National commission reviews AF ‘life-cycle’ manpower costs

  • Published
  • By Col. Bob Thompson
  • Air Force Reserve Public Affairs

With a shrinking defense budget, increasingly consumed by manpower-associated costs, the Air Force of the future may be determined by how much we can afford, according to the Air Force Reserve’s top officer. He stressed that finding how much an Airman's career costs through their "life-cycle" of active and reserve service is important.


The "National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force" interviewed senior defense leaders past and present on Aug. 27, to review the "fully-burdened life-cycle manpower costs" of active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen.


"The Air Force Reserve supports the Reserve Forces Policy Board findings that the cost of a Reserve Component member is about one-third that of their Active Component counterpart," said Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command.


Appointed by the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act, the commission is reviewing the Air Force's structure to determine if and how it should be changed to meet future missions and funding challenges.  The commission's report and recommendations are due to the president by Feb. 1, 2014.


Numerous studies have analyzed manpower costs, but the Department of Defense and various think tanks have yet to agree.  If the commission can help establish the right cost model, they will be able to recommend to Congress the most cost-effective and operationally efficient ratio of Active and Reserve Component forces.


"Reserve Component manpower costs are about 34 percent of an active duty officer and 37 percent for an active duty enlisted member annually," Jackson said based on a computer program called the "Individual Cost Assessment Model."


"The earlier the member affiliates with the Reserve Component, the lower the overall life-cycle cost," he said.


The model captures the cost of career events: recruitment, training events, permanent change of station moves, deployments, promotions, transitions between Reserve categories, changes in component affiliations such as active duty to Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard, separations and retirements.


Also, the model accounts for base pay, housing and subsistence, medical and retirement costs, training costs, moving costs, and other compensations, entitlements and benefits.  The Individual Cost Assessment Model captures the initial accession and training costs of an active duty member who may transition to the Air Force Reserve, retaining that initial investment for the nation.


"We need to move toward an agreement on manpower costs," said Jackson. "This will allow for an 'apples to apples' comparison and establish common ground, moving the discussion forward to shape the Air Force's future structure."


Also, the commission asked Jackson to provide insight into which day-to-day missions of the Air Force could potentially be shifted to the Air Reserve Component.


"The Air Force Reserve maintains a diverse portfolio of capability in all 13 Air Force Core Functions," Jackson said.  "Future mission set migration could include rapidly-evolving areas such as space; cyberspace; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; as well as more traditional mission sets such as Rapid Global Mobility and Global Precision Attack."


Jackson was asked his opinion on merging the Reserve and National Guard.


“All three components, Active Duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard, are crucial to our nation,” he said.  “We have different [administrative control] lines and authorities, however that is okay. All three bring something to our nation's defense and that diversity serves the nation well as we have seen most recently as readiness cuts went into effect due the sequestration."


The commission is led by the Honorable Dennis M. McCarthy, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general and the previous assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon.  The vice chair is the Honorable Erin Conaton, a former under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and previous under secretary of the Air Force.


"As the Air Force looks to the future, one thing is clear," said the general. "Our men and women wish to continue serving and putting their combat-tested, operational experience to use.  The Citizen Airmen of your Air Reserve are ready and continue to play a key role in the Total Force of today and the future Air Force in 2023."


He cited recent surveys by the Defense Manpower Data Center which confirm that the vast majority of reservists and guardsmen wish to continue to serve and that their employers still strongly support them.