Splitting 9th AF and AFCENT

The Air Force wants to separate the forward warfighting element from the rear day-to-day oversight element of 9th Air Force/Air Forces Central, so Gen. Norton Schwartz told lawmakers Tuesday during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the 2010 Air Force budget. The split, declared Schwartz in response to a question from Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), would be temporary but is necessary to put “100 percent focus on the operations currently underway.” Schwartz indicated that the three-star head of AFCENT—currently Lt. Gen. Gary North—would take less than 50 people with him to establish a forward headquarters in Qatar, from where, he said, it would “focus exclusively on the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, predominantly Afghanistan.” Heading 9th AF at Shaw AFB, S.C., would be a two-star general with a one-star vice commander. Schwartz confirmed that this is an Air Force decision and called the action “imminent,” pending Congressional approval. Spratt pressed for reassurance, asking, “Can you assure us that when the time comes, that the 9th Air Force will be reunited with AFCENT? Schwartz replied, “That is absolutely our intent.”