WASHINGTON — The national commission which was created to examine how to modify the Air Force’s structure to best fill current and future mission requirements, presented its recommendations during two public meetings on Capitol Hill here Jan. 30.
The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force was established by Congress in 2013 to comprehensively study the Air Force and its three components.
The commission’s report, which was due to the president and Congress Feb. 1, included findings and conclusions, as well as recommendations for administrative actions and legislation that may be required.
“Going forward, there’s no doubt in my mind that our Air Force is going to rely more, not less, on our National Guard and Reserve forces,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “This makes sense from not only from a mission standpoint, but from an economic standpoint. I think there will be a great deal of symmetry between many of the recommendations from the commission and what the Air Force proposes for its way ahead. Our thanks go to the commissioners for their report, which will help inform us in the future.”
The Air Force conducted its own total force review, led by three major generals from the active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve components of the service, deemed the Total Force Task Force, or TF2. To continue TF2’s work and make it part of the permanent staff, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh directed the stand up of a transitional organization, the Total Force Continuum, or TF-C, in October. The TF-C analysis will help guide the service’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget.
While considering recent lessons learned and existing fiscal realities, Air Force officials are already taking steps to increase integration while preserving capability and capacity across all three components, James said.
“Current plans call for more collaboration and cooperation among the components in the years to come; working on these relationships and seeing real improvements so that these cross-component efforts become second nature and not the exception,” James said.
First, the Air Force will work on a continuum of service initiatives, to include improving personnel systems and processes to better serve Airmen and leaders. This also includes efforts to keep the best Airmen in our service by recruiting them for the Guard and Reserve, James said.
Second, the Air Force is pursuing ways to improve collaboration between component commands. This will include staff integration efforts to ensure appropriate representation and to improve understanding of each component’s strengths and core identities.
“We must also identify ways for headquarters elements to integrate efficiently and creatively,” James said.
Third, the service will continue to examine total force associations, which make the service more efficient by sharing resources and reducing duplication of effort. They also increase capability, while at the same time preserving a corporate body of knowledge, she explained.
“Highly experienced Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members allow us to retain valuable experience in the force and capitalize on the talents of part-time citizen Airmen, and help season junior, regular Air Force members,” she said. “Associations have been a great success story for the Air Force overall. So it’s important to capture lessons learned from our experience at the 120 current Air Force total force associations and apply them to future associations with the F-35 Lightning II and KC-46 Tanker.”
James also emphasized that developing the fiscal 2015 budget proposal was a collaborative effort between active-duty, Reserve and Guard leaders, with an aim to preserve combat capability and stability for the total force.
“The upcoming budget submission will rely heavily on the Guard and Reserve — more than what we do today,” James said. This approach looks at how to use the Guard and Reserve components more effectively.
“I’m a true believer in the Total Force Air Force that former Air Force senior leaders created,” said Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke, the Air National Guard director. “We will continue to adapt as one Air Force that provides the best value for America. The Air National Guard is committed to continuing to work closely with the regular Air Force and the Air Force Reserve to review requests and direction from Congress, when received. We all share the common goal of ensuring we have the best Air Force now and into the future.”
Although no component is totally sheltered from reductions, the reserve components will be relied upon more in the future for the success of the overall mission, with particular emphasis in the areas of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and cyber, James said.
“Today’s debate should be centered on how to best capitalize on our strengths and core competencies to improve the Total Force team,” said Lt. Gen. James Jackson, the chief of Air Force Reserve and Air Force Reserve Command commander. “We’re optimistic about the future, and we’re working hard to shape the Air Force for the future fight in 2023.”