Goodbye, 86 Wings

A little-quoted and oft-forgotten edict of the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review directed the Air Force to maintain 86 combat wings. The service never really defined what that meant, and the number is now likely to fall by the wayside, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in a Dec. 22 interview. Schwartz acknowledged that the Air Force has proposed some force structure cuts in the 2010 budget, and they are not all in the area of fighters. “I don’t think anyone sees that number [86 wings] as a line in the sand,” Schwartz said. He added that the Air Force will reorganize itself “in a way that makes the most sense,” and not necessarily to meet a particular number. He also said he believes that “there is excess capacity” in the Air Force’s basing infrastructure still, and would like to see that cut before retiring hardware, but he noted, “I don’t think there’s the will” in Congress to order up yet another BRAC round anytime soon. (For more, read Eighty-Six Combat Wings.)