I have a new article out in The Hill co-authored with my colleague, Dr. Meg Harrell, a manpower expert at RAND and a fellow member of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force (NCSAF). We argue that the Air Force’s proposed cuts of 25,000 airmen is the wrong approach: it voids a huge training investment and accepts too much strategic risk by hampering the Air Force’s ‘surge’ capabilities. We propose a less risky strategy that will shift more airmen to the Air Force Reserve and Air Guard. This carries several important benefits:
- Protects readiness. Our work on the NCSAF suggested that readiness could be maintained in a more reserve-focused force. Air Force reservists volunteer frequently and say they want to do more — as long as they’re given reasonable notice.
- Improves retention. The reserves and guard are an attractive part-time option for airmen who also seek career and lifestyle flexibility. In addition to billions of savings in personnel costs, having a greater proportion of reservists in the force also ensures that valuable training and institutional knowledge aren’t lost as soon as active duty ends.
- Increases active-reserve integration. This one’s important and builds on proven Air Force innovation. If active and reserve units can be better integrated – and permitted to share aircraft and equipment – the Air Force will benefit tremendously. The current structure of multiple legal duty statuses and separate chains of command creates needless bureaucratic friction. This can and should be fixed, especially in a lean operating environment.
In the end, the more barriers to service we lower and the more thought we show to ‘surge’ capability, the better off the Air Force will be. You can read more of our thoughts here.