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Top Air Force leadership is taking steps toward bringing the active, Guard and Reserve components back together after a year of public and bitter disagreements over the service's missions and budgets.
In a memo dated Jan. 28, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh directed the creation of a new committee, dubbed the Total Force Task Force.
Leading the task force are Maj. Gens. Mark Bartman, representing the Guard, Brian Meenan representing the reserve and John Posner on behalf of the active duty. The trio of generals will have a full-time staff and will work under the supervision of Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs.
Bartman is the commander of the Ohio Air National Guard; Meenan serves as the mobilization assistant to Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.; and Posner is the director of global power programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition.
The committee has a number of goals. First, it must conduct a review of studies for the combined Air Force to establish a baseline for force-wide integration efforts. Second, it will identify questions about the force, such as defining the relationship between the reserve and active-duty and which force is best suited for which mission.
Third, the task force will develop potential options for Total Force balance, followed by a listing of all legal, organizational and policy changes that could improve integration. Finally, the task force will craft a plan to keep stakeholders, including Congress, informed throughout the process.
The final report, due by Oct. 1, will be used to inform the fiscal 2015 budget.
Rifts among the three arms of the service grew over the past year following budget battles over equipment and personnel cuts. In the fiscal 2013 budget plan, the Air Force proposed cutting 3,900 active-duty, 5,100 Guard and 900 reservists, a move that members of Congress decried as too targeted to the Guard.
In May, the Senate Armed Services Committee rejected proposed cuts to the Guard, and instead recommended fully funding the Guard's equipment and personnel for 2013. Since Congress has failed to pass a budget, those changes never occurred.
At the time, committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., criticized the Air Force and called for a congressionally mandated national commission to provide recommendations for the Air Force structure. That commission was later formed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Total Force Task Force will serve as the main Air Force body to assist that commission.
In his first speech as chief of staff, Welsh talked about viewing the three arms of the service as one force.
"Seven hundred thousand airmen in our Air Force," Welsh told the audience at the Air Force Association's conference on Sept. 18. "That's uniformed, civilian, active, Guard, reserve; I don't see the lines very clearly, guys."
On Friday evening, Air Force spokeswoman Megan Schafer issued the following statement: "Over the past two decades, the USAF has become a more integrated force, both operationally and organizationally, across the Active, Reserve, and Air Guard. In view of this increased integration — as well as upcoming strategic shifts driven by Post-Afghanistan reconstitution and the new Defense Strategic Guidance — the Air Force needs to undertake a comprehensive review of Total Force requirements and develop a strategic plan to ensure the USAF correctly balances the strengths of each of the components to sustain the capabilities required in the years ahead.