The Total Force and the Operational “Bumper”

The Air Force will soon undertake an experiment to see if it can successfully integrate more Air National Guard units into its Air Expeditionary Force construct to meet combatant commander requirements, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said during a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington, D.C., Thursday. As a result of intense discussions with both Air Guard and Reserve officials surrounding the five-year USAF force structure plan, Welsh said the ANG believes it can handle a one-to-five deploy-to-dwell ratio going forward. However, he has concerns about that ratio with some mission areas, fighters being one. That’s why the Air Force will soon begin a one-year test with Air Guard fighter units to see how this arrangement works. Welsh said USAF needs to be careful about running into an “operational bumper” at some point, where requirements outstrip the availability of Reserve or Air Guard forces. The Air Force must better utilize the Reserve and Guard, but it must also keep enough force structure in the Active Duty to meet requirements and ensure the sustainability of the two components since both depend on personnel transitioning from the Active Duty for many of their missions.