DeM Banter: So many issues here…Gen Fogleman is an amazing leader, big brain, and innovator…but is this the right place for a debate? As always there is much behind the scenes I am sure… so perhaps this is the right time and place. Second…we lean so heavily on the ANG and Reserves now…can we lean on them more? How do they recruit? It is no longer one weekend a month and two weeks a year…that is so 1989–so if these warriors have another job and family…how do we incentivize more than what they are already doing? Third…where are the good ideas? Where is the discussion and the debate? It is time to think… the much overused quote attributed to Winston Churchill comes to mind everyday now…‘Gentlemen, We Have Run Out Of Money; Now We Have to Think.’ …. or maybe it was from the….Zealand physicist, Ernest Rutherford. Either way… time to break out the Moleskine and start thinking….
July 24, 2013
The Air Force has only itself to blame for Congress’s decision to appoint a panel to help determine its future force structure, the service’s former chief says.
Retired Air Force Gen. Ronald Fogleman, who served as Air Force chief of staff from 1994 to 1997, said the need for the commission that met in Crystal City of Arlington, Va., on Tuesday showed the current service had run out of ideas for dealing with tomorrow’s slimmer budgets.
“If I were a senior leader of the Air Force right now, first of all, I’d be a little embarrassed that Congress had to put you all together,” Fogleman said. “My next reaction to that would be: ‘What are they going to do to me?’ And my third reaction would be, ‘Well, they’re a fact of life, so I would like to work with them to help me get the things that I need to move forward.’”
The Air Force ruffled a lot of feathers in Congress last year when it asked to cut heavily from its Guard and Reserve components in order to protect its active-duty units. Rather than go along with the active Air Force’s request, Congress appointed a blue-ribbon panel to study the makeup of the future force and report its recommendations to President Barack Obama by February. After a visit last week to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in New Jersey, the commission stopped in Washington to hear from members of Congress and other leaders before it continues its national tour this fall.
Fogleman laid out some possible fixes to the ballooning personnel costs associated with a large active-duty force — modernize; make the active-duty force smaller; enable the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve to meet tighter readiness timelines; allow for “tiered” readiness; and make a place in the force structure for an operational Reserve.
But first, he said, the Air Force and the commission need accurate data on the cost of keeping and maintaining Reserve and Guard units, something he says has been lacking in the past. The timeline idea is key, Fogleman said, because if Reserve units can’t mobilize quickly that drives up the size of the active force, which he said happened in the 1990s.
“There’s a way to determine how much active force you really need,” Fogleman said. “One of the driving issues on utilization of Guard and Reserve is the assumptions you make upfront on timelines.”
Pentagon protestations that sequestration is devastating to national security and troop readiness don’t give the full picture, he added. Instead, less readiness may not be the sky-is-falling scenario Defense Department officials keep warning of, especially if commanders plan upfront for how they’ll handle which units will stay ready for which assignments.
“I think there is, in fact, room in all services for tiered readiness,” Fogleman said. “Sometimes you’ve got to step back and ask yourself, ‘What’s wrong with a hollow force?’”
The Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs, Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller fielded tough questions on what data exists about force structure and why the Air Force hasn’t been able to fix the problem on its own.
Sequestration has put DOD in a tough budgetary position, Moeller said, but he would not concede that lowering readiness was a good option for his service, even if he said it might work for a branch like the Army.
“Tiered readiness does not work for our Air Force,” he said, explaining that the types of skills used by many airmen can’t be retained as easily, and get lost a lot faster without upkeep.
“They are full usage all the time,” Moeller said. “That just makes us different.”
When asked for specifics of the Air Force’s data on force structure, Moeller pointed to an upcoming report by the Total Force Task Force, which is due by Oct. 1. He told members of the commission that that report will hold a lot of guidance on what the Air Force thinks the future force structure should look like.
That report won’t be available until fall, so Moeller said he could only provide the commission with some draft overarching principles in advance of the report’s release. But when pressed, Moeller admitted that the current force structure and mission requirements are unsustainable heading into tighter budget circumstances.
“There is no doubt that in the current fiscal environment, if we look out to 2023, the Air Force will be smaller,” Moeller said. “This is a personal opinion, but I believe all three components will be smaller.”
But a guiding principle for the Air Force perspective seems to be to prioritize the active-duty forces as much as possible: “You can’t make the active component too small, [but] you can make the Reserve component too big,” Moeller explained.
“There are things on the active-duty side that you just have to keep,” he added. “Size matters, it really does.”
Congress — especially members anxious about the bases in their home districts — is paying close attention.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) gave a passionate defense of Eielson Air Force Base, which was taken off deployment status in 2007 after a round of Base Realignment and Closure cuts.
She cautioned against making further cuts to Air Force bases without first doing comprehensive strategic cost analyses.
“The Air Force has confused ‘ready, aim, fire,’ with ‘ready, fire, aim,’” Murkowski said.
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) also delivered comments to the commission in the afternoon.
The commission will head next to Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Springfield, Mansfield and Rickenbacker Air National Guard bases in the next few weeks. Then through August and September, commission members will visit bases in Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Hawaii and California.
Members have to take into account cost, operational effectiveness and relative mobility when analyzing the trade-offs between active-duty and Reserve forces, Fogelman and commission Chairman Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy agreed, in a rare expression of his own thoughts during the questioning.
The question becomes whether commission will recommend that the Reserve, Guard and active components decrease proportionally, or at different rates.
But for a military that’s become more and more integrated over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, that won’t be easy.
“What we found is, it’s going to be more challenging in terms of what the right balance is, because there’s some blending going on,” Moeller explained. “It’s a tough question; I don’t have a good answer for you. … We’ve evolved into where we’re at today, and I’m convinced that we’re going to see more and more of that.”