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Doctrine (Maybe), Strategy (No)

Will the Air Force Implement a Force Protection Program?

James L. Lafrenz
1999, 30 pages
Cost: $0, AU Press Code: MP-17



The US Air Force’s response to the bombing of Khobar Towers in June 1996 was to consolidate and remove our forces to a more isolated (bare base) location in the Saudi desert. While a seemingly logical step, removing our forces from Saudi population areas means that determined future terrorists could employ weapons against US forces without the worry of collateral damage to Saudi nationals. There are many other questions that need answering about our organizational preparedness for a chemical or biological event. For example, in the event of such an attack, is the US civil engineering force trained and equipped for the decontamination of the attacked base and other bases? Does Air Force doctrine include recovery of a base from a chemical attack, or will we evacuate to a new toxic-free area and leave the attacked base and its resources behind? Are our airmen protected from building collapse? These kinds of questions prompt larger issues. In this study Mr. James Lafrenz, a civil engineer in t he Department of the Air Force, notes that American global security policy requires expedient responses to war, t o natural disasters, and to problems between these two extremes. The Air Force owns the assets to make these responses, but our response forces are "concrete dependent"— airplanes need hard-surfaced runways from which to operate. And where there is concrete, there are usually buildings. Will these buildings collapse if attacked and subjected to blast loads? Are civil engineering forces trained to make rapid determinations about expedient protection at reasonable cost and within time limitations? Can the civil engineers successfully approach and perform search and rescue within a building that is subject to collapse? This study contends that the Air Force has not instituted a clear and serious program to protect its buildings from the kinds of lateral loads that can cause building collapse. The author argues that most casualties occur from building collapse, not from the effects of the weapons themselves. Mr. Lafrenz wants the Air Force civil engineering community to be proactive in force protection, base vulnerability assessment, and the mitigation of unacceptable risks. The Air Force can ill afford to continue using civil engineers only for new "blast protection" construction. Terrorists continue to prove that they can defeat physical security measures. This study proposes that the air bases be better organized, trained, and equipped to accomplish base recovery from a terrorist attack. There must be enunciated a clearer, more coherent, better integrated doctrine and related strategy that describes how to protect our people and our resouces.


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