“316” Still the Number:

Air Force Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, Air Staff head of manpower and personnel, responded to questions from Pentagon reporters Tuesday that he really couldn’t provide firm details on how things will shake out exactly on USAF’s future force shaping plans. He said the service is still assembling the final 2008 Force Shaping package, which he expects to see released at the end of this month or in August. Senior Air Force leaders have been saying for months that the service must re-evaluate its plan to cut 40,000 airmen in view of the planned increase in ground forces. However, although Brady said Tuesday that the final number remains an “open question,” he believes the Air Force will drawdown to an end strength of 316,000 by the end of Fiscal 2009—meaning the 40,000-cut goes through. The key issue for the Air Force is whether the addition of 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 to the Marine Corps will be to combat ground units or to support forces. The former would require increases in airlifters and battlefield airmen. Brady’s view is that the Air Force will continue toward the magic 316,000, but he said, “If we need to do something different, we’ll find a way.”