As the Air Force gets smaller in the years to come, it will have to emphasize the areas that will be the most relevant to defense, the Air Force chief of staff said here today.
Gen. Norton A. Schwartz told the Defense Writers Group that as budgets drop, the Air Force must concentrate on four basic areas: control of air and space, global mobility, global surveillance and reconnaissance, and global strike.
“Those areas clearly remain relevant to the strategy that focuses on the Asia-Pacific and the [Persian] Gulf region,” he said.
Because the service will be smaller, Air Force officials must encourage more versatility in the force structure that remains, entailing both surge requirements and overseas rotations. “That’s part of the rationale for the adjustments in the force mix that we proposed in the [fiscal 2013] budget,” the general said.
Operations and maintenance funding will become a key aspect of this smaller force, Schwartz said, and will become more important to maintain quality. It’s not enough for officials to say the Air Force is good, he added.
“We really have to be good,” he said.
Schwartz, who testified yesterday in a congressional budget hearing, reiterated the service’s need for a new bomber.
“Do you think that the Chinese have established one of the world’s best air defense environments in their eastern provinces just to invest their national treasure?” he asked. “Or, for that matter, that the Iranians have established integrated air defenses around certain locations in their country? I would say they are not doing this for the fun of it. They are doing it because they have a sense of vulnerability.
“What is it that conveys that sense of vulnerability to others?” he continued. “One of those is long-range strike, and that is an asset that the United States of America should not concede. And that’s why the long-range bomber is relevant and will continue to be relevant.”
The Air Force is cutting some air mobility assets, but Schwartz said the service still can handle its mobility requirements. The Army and Marine Corps are cutting personnel, he noted, and that will carry a corresponding decline in mobility requirements. The most recent study showed the Air Force has had to transport 32.7 million ton-miles per day, Schwartz said.
“The analysis that we have done indicates the requirement given the new strategy formulation and force size that flows from that is about 29.4 million ton-miles per day,” he added.
Even with the cuts, the general said, the Air Force will have 275 large transport aircraft and 318 small-lift aircraft, representing about 30.5 million ton-miles of capability. “We are comfortable that we have a level of capability that is suited to the force structure the new strategy envisions,” he said.
Schwartz said he wants the active Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve mix to be balanced “for the long haul.” Ideally, he said, he wants a deployment rotation of one year deployed to two years at home station for active duty airmen and a 1-to-4 or greater ratio for reserve-component personnel. “This is a question of trying to design the force for the long term in a way that active duty, Guard and Reserve can see themselves in these jobs for the long term,” he said.
Though Air Force officials have made their recommendations, Schwartz said, Congress can block these changes — especially those pertaining to Air National Guard units.
“If the Congress decides to not proceed with some or all of our recommendations, it is a zero-sum game,” he said. “The thing I lose sleep over is getting some of this back to us saying, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that, and I’m not going to give you the money, either.’”
That formula, he said, is the quickest way to get to a hollow force.
“As convincingly as [Air Force Secretary] Mike Donley and I can, we will do our best to make the case that if it’s not what we’ve proposed, it needs to be something that’s equivalent in terms of capability and cost,” he said.