Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

TOP STORY >>Air Force questions more cuts

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor

Air Force officials are having second thoughts about cutting force levels any further. It’s a question of how much you can ask of a military service that’s already stretched to the limit. As the Air Force must do 10 times the number of missions it did 15 years ago but with far fewer airmen, the Pentagon is reconsidering further cuts in personnel from the current 360,000 force level.
Next year’s Air Force budget still calls for an additional reduction of 20,000 airmen, which would be on top of a previously announced 24,000 cut personnel, bringing force levels down to 316,000, a huge drop from a high of 600,000 at the end of the Cold War.

But in light of recently announced manpower increases for the Army and Marine Corps to support a troop surge in Iraq, which will require additional aerial combat support, the Air Force wants to stop further reductions and keep levels at least at 336,000, rather than the projected 316,000.

Roger M. Blanchard, Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff for personnel at the Pentagon, last week told a meeting of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council that further force reductions are needed to pay for new airplanes and weapons systems, including more C-130Js, as well as rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, including $30 million needed to repair the 50-year-old flightline on base.

But Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley recently told a meeting of the Air Force Association that although more funds are needed for recapitalization, they would rather hold on to the number of airmen they have now. Savings from a reduced force will allow the military to “recapitalize its equipment,” Blanchard said.
The Air Force will spend billions on new airplanes and weapons, including $1.58 billion for 13 C-130Js.

LRAFB will get at least seven new airplanes. Although the Air Force has cut its personnel, Blanchard noted that LRAFB would see a slight increase in personnel and airplanes — about 300 more airmen and 17 more planes. The Air Force Times contributed information to this article.