Ricochets and Replies

Aerospace Power Journal, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Ricochets and Replies


We encourage your comments via letters to the editor or comment cards. All correspondence should be addressed to the Editor, Aerospace Power Journal, 401 Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB AL 36112-6428. You can also send your comments by E-mail to editor@cadre.maxwell af. mil. We reserve the right to edit the material for overall length. PARTING THOUGHTS ON APJ'S FUTURE My retirement in September makes this the last issue in which I will be identified as APJ@ senior editor. To mark the occasion, the editor, Lt Col Eric Ash, has granted me the space to share some final thoughts on my two-anda-half years with APJ.

I won't bore you with the usual platitudes: "It's been a challenging and rewarding experience" (it was); "I was privileged to work with some great people" (I was); and "The editor's a great boss" (I had the privilege of working for three editors, and all were outstanding officers and exceptional choices to protect and nurture the Air Force's professional dialogue). Nor will I extol the changes we have made to improve the publication's content and visibility (even though I am particularly proud of our recent accomplishments).

Instead, I wanted to leave you with a few observations concerning the nature of the journal and its future. For, in spite of the selfcongratulatory tone above, I fear that future is by no means assured to be a long or prosperous one. Does that sound alarmist? And, you may ask, how can it be so when I have just said that APf is currently in good hands with positive trends?

I believe that the success of this professional journal results from a balance-perhaps healthy tension is a better term-between three major stakeholding groups: the editorial staff, senior leadership, and readers and contributors (with the officer corps as the main focus). Tension conveys the right image, as all the interested parties try to pull APJ in their direction. As long as these groups exert more-or-less equal forces in opposing directions, a rough-- but hopefully intellectually stimulating-- form of equilibrium is maintained. However, if someone pulls too hard or gives up-and if the resulting distortion is large or lasting-- then the results can be catastrophic. This is no mere conjecture, as demonstrated by the demise of Air University Review.

What would cause the imbalance? Given competing and conflicting demands for time, it is easy to see how officers may come to believe that supporting or even monitoring the profession's dialogue is a luxury they cannot afford. More than this, both human nature and military culture foster the view that debate is often inefficient and inconvenient. Certainly for those charged with implementing plans, programs, or policies, some debate will hit too close to home. Finally, a few people, through ignorance or partisanship, even question the reason for having a professional journal-why nurture dissent in the service or make counterarguments or vulnerabilities available to the opposition?

While it is easy to see how apathy or, worse, outright hostility to APJ or its mission can arise, less obvious-but, I believe, just as important-is the notion that people or groups can "care too much" and that this too can be harmful. This is the equivalent to "pulling too hard" in my analogy because the group taking such a superproprietary interest will invariably act to the detriment of the other stakeholders. If, for example, the editor or someone else up the chain of command comes to see it as "his or her journal," others will lose interest if they feel their needs are not being served. Useful debate will shift elsewhere, and APJ will lose respect and support. (It is important to note here that a belief that certain opinions are being promoted or suppressed can be as much a matter of perception as reality. I am dismayed, but no longer surprised, at accusations that we would refuse to publish people or opinions based on anything other than the quality of their ideas and arguments. …

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