Report: Sequestered Air Force Should Cut Active Duty, Boost Reserves

The national report comes as the Pentagon attempts to deal with steep budget cuts.

Aircraft of the US Air Force air demonstration squadron, the Thunderbirds, fly over Kogalniceanu airport, near Constanta, 230 kms east of Bucharest, on June 8, 2011.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
Jan. 30, 2014, 12:08 p.m.

Fa­cing a budget crunch, the Air Force should scale back its num­ber of act­ive forces, while boost­ing its re­serve mem­bers, a re­port re­leased Thursday re­com­mends.

“Great­er re­li­ance on a lar­ger Air Re­serve Com­pon­ent provides a quick, ‘re­vers­ible’ way to gen­er­ate man­power cost sav­ings,” ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al Com­mis­sion on the Struc­ture of the Air Force’s find­ings.

The re­port ad­ded that re­com­men­ded changes aren’t “a cri­ti­cism of the pre­ced­ing force struc­ture” but a sug­ges­tion on how to com­ply with budget caps im­posed by Con­gress.

Re­serve forces are less ex­pens­ive than act­ive forces, and by re­du­cing spend­ing in mil­it­ary per­son­nel, the re­port notes the Air Force could use the funds to off­set “cuts to read­i­ness, mod­ern­iz­a­tion, and re­cap­it­al­iz­a­tion.”

The com­mis­sion was cre­ated by Con­gress as part of the 2013 Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act after mem­bers pushed back against a Pentagon plan to scale back its Air Guard.

And the Air Force isn’t alone in try­ing to find ways to save money. Pentagon of­fi­cials are try­ing to de­cide where to cut more than $40 bil­lion from its 2015 budget re­quest. Of­fi­cials said last year that they would re­quest $542 bil­lion for the 2015 fisc­al year, but base spend­ing for the De­fense De­part­ment un­der the budget agree­ment is $498 bil­lion.

And one po­ten­tial — but ser­i­ous — road­b­lock to any cuts is Con­gress. Mem­bers are work­ing to block the Air Force from re­tir­ing the A-10 ground-at­tack air­craft to help free up spend­ing for new­er planes. And last year Con­gress re­jec­ted the De­fense De­part­ment’s re­quest to re­duce the num­ber of bases it does not need.

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