The Air Force’s 40K Quandary

The Air Force plan to cut the force by 40,000 full-time equivalent spaces—proposed two years ago—has gone up and down but is now up again, apparently. Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, USAF’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, told a Capitol Hill audience on Wednesday that the service is still working toward an active force of just 316,000 active airmen by 2009 (registering the final cuts totaling 17,000 over the next two years). The Reserve and civilian forces also would absorb cuts, though the Air National Guard would not, acknowledged Brady. Brady allowed as how the cuts had to go forward because the service had no money to keep the troops. Brady’s remarks, however, left some scratching their heads. In recent weeks, a very senior USAF official remarked to a private audience, “I think we’re going to have to hold at 330,000 people” and not drop down all the way to 316,000. This was mostly because of demands brought on by Army and Marine Corps expansion. This official noted that USAF today is actually smaller than it has been at any time since Pearl Harbor in 1941. In September, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne noted, “We are at a point where we absolutely must assess our size relative to our ground force brethren.” Is the cut still on? Stay tuned.