USAF and the Numbers Balance

Senior Air Force leaders said they are still studying a proposal from the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force to transfer some 36,000 airmen from the Active Duty to the Air Reserve Components. Speaking during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, the commissioners said they believe it is an achievable goal that will allow USAF to meet budget targets, but Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, during the same hearing, said USAF is not ready to agree with the commission’s conclusions. James said USAF is conducting a “mission-by-mission” look at the implications of the proposal. “We are leaning forward,” she said, but USAF needs more time to understand the “second and third order effects” of moving force structure out of Active Duty units. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh stressed the force structure recommendations must be considered separately from fleet divestitures proposed in the Fiscal 2015 budget. If USAF followed the recommendation and moved to a 58 percent Active Duty: 42 percent Air Reserve Components ratio today, he noted, it would save about $2 billion. “But that doesn’t get us near our goal,” he added, noting that cost corrections over 10 years are much larger, and the longer the service waits to make retirements the worse budget problems will get.