Preserving Readiness in the CAF

Today’s combat air forces have the most experienced airmen in more than a generation, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Hostage told the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., last week. However, Hostage indicated in his Nov. 30 talk what other defense officials have said: this experience has come with a cost now becoming more apparent to Pentagon officials who are staring budget sequestration in the face. Indeed, readiness, and the erosion of it, have great implications for the health of the military—and, in this particular case, the CAF. Hostage noted that today’s Active Duty force is half of its 1980s peak of around 700,000. While the global basing structure has been sharply reduced, combatant commanders’ requirements have piled higher since the first Gulf War. The Air Force has already gone to the well and cut manpower and force structure to fund modernization. What are left to draw from are flying hours, squadron support, and other elements that underpin global reach and power, said Hostage. But those are the items that have been making the difference in sustaining the force, which is expeditionary in nature and on a high operations tempo. “We are going to fight every which way to avoid a hollow force,” said Hostage. (CSIS webpage with link to video of event)