Collaborative effort in making force structure changes

by Mitch Gettle
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

2/24/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force total force officials discussed the strategic planning efforts that resulted in making the 'hard choices' affecting future Air Force viability and force structure here Feb. 22.

Driven by the 2011 Budget Control Act and new defense strategy, the Air Force needed to align the current force structure to get the best mix of active duty, Guard and reserve forces to carry out the new strategy, said Maj. Gen. James "Mike" Holmes, the assistant deputy chief of staff for Operations Plans and Requirements.

Holmes detailed the Air Force's fiscal 2013 force structure plan and how the strategic shift to the Asian-Pacific region and change in future fight scenarios dictated the decisions made.

Given the current fiscal landscape, the Air Force targeted four areas to ensure a relevant and capable total force.

"We need to continue some modernization ... balance a force structure that is sufficient for requirements of the new strategy ... fund readiness to ensure our force doesn't become hollow ... (and) take care of our people," Holmes said.

The Air Force needed to balance these four areas as it looked to reduce costs in the upcoming budget, he added.

Holmes was joined in the discussion by Maj. Gen. James "JJ" Jackson, the deputy to the chief of Air Force Reserve, and Maj. Gen William Etter, the deputy director of the Air National Guard.

Jackson explained the collaborative efforts that led to the current force structure decisions.

The process started in summer 2011 when Air Force leaders from the active and Reserve components began discussions on the future total force, Jackson said. As the budget and strategy outlook evolved over the next six months, so did the force structure discussions, and as with any collaborative effort there were some concerns over the choices that needed to be made.

The active, Guard and Reserve interests were represented in these discussions and any concerns were vetted during the summer process, Etter added.

Etter and Jackson, involved in the congressional discussion process for budget and force structure, said it is in this setting where many concerns about the Air Force's force structure decisions are discussed.

"Every state has concerns and they're mostly local concerns," Jackson said. "We tried to look at it holistically, across the whole total force, across the whole United States, and of course that is where the decision process and military judgment had to come in.

"When you have a discussion on the process and the decisions made from the strategy on the (hard) choices we had to make, (congressional leaders) are accepting of the process, in my opinion," Jackson said. "They didn't like it but, just like all three of us here, had to make hard choices; we don't necessarily like every choice we had to make for the Air Force."

Another thing prevalent in the congressional meetings is an understanding "we have very difficult financial challenges ... and given that financial challenge, there are only so many ways to go down a path," Etter added. "There is (also) an understanding that the budget is going to be a challenge to the nation and because of that there's going to be reductions."

Currently, only the aircraft and mission change force structure announcements have been made. The manpower force structure details will be released in early March.

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