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Donít Chop the Air Force Ė Look to the Reserves

Authors: Janine Davidson, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, and Margaret Harrell
April 9, 2014
The Hill

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The Air Force's latest budget plan proposes to cut 25,000 airmen, including 21,000 from the active duty and 4,000 from the reserves. These cuts represent not only a loss to our nation from the investment in costly military training, but also an increased risk from losing the ability to 'surge' these skilled airmen in a future crisis. The recommendations made by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force (NCSAF) offer an alternative — and less risky — way forward.

The NCSAF's plan would reduce risk to the nation by retaining all 507,000 active, guard and reserve airmen in a rebalanced "Total Force." It envisions increased — but more predictable — reliance on a larger reserve component composed of more part-time airmen serving side by side in integrated units with their active-duty colleagues. This more integrated structure will enhance efficiencies by sharing aircraft and equipment across a more streamlined command structure.

The NCSAF's recommendations are possible because all three components of the modern Air Force – active, guard and reserve – maintain the same readiness standards. The Air Force relies heavily upon this readiness, not just for a big war, but also for its day-to-day missions. Today's Air Force reservists do not wait for the nation to call them up; they stay ready and volunteer frequently. Far from being over-tasked, these airmen testified frequently to the NCSAF that if given reasonable notice prior to their missions, they could do even more, and want to.

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