Schwartz: Smaller Air Force Will Still be Effective

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2012 — The Air Force will get small­er, but will retain the capa­bil­i­ties need­ed to sup­port the joint force, Gen. Nor­ton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff said here today.

The gen­er­al told reporters at a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence that the Air Force will drop 10,000 air­men over the next five years as the ser­vice reshapes itself to meet new chal­lenges.

Schwartz also said that if Con­gress approves anoth­er round of base realign­ment and clo­sures that Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta has rec­om­mend­ed, that the Air Force would shut­ter bases. He said in the last round of clo­sures, the Air Force shift­ed assets but did not close any bases.

Now the ser­vice is small­er and has few­er planes. “We cer­tain­ly sup­port the pro­pos­al to go through anoth­er round of base clo­sure analy­sis and exe­cu­tion,” Schwartz said. “Our expec­ta­tion is that we would actu­al­ly close bases in a future base clo­sure round.”

Eco­nom­ic prob­lems com­pound the strate­gic prob­lems. “Against a back­drop of fis­cal chal­lenge and dimin­ish­ing resources, the secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment con­tin­ues to evolve and become ever more com­plex,” the gen­er­al said. “That’s dri­ving the need for a new defense strate­gic guid­ance.”

Defense Depart­ment offi­cials used the guid­ance to build the fis­cal 2013 defense bud­get request.

The Air Force start­ing point is the air fleets are already small­er and old­er than at the end of the post-Cold War down­siz­ing. By trad­ing size for qual­i­ty, Schwartz said, “the Air Force has made the hard choic­es [need­ed] to sup­port the new strate­gic guid­ance in the fis­cal year ’13 bud­get sub­mis­sion. And we will be a small­er but superb force that main­tains our agili­ty, our flex­i­bil­i­ty and readi­ness to engage a full range of con­tin­gen­cies and threats.”

Even as the changes con­tin­ue, the ser­vice will retain its glob­al reach, pro­vid­ing full-spec­trum oper­a­tions wher­ev­er need­ed. This includes nuclear deter­rence; air, space and cyber­op­er­a­tions; coun­tert­er­ror­ism; and glob­al intel­li­gence sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance.

“Although small­er, we will sus­tain glob­al oper­a­tions through our con­tin­u­ing pres­ence in the Asia-Pacif­ic and the Mid­dle East and by tai­lor­ing our pres­ence in Europe,” the gen­er­al said. The strate­gic guid­ance calls for refo­cus­ing mil­i­tary atten­tion in Asia.

While this is a con­strained fis­cal envi­ron­ment, the Air Force must be care­ful to pro­tect crit­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties, Schwartz said. “Con­front­ed by a more com­plex and dynam­ic secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment as well as sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tions in defense resources, the Air Force deter­mined that the best path for­ward was to become small­er, empha­siz­ing mul­ti­role sys­tems and com­mon con­fig­u­ra­tions,” he said.

The gen­er­al also vowed to pro­tect air­men — the service’s most pre­cious resource. The ser­vice will avoid the hol­low force syn­drome “and we will pro­tect readi­ness at any force lev­el and strength­en­ing our inte­gra­tion of the total force team of active, Guard and Reserve air­men,” Schwartz said.

The ser­vice will slow mod­ern­iza­tion and will pro­tect key capa­bil­i­ties rep­re­sent­ed by the KC-46 tanker, the F‑35 joint strike fight­er and the long-range strike bomber. “Despite the many chal­lenges that we have faced, today the Air Force is still, by any objec­tive stan­dard, the world’s best,” Schwartz said. “It is our intent — indeed, it is our oblig­a­tion to the Amer­i­can peo­ple and to our air­men and their fam­i­lies that we remain the world’s finest air force in the years and the decades to come.”

The ser­vice will exam­ine the mix of active, Air Force Reserve and Air Nation­al Guard forces to rec­og­nize the tem­po that is inher­ent in the defense strate­gic guid­ance, the gen­er­al said.

“Our goals will be to … man­age the active duty force at a deploy-to-dwell ratio of not less than 1:2,” he said, “and not less than 1:4 for the Reserve and the Guard, or bet­ter.”

The ser­vice needs to ensure deploy­ments are pre­dictable and able to be sus­tained. “You can surge, but the sus­tain­able lev­el of effort will be 1:2 and not less than 1:2, not less than 1:4,” the gen­er­al said.

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