Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh, shown here testifying before Congress with Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, says force structure changes will continue beyond 2015. (Mike Morones/Staff)
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The Air Force’s 2015 budget plan represents about half of what the service plans to do in terms of retiring and moving aircraft, with analysis not yet finished on what will come next and how the force structure will ultimately be balanced among active duty, Air National Guard and Reserve, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said.
“Because we’re only halfway through this, we haven’t balanced all the force structure across the active and reserve components,” Welsh said at a March 26 House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing. “The guidance from the beginning has been put as much as we can into the reserve components. If we can become more efficient and remain operationally capable, why would we not do that? So we are pushing everything we can by aircraft types, because that’s the way you have to do the analysis into the reserve component.”
The fiscal 2015 budget proposal calls for the full retirement of the A-10, which includes 107 aircraft flown by the Guard, along with cutting 51 F-15Cs.
The proposal also moves and retires C-130s in the Guard, with the ultimate goal of assigning eight of the cargo aircraft to Guard units.
“That’s the footprint they were looking at,” Welsh said. “And as they balance the fleet, that’s what they did. Some of these airplanes are older, take more to maintain, so they’re trying to centralize the places where they will be most efficient.”
Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James have both repeatedly said that their goal is to move more aircraft into the Guard to save money.
It’s a goal that follows congressional pressure to protect the Guard and direct more cuts to the active duty, particularly since the fiscal 2013 budget fight that pitted the Guard and its proponents against the active duty.
The result of that budget fight included the creation of the congressionally mandated National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, which in its February report to Congress and President Obama called on the service to find savings by shifting the component mix from 69-31 active to reserve to 58-42.
That shift could produce savings of up to $2 billion per year in manpower costs.
“Recognizing that some missions must be performed by the active component, the Air Force can, and should, entrust as many missions as possible to its reserve component forces,” the commission’s report states.■