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Donley: Guard, Reserve source of most cuts

Feb. 2, 2012 - 12:09PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 2, 2012 - 12:09PM  |  
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley addresses the service's upcoming budget priorities Jan. 27 while speaking to a group of community and military leaders in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley addresses the service's upcoming budget priorities Jan. 27 while speaking to a group of community and military leaders in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Duncan Wood / Air Force)
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The Air Force plans to cut about 6,000 reservists and guardsmen on top of 3,900 active-duty airmen in fiscal 2013 as part of force-reduction measures, the service's top civilian said Thursday.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said the service plans to send proposals to Capitol Hill that would cause the Reserve and Guard components to take measures similar to those used in the active-duty force over the past few years. The breakdown for fiscal 2013 totals 5,100 guardsmen and 900 reservists, Donley said.

Donley told reporters after an Air Force Association breakfast in Arlington, Va., that the Air Force is "pretty well-positioned" in terms of the number of active-duty airmen and civilians because of aggressive measures taken over the past few years to slice the force size, which include reduction-in-force boards and early retirements.

He added that over the past decade, the Air Force has been making cuts to active-duty personnel instead of guardsmen or reservists, meaning the active-duty force has been hitting manpower goals set by the service.

By the end of fiscal 2011, the Air Force had about 333,370 active-duty airmen, 106,000 guardsmen and 70,800 reservists. The planned cuts for 2013 would eliminate about 2 percent of the Air Force's total strength.

Donley said the service's Guard and Reserve leadership have been "part of the discussion all along" in terms of figuring out what cuts need to be made to the size of Air Force Guard and Reserve components.

Personnel cuts "are the result of force-structure changes we made," Donley said at the breakfast. "We have not looked at the size of the Air Force and said ‘we need to cut personnel.' That's not how we did this.

"We looked at a broad strategic context and concluded that we should trade size for quality and a more capable force going forward. So we made force structure adjustments that fit with the new strategic guidance [released last month by the Defense Department]."

Donley's remarks are part of a number of announcements expected over the next month on where exactly the Defense Department will find $450 billion in savings over the next decade.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz offered some details last week on the Air Force's cuts and goals over the next few years. But many of the specifics won't be available until mid-February, when the full DoD budget is released.

Details on the Air Force's plan for manning levels won't be disclosed by the service until early March, according to service officials.

But some things are already known: For example, Air Force leadership and top DoD officials support another round of base realignment and closures. As in 2005, the president and DoD would need congressional approval before a BRAC could proceed.

Donley and Schwartz have both said that the Air Force will be affected much more by planned BRAC cuts than the service was in 2005, when realignments were conducted but no bases were closed.

"And as you may be aware, there are estimates in that era that … we had excess infrastructure in the neighborhood of 20 percent," Schwartz said during a Jan. 27 news briefing. "Since 2005 our inventory of aircraft, for example, has declined in the neighborhood of 500 aircraft.

"And so the presumption is — I think it's a fair presumption — that there's yet more excess infrastructure," he said. "And so indeed, we certainly support the proposal to go through another round of base closure analysis and execution."

So far in this budget cycle, top Air Force brass have highlighted three key priorities for the Air Force: the new KC-46 Tanker, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the long-range strike bomber. Donley, Schwartz and others have said the service is focusing on multiuse aircraft versus aircraft that tend to have a limited range of missions, such as the C-5 and C-27J.

Seven of the service's 60 tactical air squadrons — including one training squadron — are also being eliminated. Those include one active-duty, one Reserve and three Guard A-10 squadrons; an F-16 tactical squadron and an F-15 training squadron are also being trimmed. Schwartz said those tactical air squadrons will be "remissioned" to serve other Air Force needs.

"A unit that was operating manned aircraft might transition to a remotely piloted aircraft mission," Schwartz said. "And so their fundamental skills will still be employed, but in a different way."

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