since the school's library remained at Maxwell, the staff was deprived of its research facility which, in effect, led to the institution's final breakup and discontinuation on 9 October 1942.
Though the Army Air Forces suspended ACTS classes, the school remained in existence for over two years. By that time, the need for reopening some sort of tactical school was already quite apparent to most AAF officials. The expansion of the Army Air Forces' peacetime strength from about 23,600 men in 1938 to over 25,000,000 by the fall of 1942 required the activation of more than 900 operational squadrons. This obviously created a serious shortage in the number of experienced officers qualified to command these units, and the need for some type of institution for accomplishing this was high on the Army Air Force's list of priorities.
Worse still, the United States was engaged in air wars in several widely dispersed theaters such as New Guinea, Tunisia, and Alaska. Based on experiences in these areas, it quickly became apparent to AAF officials that some type of agency for evaluating the doctrines and techniques developed in the war zones was needed for evaluating these experiences in some organized, systematic manner so they could be applied in subsequent battles. Consequently, on 9 October 1942, the same day the War Department discontinued the Tactical School, the Army Air Forces authorized the establishment of the AAF School of Applied Tactics (SAT) to "train selected officers and enlisted men in the doctrine, tactics, and techniques pertaining to their respective specialties."
The school, which was officially activated on 16 October 1943, opened its doors at Orlando Field, Florida, under the command of Col Willis R. Taylor. Its mission was to train "selected officers under simulated combat conditions" and to conduct "investigations and research in the science of military aviation . . . in accordance with the policies established by the Commanding General, Army Air Forces." AAF officials selected the Orlando site because it had been the home of the old Fighter Command School, and they felt the tactics school could take advantage of the facilities and other units already at the field.
From the beginning, the AAF School of Applied Tactics made every effort to relate the training its students received to tactical developments and lessons learned in overseas combat theaters. To enhance this effort, AAF officials made sure that most of the SAT instructors and unit commanders were officers who had just returned from the various theaters of operation and could tell the students from firsthand, personal experiences what they might confront in the various combat zones. Most of the students in the School of Applied Tactics were from newly activated units. They received 14 days of academic and synthetic training before moving on for another 14 days of operational training at one of the satellite air fields. These month-long classes began every two weeks, resulting in overlapping periods of instruction that reflected the urgency of the times.
Other activities at the school usually supported the academic mission. Tactical training activities, for example, involved the testing of operational aircraft and equipment as a means of improving the strategy, tactics, and techniques of air warfare "under the policies fixed by and under the Army Air Forces Board." At the same time, the School of Applied Tactics devoted considerable time and attention to translating new "doctrinal developments obtained from the school, combat theaters, or the Air Forces into photographs, motion picture outlines, training literature, and other forms of training aids." Similarly, the school was also responsible for its own housekeeping functions at the various SAT installations and for ensuring that the school had the necessary facilities to accomplish its mission.
In addition to teaching fighter tactics, the school later conducted courses for staff officers. With the establishment of the Army-Navy Staff College in April 1943, the War Department directed the school to teach the AAF phase of the familiarization course for selected Army, Navy, and Marine Corps officers to acquaint them with the tactics necessary for combined operations. In early June 1943, the Tactics School began teaching this course, which covered the most recent doctrine and principles of airpower. A month later, the school added another phase to the curriculum called the AAF Staff Officers Course. It provided tactical instruction in staff work for officers assigned to wings and higher level units. Thus, like its predecessor, the Tactics School also had a professional military education (PME) mission.
Though the school successfully accomplished all aspects of its mission during the first year of its existence, by the fall of 1943 it had become quite evident to AAF officials that a change in the school's organizational structure was necessary. The lessons learned in the Tunisian campaign and the actual experiences at the Tactics School all suggested that the classic type of organization along bomber, fighter, air support, and air service lines was "wasteful of men and of effort." In addition, it was clear to the "founding fathers" by that time that the school had grown into something much bigger than the educational institution they had initially envisioned.
For example, from an initial organization of about 5,000 people, the school had expanded to nearly 32,000 individuals in less than a year. By all indications, "the point of diminishing returns" had been reached, and the school's functions were unacceptably "being eclipsed by other requirements." At the same time, there was an increasing desire among AAF officials "to bring the school into step with changing tactical theories from the war theaters and to effect a more efficient organization to carry out its own training and developmental mission." As a result, in October 1943, the Army Air Forces established the Army Air Forces Tactical Center and made the tactical school one of its key subordinate units.
As an integral part of the center, the school remained responsible for the organization's academic and education mission. However, the changing demands caused by the direction and progress of the war resulted in some modifications to the school's organizational structure and, more importantly, to the number and types of courses it offered. Many of the initial cadre of courses, for example, were eliminated and several new courses were added to meet the newly emerging demands of a wartime operational air force. In fact, by 1944, the school was only teaching one of the initial cadre of courses since all of the others had succumbed to the growing demand for more staff courses. Consequently, by the end of the year, the school had added over 20 new courses to its seemingly endless list of new requirements.
The Army Air Forces reorganized the AAF Tactical Center again on 1 June 1945 and simply called it the Army Air Forces Center. At the same time, the Army Air Forces redesignated the tactics school as the Army Air Forces School even though it continued to conduct its mission of "special training to AAF officer personnel in subjects of staff and command." The school also revamped its educational programs following this restructuring, due primarily to the changing war situation and the Army's shifting educational needs. For example, it shifted the course's emphasis from such basic courses as intelligence and inspection to staff courses like the Senior Officers Course and the Staff Officer's Course. The AAF School, however, continued to operate at Orlando until 29 November 1945 when it was moved to Maxwell Field, Alabama, assigned directly to the Army Air Forces as a major command. There, on 12 March 1946, it was redesignated as Air University.
During its brief existence, the Tactics School had proven to be a worthy wartime successor to the old Air Corps Tactical School. Though the school did not completely fill the gap left by its more famous ancestor, it did consider and address many of the same types of problems and doctrinal development issues. Unlike its predecessor, however, the Tactics School was a wartime agency concerned primarily with a seemingly endless set of problems associated with an air force engaged in a global air war. As one historian later put it, the "theories of the employment of airpower were less important than the evaluation and analysis of current combat experiences as a means of determining the method of future operations. Only at the end of the war," with the establishment of Air University, "would airmen be able to resume the process of theorizing."
Establishment of Air University
The War Department established Air University to correct many of the problems and deficiencies of the pre-war military educational system. The schools which comprised the old system had operated independently and were poorly coordinated in terms of scope, doctrine, and curriculum. Unlike the architects of previous and existing military educational institutions, the founders of Air University sought to break away from the traditionalism, rigidity of thought and doctrine, and the formalization of instruction that had often characterized military education in the past.
Gen Carl A. Spaatz, Commanding General, Army Air Forces, and Maj Gen Muir S. Fairchild, the first AU commander, might be called the "founding fathers" of Air Force professional military education, wanted to establish a progressive, forward-looking institution that could keep the Air Force's thinking fresh and projected at least five years into the future. "We must guard rigorously against . . . accepting answers from the past instead of digging them out of the future," Maj Gen Fairchild explained. "This is not a post-war school system--it is a pre-war school."
This far-reaching educational system became operational in April 1946 when the AAF transferred the School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field, Texas, from Air Training Command to Air University. Three months later, on 1 July 1946, Air University also assumed jurisdiction over the AAF Special Staff School. The AU professional military education (PME) system, however, did not become operational until the fall when the first students began classes at the Air War College and the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell. A third PME institution, the Air Tactical School (not to be confused with the Air Corps Tactical School), began classes the following year at Tyndall Field, Florida.
The ensuing years at Air University were marked by considerable organizational growth. In July 1949, for example, the Air Force established the Human Resources Research Institute at Maxwell and assigned it to Air University. Shortly thereafter, the Air Force Institute of Technology (located at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio), the Air University Library, and the Extension Course Institute became AU subordinate units, as the command moved closer to becoming the center of Air Force education. The decade ended with Air University nearly doubling its size and number of subordinate units.
This period of growth and stability was suddenly interrupted on 25 June 1950 with the outbreak of the Korean War. USAF commanders argued that personnel of the caliber of those associated with and attending Air University were needed more for operational commitments and that Air University should be closed. However, with the ill-fated decision to close the Tactical School still fresh in their minds, USAF leaders decided to simply reduce the command's operation rather than shut it down completely. As a result, the Air War College and the Air Tactical School were suspended, and the length of the Air Command and Staff School was reduced to less than four months. In addition, the Air Force reduced the Air Force Institute of Technology's resident and civilian institutions student enrollment to an absolute minimum.
At the same time, Air University reorganized and consolidated many of its programs and activities. The Air Command and Staff School (ACSS), for example, became an intermediate headquarters with its regular course redesignated as the Field Officers Course. The Air Tactical School's professional military education program for junior officers was reassigned to the Air Command and Staff School headquarters, renamed the Squadron Officer Course, and moved from Tyndall to Maxwell. And, with the exception of the comptroller and logistics courses, HQ USAF directed that all of the professional continuing education courses of the USAF Special Staff School at Craig Air Force Base, Alabama, be assigned to this new headquarters and relocated to Montgomery, Alabama.
In addition to the consolidations and relocations, Air University continued to grow. The Gunter AFB branch of the School of Aviation Medicine became a part of Air University on 11 October 1950. Air University also established the 3870th Special Activities Group on 1 May 1951 and redesignated this organization the Research Studies Institute on 25 May of that year. Similarly, the command began offering two key weapons systems courses during 1952 and 1953, respectively. The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) also joined the AU family on 1 August 1952.
All of these changes placed a heavy strain on facilities at Maxwell. As a result, in early 1951, AU officials began planning for a new academic center to accommodate the command's expanding educational and research requirements.
The initial phase of this effort involved the construction of four separate classroom facilities, an administrative building, and five student dormitories. All of these structures were ready for occupancy by the end of 1955. A library building and a student officers' mess hall constituted the second phase, which the command completed in the fall of 1956. Chennault Circle, as this complex was later designated, gave Air University a modern, integrated academic center with facilities and a professional atmosphere commensurate with its significant educational and doctrinal development mission.
In the meantime, several key changes took place within Air University. On 1 November 1954, Air University redesignated the Air Command and Staff School as the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). At the same time, a major reorganization within this institution resulted in the Field Officer Course being renamed Command and Staff School and the Squadron Officer Course being redesignated Squadron Officer School. In addition, Air University created a separate Weapons Courses Branch within the college.
Five years passed before Air University experienced further major organizational changes. Then, on 1 July 1959, the Squadron Officer School was separated from the Air Command and Staff College and became a separate, independent unit reporting directly to HQ Air University. Similarly, on that same day, the ACSC Weapons Courses Branch, which had grown to nearly 15 courses, became the Warfare Systems School (WSS), a separate AU subordinate unit. The Academic Instructor Course, which had also reached division-level within the Air Command and Staff College by the mid-1950s, became the Academic Instructor School (AIS) at that time, adding another subordinate unit to the growing list of AU field organizations. However, Air University lost one unit during the year when, on 17 November, the Air Force redesignated the Gunter branch of the School of Aviation Medicine as the Aerospace Medical Center and transferred it to Air Training Command (ATC).
The Vietnam War Era
Less than eight years after the Korean War ended, another threat to the national security and interest of the United States began to crystallize. Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev formally announced in January 1961 that the spread of communism by "wars of national liberation" had become the official national policy of the Soviet Union. This change in Soviet national strategy would significantly affect missions and activities at Air University during the next 10 years.
To counter the new Soviet threat, President John F. Kennedy requested that "various levels of instruction in counterinsurgency (COIN) be given to all military personnel." During 1962 the Air Command and Staff College developed a two-week COIN course. By March 1963, Air University had transferred this course to the AU Warfare Systems School and it had an annual quota of nearly 1,000 students.
Meanwhile, Fidel Castro's Cuba stood as an example of the need for COIN courses. The Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 had an even more significant impact on AU operations. More than two-thirds of the students in the Squadron Officer School (SOS) Class 62-C were withdrawn by their parent commands in response to the emergency. In spite of the loss of students, the school continued to operate and the withdrawn students were given credit for completing the course. In the midst of this heighten state of awareness, Air University paused long enough on 8 November 1962 to redesignate the Human Resources Institute as the Aerospace Studies Institute.
Two years later, Air University faced the first serious threat to its continued existence as a major USAF command. In January 1964, the Air Force began closely examining a proposal to establish an "Air Force Personnel Command." The Air Force expected to create this new command by combining Air Training Command, Air University, the Air Force Academy, Continental Air Command, and the personnel functions of the Air Staff under a single commander. The Air Force Academy, however, was later excluded from consideration. Though Air Training Command supported this initiative, both Air University and the Continental Air Command strongly opposed the idea. After considerable discussion and debate, the Air Force decided against implementing the proposal, and Air University remained a separate major command.
Meanwhile, the command was also feeling the impact of student reductions caused by the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War. In November 1966, the Air Force informed Air University that the USAF inputs to the Air War College and Air Command and Staff College programs would be reduced to 30 percent of normal levels beginning in fiscal year 1968. They also scheduled a similar reduction for the SOS program. School faculties were also reduced commensurate with the smaller workloads.
Air University's student population remained at these levels until fiscal year 1971. At that time, the Air Staff approved an increase in the Air War College and Air Command and Staff College student enrollment to 60 percent of the pre-Southeast Asia (SEA) input levels. In addition, the SOS student inputs for the January and May 1970 classes were set at 63 percent of the pre-SEA input level. Similarly, the faculties and staffs at these schools were increased in direct proportion to the growing student population. So, as the decade of the 1970s began, Air University was returning to some degree of normalcy.
However, one outgrowth of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War, "Project Corona Harvest," continued into the post-war years. This project was conceived in 1966 to evaluate the use of airpower in Southeast Asia. In March 1970, the Air Force assigned responsibility for the overall conduct of the project to the AU commander. Using AU resources, he established a Corona Harvest project officer at Maxwell and involved the AU schools and other activities as deeply as possible in the effort. The result was the publication of numerous studies and a large number of highly condensed reports on specific lessons learned in Southeast Asia from 1965 to 1968. Phased out in October 1975, Project Corona Harvest was the most ambitious effort ever undertaken by Air University to study and develop lessons learned from a conflict in progress.
But not all of the major developments within Air University during this period were directly related to the Southeast Asia conflict. The Air Force, for example, transferred the USAF Chaplain School from Air Training Command to Air University on 1 July 1966. At the same time, the school moved from Lackland AFB, Texas, to Maxwell. With the growing number of Warfare Systems School professional development courses, it soon became evident that the name Warfare Systems School was no longer descriptive of the institution's primary mission. As a result, on 8 May 1968, Air University redesignated the unit as the AU Institute for Professional Development. About three years later, on 30 June 1971, Air University inactivated the Aerospace Studies Institute which had been an AU organization for over 20 years. Maxwell also served as the temporary home for the newly established Air Force Senior NCO Academy which Air University activated on 1 July 1972. The academy operated at Maxwell until 2 November 1972 when it transferred to Gunter.
Two years later, another proposal for combining Air University and Air Training Command surfaced. On 18 January 1974, Lt Gen Felix Rogers, the AU commander and former ATC vice commander, recommended that the Air Force take a look at the feasibility of "amalgamation among ATC, MPC [Military Personnel Center], and AU" with a view toward creating an Aerospace Education and Training Command. Much of the time devoted to examining this initiative was spent reviewing previous studies. Following considerable discussion, a USAF ad hoc study group concluded that the merger of the two commands was "advisable, feasible, and desirable." As a result, the committee recommended that "a joint group, chaired by the Air Staff be commissioned to develop a detailed implementation plan to effect the merger of ATC and AU." Subsequent "political sensitivities," however, "ruled out such a merger for the time being" and the proposal, like the one to establish the Air Force Personnel Command, was dropped.
The Post Vietnam War Era
The post-Vietnam War era marked a significant turning point in the history of Air University. For even though the conflict in Southeast Asia had ended, the Cold War lingered and the potential for future violent confrontations remained and in some ways increased. It was in this very volatile environment that Air University re-energized its mission of "educating and producing such planners and future leaders . . . [capable of designing] an Air Force so adequate that it need never be used."
Doing this required major changes in the command's educational system. For as Lt Gen Raymond B. Furlong, the AU commander, noted, "with a command motto of 'Progress Unhindered by Tradition' we had too often become traditionalist." He concluded, for example, that the emphasis at the command's senior PME school had drifted away from how to fight an air war to high level policy and decision making. Thus, during the mid-1970s, the general launched a three-year campaign of curriculum review and overhaul that became known as "putting the 'war' back into the war college."
This new "think-war" mindset quickly permeated the entire AU community. A commitment and eagerness to seek new horizons and to play a more significant and imaginative role in the exploitation of aerospace power could be sensed among the faculty and staff of the entire AU family. Everywhere, there was a ferment that was reminiscent of the early days of the Tactical School.
This aura of excitement, created by the emphasis on airpower employment, swelled beyond the perimeters of the PME schools. Throughout the base there were enthusiastic talks and discussions about the proposed Command Readiness Exercise System, a highly automated futuristic system designed to provide a decision-making environment in which emerging air commanders and battle staffs could examine war fighting processes. Implemented in three phases, the system became fully operational in 1989 and provided a real-world wargaming capability for the Air Force.
The same excitement also characterized efforts to establish the Airpower Research Institute. In concert with the Air Command and Staff College, the Air War College began in 1979 to implement the charter of this newly established research body, whose mission called for cooperative research on airpower relative to the attainment of national objectives by permitting a closer association between Air University and the operational commands.
Air University's post-Vietnam War period was also marked by continuous organizational growth and development. Effective 1 October 1975, for example, the Air Force established the Air Force Logistics Management Center (AFLMC) and assigned it to Air University. On that same day, a new organization called the Leadership and Management Development Center (LMDC) also joined the AU family. The following year this center merged with the AU Institute for Professional Development but retained its same name.
The command also gained two other units during this time. HQ Civil Air Patrol-USAF, located at Maxwell, became a member of Air University on 1 July 1976, following the inactivation of Headquarters Command. Seven days later, on 8 July 1976, the Air Force Judge Advocate General School became a named activity and was assigned to the Leadership and Management Development Center for administrative control. Thus, 1975 and 1976 saw the establishment of five new functions at Maxwell, which greatly expanded the roles and missions of both the base and the command.
But perhaps one of the most significant developments in the history of the command occurred two years later when HQ USAF realigned Air University under Air Training Command. This realignment took place on 15 May 1978 when Air University became an ATC subordinate organization. Though several efforts had been made in the past to combine Air Training Command and Air University, this was the first time in Air University's history that it actually lost its major command status.
For the next five years, Air University remained an ATC subordinate unit. Then, on 1 July 1983, the Air Force separated Air University from Air Training Command and the former regained its major command status. However, HQ USAF reassigned the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, which had been a part of Air University since 1 August 1952, to Air Training Command. This loss of a major subordinate unit, was somewhat offset by the establishment in early January of a new AU organization called the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research, and Education (CADRE). The center was responsible for researching and analyzing current and future issues of concern to the Air Force and its major commands; developing and testing concepts and ideas of airpower doctrine and strategy; and publishing these findings in articles, monographs, and books.
Also, on 15 August 1983, HQ USAF redesignated the Academic Instructor and Foreign Officer School as the Educational Development Center, though the mission of the organization did not change. Three years later, on 1 August 1986, Air University merged the Leadership and Management Development Center with the Educational Development Center. On 6 August 1987, HQ USAF again changed the name of the center. Its new designation became the AU Center for Professional Development. A few months later, on 24 December 1987, HQ USAF redesignated the organization as the Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development.
The following year, Air University began making major changes to the AWC and ACSC curricula. As a result of the Department of Defense (DOD) Reorganization Act of 1986, a "Joint Specialty" was established whereby the Secretary of Defense was to designate at least a thousand joint duty assignments to be awarded to officers who had successfully completed a joint military education school and a full tour of duty in a joint assignment. This law created a requirement for an additional 3,500 billets to be filled either by certified specialists or recent graduates of a joint PME course. Since the National Defense University, the major center for joint military education and training, produced only 750 graduates a year, it became necessary for the Department of Defense to devise some plan for coming up with the additional graduates.
One way of doing this was to accredit the various senior and intermediate service schools as "joint" education while at the same time maintaining their specific service orientation. After considerable discussion, Adm William Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, decided on a "dual-track" system where only part of a service's senior and intermediate PME programs would meet the "joint-education" requirements. As a result, on 8 December 1987, HQ USAF directed Air University to begin pilot AWC and ACSC programs that met the joint curriculum standards.
Beginning in the fall of 1988, Air University developed courses for these two PME schools using the joint professional military education model. In addition, these schools not only had students from all the sister services but faculty and staff personnel from each branch of the military as well. In the spring of 1989, the Air War College graduated its first students from the new dual-track system.
Meanwhile, on 13 November 1987, the House Armed Services Committee had established a Panel on Military Education. Chaired by Congressman Ike Skelton, Democrat from Missouri, and with Congressman Jack Davis, Republican from Illinois, as the ranking minority member, the panel's charter was to review DOD plans for implementing the provisions of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 and to assess the ability of the DOD military education system to develop professional military strategists and officers skilled in joint and combined operations and tactics. After hearings and visits at the various service schools; the National Defense University; and war colleges in the United Kingdom, France, and West Germany, the panel concluded that the DOD system of education was basically sound and was fully comparable to the most prestigious of the foreign PME school systems they had visited.
But Congressman Skelton also felt that the DOD PME schools were not up to the standard that should be expected of the premier armed forces in the world. He felt these schools needed to improve the level of education in strategic thinking, emphasize "jointness" more, and upgrade their overall quality--particularly the faculties. At Air University, the command quickly took steps to hire highly qualified civilian instructors and to ensure that it only assigned highly qualified military officers to the various PME faculties. In a statement he made several years later in regards to Air University's PME schools, Congressman Skeleton summed up the success of this effort when he said "the cream has finally risen to the top."
Another significant outgrowth of the congressional PME review was the establishment of the School of Advanced Airpower Studies (SAAS). Since one of the recommendations of the panel was to improve the level of education in strategic thinking, Air University responded by creating an institution that provided a one-year follow-up to Air Command and Staff College. The mission of this school was to "create soldiers/scholars who have a superior ability to develop, evaluate, and employ airpower." With 25 students enrolled, the School of Advanced Airpower Studies began its first class in the fall of 1991.
That same year, another organization, the Air Force Quality Center, joined the AU family. The idea first surfaced at the 1990 Corona Conference, where Secretary of the Air Force Donald B. Rice and the USAF Chief of Staff Gen Merrill A. McPeak created a vision of a USAF office to assist with inculcating total quality management principles into all USAF units. This concept, later known as Quality Air Force or QAF, led to the establishment of the center on 1 August 1991 as an AU subordinate unit. The center provided USAF commanders and their organizations with the concepts, methods, tools, and advice to aid them in attaining a QAF culture, as well as QAF education programs, consulting services, training resource materials, and related research and analysis services.
No other significant organizational changes occurred at Air University until 1 July 1993. At that time, HQ USAF reassigned Air University to Air Training Command as a result of "The Year of Training" initiative. On that day, the Air Force redesignated the resulting organization the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) to reflect its joint education and training mission. As a part of this major restructuring action, the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Officer Training School, the Community College of the Air Force, and the First Sergeant's Academy all became AU subordinate organizations. Similarly, the Air Force also placed the legal and chaplain training programs under Air University's jurisdiction. For only the second time in its history, the Air Force's education and training programs were within a single major command.
Several other significant organizational changes also took place at Air University during that year. On 15 December, for example, the Air Force established the College for Enlisted Professional Military Education (CEPME) and assigned it to Air University. At the same time, the USAF Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy was assigned to this new organization. In addition, all 10 NCO academies located in the continental United States became operating locations of CEPME. These actions, in effect, essentially placed all of the Air Forces NCO PME programs, except those in the European and Pacific theaters of operation, under Air University's purview.