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)