Schwartz: Smaller Air Force Will Concentrate on Key Capabilities

WASHINGTON, Feb. 29, 2012 — As the Air Force gets small­er in the years to come, it will have to empha­size the areas that will be the most rel­e­vant to defense, the Air Force chief of staff said here today.

Gen. Nor­ton A. Schwartz told the Defense Writ­ers Group that as bud­gets drop, the Air Force must con­cen­trate on four basic areas: con­trol of air and space, glob­al mobil­i­ty, glob­al sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance, and glob­al strike.

“Those areas clear­ly remain rel­e­vant to the strat­e­gy that focus­es on the Asia-Pacif­ic and the [Per­sian] Gulf region,” he said.

Because the ser­vice will be small­er, Air Force offi­cials must encour­age more ver­sa­til­i­ty in the force struc­ture that remains, entail­ing both surge require­ments and over­seas rota­tions. “That’s part of the ratio­nale for the adjust­ments in the force mix that we pro­posed in the [fis­cal 2013] bud­get,” the gen­er­al said.

Oper­a­tions and main­te­nance fund­ing will become a key aspect of this small­er force, Schwartz said, and will become more impor­tant to main­tain qual­i­ty. It’s not enough for offi­cials to say the Air Force is good, he added.

“We real­ly have to be good,” he said.

Schwartz, who tes­ti­fied yes­ter­day in a con­gres­sion­al bud­get hear­ing, reit­er­at­ed the service’s need for a new bomber.

“Do you think that the Chi­nese have estab­lished one of the world’s best air defense envi­ron­ments in their east­ern provinces just to invest their nation­al trea­sure?” he asked. “Or, for that mat­ter, that the Ira­ni­ans have estab­lished inte­grat­ed air defens­es around cer­tain loca­tions in their coun­try? I would say they are not doing this for the fun of it. They are doing it because they have a sense of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty.

“What is it that con­veys that sense of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to oth­ers?” he con­tin­ued. “One of those is long-range strike, and that is an asset that the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca should not con­cede. And that’s why the long-range bomber is rel­e­vant and will con­tin­ue to be rel­e­vant.”

The Air Force is cut­ting some air mobil­i­ty assets, but Schwartz said the ser­vice still can han­dle its mobil­i­ty require­ments. The Army and Marine Corps are cut­ting per­son­nel, he not­ed, and that will car­ry a cor­re­spond­ing decline in mobil­i­ty require­ments. The most recent study showed the Air Force has had to trans­port 32.7 mil­lion ton-miles per day, Schwartz said.

“The analy­sis that we have done indi­cates the require­ment giv­en the new strat­e­gy for­mu­la­tion and force size that flows from that is about 29.4 mil­lion ton-miles per day,” he added.

Even with the cuts, the gen­er­al said, the Air Force will have 275 large trans­port air­craft and 318 small-lift air­craft, rep­re­sent­ing about 30.5 mil­lion ton-miles of capa­bil­i­ty. “We are com­fort­able that we have a lev­el of capa­bil­i­ty that is suit­ed to the force struc­ture the new strat­e­gy envi­sions,” he said.

Schwartz said he wants the active Air Force, Air Nation­al Guard and Air Force Reserve mix to be bal­anced “for the long haul.” Ide­al­ly, he said, he wants a deploy­ment rota­tion of one year deployed to two years at home sta­tion for active duty air­men and a 1-to-4 or greater ratio for reserve-com­po­nent per­son­nel. “This is a ques­tion of try­ing to design the force for the long term in a way that active duty, Guard and Reserve can see them­selves in these jobs for the long term,” he said.

Though Air Force offi­cials have made their rec­om­men­da­tions, Schwartz said, Con­gress can block these changes — espe­cial­ly those per­tain­ing to Air Nation­al Guard units.

“If the Con­gress decides to not pro­ceed with some or all of our rec­om­men­da­tions, it is a zero-sum game,” he said. “The thing I lose sleep over is get­ting some of this back to us say­ing, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that, and I’m not going to give you the mon­ey, either.’ ”

That for­mu­la, he said, is the quick­est way to get to a hol­low force.

“As con­vinc­ing­ly as [Air Force Sec­re­tary] Mike Don­ley and I can, we will do our best to make the case that if it’s not what we’ve pro­posed, it needs to be some­thing that’s equiv­a­lent in terms of capa­bil­i­ty and cost,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)