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First commission meeting on Air Force's future is Tuesday

Apr. 29, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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WASHINGTON — A congressionally mandated commission on the future of the Air Force will host its first meeting Tuesday.

The gathering is the first official meeting of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, and will focus primarily on organizational matters, according to commissioner Whit Peters.

The agenda includes an ethics briefing and preliminary decisions about staffers, Peters said. He added that the group is likely “30 to 45 days away from getting anything substantial.” Tuesday’s meeting will be closed to the public.

The commission was mandated by the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) following a series of bruising battles between an Air Force looking to make equipment and personnel cuts and a Congress aiming to protect local units.

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. 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 evolved into the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, included in the NDAA to provide input for the three branches of the service going forward.

In addition to the commission, the Air Force assembled the Total Force Task Force, headed by Maj. Gens. Mark Bartman, representing the Guard, Brian Meenan representing the Reserve and John Posner on behalf of the active duty. The Total Force Task Force will serve as the main Air Force body to assist that commission.

Peters, a former Air Force secretary during the Clinton administration, is one of the four individuals appointed by the White House. He is joined by retired Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy; Janine Davidson, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans; and Margaret Harrell, director of the Army Health Program and an employee of the Rand corporation.

In addition to the presidential appointees, the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees nominate one commissioner apiece.

From the Senate side, Levin selected Les Brownlee, a former acting secretary of the Army, while Ranking Member Jim Inhofe selected retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Bud Wyatt.

On the House side, Chairman Buck McKeon selected former Air Mobility Command head Gen. Raymond Johns, while Ranking Member Adam Smith picked Erin Conaton, most recently undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

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