Balancing force top priority say senior Air Force leaders

  • Published
  • By Col. Bob Thompson
  • Office of Air Force Reserve Public Affairs
Finding the right balance of regular, Reserve and Guard forces is the key to future Air Force capabilities and budget cuts senior leaders said Sept. 19, at the Air Force Association's 2011 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition here.

More than 8,000 industry leaders, lobbyists, media, and U.S. and foreign military leaders attended the conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center here.

"Air Force leaders have been discussing how best to achieve balance among our core functions; balance among our force structure, readiness and modernization," said Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley, the conference's opening speaker. "And balance among our active duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard components."

"The Air Force depends upon the Air Force Reserve components," Donley said. "Our current operations reflect how much we depend on the contributions of the total force."

In today's Combat Air Forces, 58 percent of the people are active duty, while 42 percent are from the Air Reserve component, he said. In the Mobility Air Forces, reservists make up the majority at 51 percent, with active duty at 49 percent.

"The Reserve component is sustainable and affordable," said the Chief of Air Force Reserve Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr. "It is vital that we capitalize on the strengths of each component, and there are a number of roles and missions for which the Reserve component is well suited and can provide effective and efficient combat capability and capacity."

Reserve Airmen are very cost-effective and comprise nearly 14 percent of the total Air Force authorized end-strength at only 5.3 percent of the military personnel budget, officials said. Put differently, Reserve Airmen cost per capita is 27.7 percent of active duty Airmen or roughly 3.5 Reserve Airmen for the cost of one active duty Airman.

"In today's fiscally constrained environment, rebalancing the active and Reserve components offers an opportunity to leverage the strengths of our citizen Airmen and realize significant savings," Stenner said. "Reservists are called to active duty in a pay-status when the nation needs them. Afterward, they return to their civilian lives and their civilian jobs when they are off-duty."

This not only saves money on pay, but cuts down all related personnel expenses, benefit costs and infrastructure while retaining highly skilled professionals who are ready wherever and whenever needed, he said.

"This is not a time of 'doom and gloom,'" Stenner said. "This is an opportunity to meet today's challenges and create the right force for the long term."

Stenner said there are new opportunities for the Guard and Reserve anywhere there is a need for a surge force. This is especially true for reservists whose civilian skill sets cross over for the military in new focus areas such as cyber and space operations, he said.

"It's all about capability and what is best for the nation," Stenner said. "It's not just about what is the cheapest."

Guard and Reserve leaders are scheduled to have the first ever "staff to staff" talks about what missions are more suited to Guard or Reserve support Sept. 22, officials said. Air Guard members serve their state missions in U.S. Title 32 status and can get recalled under Title 10 status to support federal missions. Reservists are specifically dedicated to Title 10 federal missions.

"We're going to get together to build trust and confidence," Stenner said. "We've been working hard to build partnerships with the Guard and to have discussions about which missions better lend themselves to which component. We want to ignore biases and emotional arguments. What is going to carry the day is data analysis and proven performance -- that's what counts."

The "domestic piece of Title 32," or the crisis response by the Guard to state emergencies, is getting bigger and bigger, Stenner said.

"For the Title 10 Reserve, I think we need to stay in every enduring mission in the Air Force," he said. "In order to have a surge capability and in order to leverage the advantages of the operational Reserve, every core function needs to be represented in the Reserve component."