Senior leaders from Air Force Reserve Command assembled in National Harbor, Md., March 26-27 during the 2012 Senior Leader Conference to discuss the future of the command.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Full Operational Capability: Full Spectrum Combat Capability with Unparalleled Efficiency” and how the Air Force Reserve fits into the big picture of the total force.
“Our reserve components are solid,” said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., the chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of AFRC. “We are the most efficient we can be, and we execute the mission with a force that is ready.”
Topics discussed at the two-day conference included manpower, readiness, modernization and budgetary constraints.
“Even as budgets decline, we must still provide the essential force structure and capabilities on which the Joint Force depends,” said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley in remarks to conference attendees. “We must be ready to respond to a challenging and dynamic security environment.”
Donley said Air Force leaders have made hard choices during the current budget cycle to closely align the Air Force’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal with the new defense strategic guidance and comply with the requirements of the Budget Control Act. The act calls for a defense budget reduction of $487 billion through the next 10 years.
Among these difficult decisions are proposed force structure changes, which call for the reduction of 286 aircraft through the Future Years Defense Plan. The reductions include 123 fighter jets, 133 mobility aircraft and 30 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, the secretary said.
“Fighter, mobility and other force structure changes have been strategy-driven based on changed requirements,” he said. “We’ve carefully balanced our active and reserve component changes to make sure that we can meet the demanding operational tempos – including both surge and rotational requirements – that are part of the current and projected strategic environment.”
Even though changes are being made, the total force mission remains the same, Stenner said.
“This is a difficult time for all of us, and we are working together to do our job to defend this nation,” said Stenner. “If we remember that, we will get the answer.”
During the conference, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz spoke about the total force structure and how ensuring an appropriately sized force will contribute to the overall mission of the Air Force.
“Force structure, which is mismatched with our strategy, can result in units and a total force that are ill-suited for assigned missions,” Schwartz said.
With this in mind, Air Force leaders took on the difficult task of balancing active and reserve components appropriately as part of the new service budget proposal, he said.
“But there still is no doubt, none whatsoever, that the investments in the reserve components were, and remain, smart and essential investments in overall readiness, capability, and surge and rotational requirements,” Schwartz said.
Acknowledging that an evolving force will bring challenges, Stenner said he is confident in the important role the Air Force Reserve will play in the future.
“Where you see challenges, there are opportunities,” Stenner said. “If we open the aperture to opportunity and embrace the fluid changes, we will have a strong future in the mission of a global and total force.”