April 30, 2014, WASHINGTON (AFNS) – The Air Force chief of staff explored the proper force ratio between the service’s active duty and reserve components in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, April 29.
Gen. Mark A. Welsh III emphasized the importance of a detailed financial, operational and force sustainment analysis.
“When we’ve completed the detailed missionary analysis currently in progress, we’ll be able to present and defend a plan with specific active reserve ratios for each mission,” he said.
But the heart of the challenge, the general noted, is how to balance the cost effectiveness the taxpayers deserve with the operational capability the nation demands.
The Air Force stood up the total force task force early last year to review the proper balance of force structure between the active force, the Air Force reserve and the Air National Guard.
“The intent was to make our Air Force more efficient without losing operational capability or responsiveness in a crisis,” Welsh told the senators. “We asked the task force to look at each of mission areas, platform by platform, and develop a plan to push as much force structure as possible into the reserve component without going past … operational breaking points that would keep us from being able to accomplish the mission.”
And while Welsh stressed the value of reserve-component Airmen, he noted the optimal component ratio for each mission area and the aircraft in each mission area is different.
“The mobility mission is perfectly suited for a component mix weighted toward the reserve component,” Welsh said, adding that 56 percent of Air Force mobility mission already is in the reserve component. In contrast, he said, the steady longer-term deployment requirements of the Air Force’s airborne command and control platforms create greater obstacles for reserve-component Airmen and their civilian employers to support the mission in more of a way than they already do.
The general reported working with the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, National Guard Bureau, two state adjutants general and a team of operations research analysts to understand the factors that affect the force structure analysis.
“We agreed on a decision support tool and a common cost model and have looked together at options for the best balance between active and reserve force structure,” Welsh said.
Noting that there are no shortcuts to “getting it right” and that the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force suggested an active-reserve aggregate ratio estimate of 58-42 percent, the general pointed out that the number was the output of financial analyses aimed at saving a set amount of money over time.
“Airmen who’ve been fighting side by side for years don’t see the difference between an active duty member, a Guardsman or a reservist,” Welsh said. “And those who benefit from American air power really don’t care — they just know that without it, you lose.”