Recommendations 'will reshape Air Force'

  • Published
  • By Gerry J. Gilmore
  • American Forces Press Service
Air Force recommendations provided to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission will reorganize that service, making it more capable to address threats to national security, the Air Force's top civilian told commissioners here May 17.

"We have presented to you a bold program that will reshape the Air Force, improving our ability to defend the nation and doing so with a smaller, more efficient, effective and less-costly base infrastructure," Michael L. Dominguez, acting Air Force secretary, told commission chairman Anthony J. Principi during a public hearing.

Mr. Dominguez, who was accompanied by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper and other senior officials, said the Air Force's BRAC recommendations would affect 115 of the 154 installations evaluated.

The Air Force has been reshaping itself into a leaner and more capable force since the end of the Cold War, Mr. Dominguez said.

"And, we will become yet still smaller," he said.

Technological advancements are providing more military punch while allowing the service to reduce its overall size, he said.

For example, the Air Force deployed more than 1,000 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers "to drop 9,000 bombs to destroy one target" during World War II, Mr. Dominguez said. Today, one modern B-2 Spirit bomber "can engage 80 targets with 80 bombs in all weather with greatly increased accuracy."

New aircraft slated to enter the Air Force inventory in the near future will be even more combat capable and "will fly longer" between downtimes for scheduled maintenance, Mr. Dominguez said.

The Air Force wants to consolidate, close or realign those installations that do not fit into the air and space expeditionary force concept, he said.

(The AEF) draws small, predefined pieces from different Air Force units and fashions those pieces into provisional, or expeditionary, squadrons and wings" that are deployed for overseas combat missions, Mr. Dominguez said. The stateside bases would perform their normal operations while maintaining a high state of readiness to support wartime contingencies, he said.

The AEF concept also serves the needs of joint warfighters, he said. Its modularity "allows us to package our forces into combat units tailored specifically to the needs of the combatant commanders."

The Air Force's BRAC recommendations recognize the need to defend the American homeland from threats presented by terrorists or other potential enemies, Mr. Dominguez said. Therefore, he said his service's recommendations "preserve the air sovereignty alert mission.”

Mr. Dominguez said the Air Force values the partnership among its active, Guard and Reserve pilots and crewmembers. The BRAC recommendations will position the reserve components "for leading roles in a variety of emerging, in-demand, warfighting missions."

And, the fact the United States remains engaged in a war against terrorism "makes this base realignment and closure an imperative," Mr. Dominguez said.

The Air Force recommends 10 base closures and 62 realignments, General Jumper said. The proposals "will 'right size' our force," he said. As a result, Air Force fighter units will be reconfigured and upsized to 18 to 24 aircraft per squadron.

Air Force units will also be "placed in higher military-value settings" and located "closer to appropriate ranges for operational missions," General Jumper said.

The estimated net savings envisioned for the Air Force as a result of recommended base closure and realignment actions totals more than $14 billion over 20 years, General Jumper said.

The Air Force arrived at its BRAC recommendations after making some "tough decisions," General Jumper said.

However, "the important gains in warfighting effectiveness and the savings that we will be able to reinvest in combat capability outweigh those concerns," he said.