Elaine M. Grossman
March 17, 2006
The Air Force may consolidate three or more of its 10 major commands as part
of a sweeping effort to cut billions of dollars from its budget and up to
59,000 military and civilian personnel from its ranks, service officials
tell Inside the Pentagon.
There are several different proposals under
discussion in Air Force circles and some imagine as many as half the
service's major commands -- or "majcoms" for short -- being substantially
reorganized, according to officials.
But none of the major commands will escape some amount of streamlining, and
they will operate more efficiently as a result, says Air Force Chief of
Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.
"We're necking down to some things that look pretty attractive," he told ITP
March 15 in a brief telephone interview. The changes, he said, will make the
commands better able to serve joint force combatant commanders in operations
around the globe.
"Do we need all of the functional [jobs] at every major command
headquarters?" Moseley asked. "For example, do we need 125 or 130 or 140
personnel and manpower people at every majcom headquarters? Do we need 120
or 130 or 150 civil engineers at every major command headquarters? You can
go down the row of each of those functional [positions] that are true staff
functions -- not operational or deployable [personnel] but are staff
functions -- [and ask,] 'Do you need all of those at all the major command
headquarters?' I would suggest to you that you don't."
Service commands at the top of the list for change include U.S. Air Forces
in Europe, based at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and Pacific Air Forces,
based at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, according to other Air Force
Moseley has said that although he intends to cut 30 or so general-officer
positions from the service, none are likely to be four-stars (ITP , Feb. 9,
By retaining the four-star leaders at regional commands in Europe and the
Pacific -- whose organization names would likely change -- the Air Force
could keep a general officer "at the table" with the other services in
providing air power to top combatant commanders. The high rank also allows
these generals to negotiate security cooperation measures with foreign
counterparts in the region, according to service officials.
Asked in February if the two commands might ultimately be eliminated,
Moseley told ITP, "We won't get rid of them because of the SACEUR-NATO
representation [and] security cooperation in both theaters."
The chief was referring in the first instance to the role U.S. Air Forces in
Europe plays as air component to the supreme allied commander in Europe --
currently Marine Corps Gen. James Jones -- who is both the top U.S. officer
in Europe and the top NATO commander.
At the same time, the two commands -- known widely as "PACAF" and USAFE" --
may be significantly trimmed down in an effort to eliminate layers of
bureaucracy, Air Force officers say. Operational units that previously have
reported up the command chain through these two component commands would
instead communicate directly with Air Combat Command, which could take on a
significantly higher budget and more authority, officials tell ITP.
That would leave the top Air Force representative in the Pacific and in
Europe with much smaller staffs, allowing a reduction of thousands of jobs,
according to service sources.
To say the Air Force is "really downsizing" these commands "scares people,"
Moseley said in February at a Florida conference. "What I don't know is how
do we go more horizontal with the structure and use reach back" to
U.S.-based organizations for support, he said.
"It sounds awful sweeping and difficult to do," said one senior Air Force
official this week. "But that doesn't make it untrue."
The service is expected to take fewer cuts at its major command serving U.S.
Central Command -- at least in the near term -- because of ongoing
operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to some officials.
But virtually all the major commands will take some amount of reductions,
with several beyond PACAF and USAFE expected to undergo some significant
changes, according to Air Force officials.
"We're looking at making all majcoms more lean," Moseley told ITP at the
The anticipated major command overhaul is an important element of the
large-scale streamlining the service chief believes necessary to save an
estimated $20 billion in budget funds and cut 40,000 active-duty forces from
its ranks, service officials say. As many as 19,000 additional cuts to
"active-duty equivalent" personnel are to come from the civilian, Air
National Guard and Air Force Reserve workforce, officials say.
How each of the major commands beyond PACAF and USAFE might be affected by
the coming changes is more up in the air, sources say. Moseley declined to
offer specifics either in his February remarks or the interview this week.
One organization subject to change may be Air Force Special Operations
Command based at Hurlburt Field, FL, which last month transferred
responsibility over the critical combat search and rescue mission to Air
Combat Command. According to some officials, the entire special operations
headquarters might be made subordinate to Air Combat Command, which is based
at Langley Air Force Base, VA.
Regardless of how that sorts out, Air Combat Command will likely emerge as
the "king command," one service officer said this week. It is expected to
take on considerably more oversight authority and budget dollars as the
consolidation plan emerges, this and other officials observe.
In recent weeks, much talk has centered on the possibility that Air Force
Space Command -- based at Peterson Air Force Base, CO -- would be downgraded
to a three-star command position and made subordinate to Air Combat Command.
Its acquisition arm -- Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air
Force Base -- would be transferred to Air Force Materiel Command, according
to this reorganization concept.
But several Air Force officials described this proposal as a "trial balloon"
that was quickly shot down by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) in a March 1 letter
to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"Downgrading Air Force Space Command and transferring Space and Missile
[Systems Center] to Air Force Materiel Command would be contrary to the
recommendations of the 2001 Space Commission" -- which Rumsfeld chaired --
"and represents a considerable step backward," Allard wrote in the missive,
first disclosed last week by Space News. "More alarmingly, it would seem to
indicate a lack of appreciation for the capabilities provided by military
space and suggests that the department is not focused on what must be
considered a top mission area."
Allard was also critical of U.S. Strategic Command's move last year to
create an Air Force-led component command that combines space and global
strike, saying "this action has essentially downgraded the mission of space
operations from a four-star combatant command to a three-star billet that is
focused almost entirely on global strike" (ITP, March 3, 2005, p1).
The senator's letter made no reference to a Feb. 15 message Moseley sent to
the strategic commander, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright. The Air Force
chief's letter proposed "separating the space and global strike mission
areas" to "achieve better integration of space capabilities across U.S.
[Strategic Command's] service components."
Service officials point to these missives, both obtained by ITP, as among
several indications the service is unlikely to downgrade Air Force Space
Command anytime in the near future.
At the same time, the service has not yet named a replacement for Gen. Lance
Lord, who retires from his post as head of Air Force Space Command on April
Senior officials tell ITP the command may continue to be led in an acting
capacity by its three-star deputy, Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, until August, when
Lt. Gen. Kevin Chilton might be promoted and transferred from his current
post as the 8th Air Force commander and head of Cartwright's space and
global strike component.
Another facet of the reorganization debate is how the service's "numbered
air forces" -- the next echelon above the wings -- might evolve. These
organizations have a long heritage but are declining in operational
importance relative to air operations centers, services officials say. The
air operations centers -- aimed at being capable of transitioning to joint
air headquarters in times of conflict -- are quickly becoming the key Air
Force-led warfighting organizations in each region around the globe,
according to service officials (ITP, May 20, 2004, p1; and April 29, 2004,
What may happen is that the traditional numbered air forces could fold into
the warfighting headquarters, without maintaining excess force structure,
one officer said this week. For example, the air operations center in U.S.
Pacific Command's area of responsibility may be named the "George C. Kinney
Warfighting Headquarters (11th Air Force)," said this officer.
"What we are doing is collapsing everything onto a warfighting structure,"
says another Air Force officer. There is a potential downside to that
process, though. An organizational construct that is more efficient for air
operations worldwide could be less functional for the service's training and
support wings, this officer noted.
What is clear is that non-warfighting headquarters, like Air Education and
Training Command, will get much leaner, said another officer.
Moseley agreed. More direct reporting and fewer echelons for decision-making
will form the basis for organizational streamlining at AETC and all the
other majcoms, he said.
The chief is also looking at whether some "direct reporting units," like the
service's agency for tracking weather, must be manned by those in uniform.
Some of these responsibilities may be contracted to the private sector so
that those in uniform remain focused on operational tasks and are available
for deployment overseas, service officials say.
Moseley is intent on avoiding "peanut butter spread" cuts across the
service, leaving fewer personnel but "working your people harder," he said
this week. "We have to get beyond that."
Instead the idea, he said, is to eliminate many of the layers of bureaucracy
that needlessly slow down decision-making.
"I think you have to get to driving those efficiencies, so you squeeze out
every opportunity to have checkers checking checkers, who check checkers
before a decision is made and we get to 'operationalizing' a decision," he
"That's what I'm wrastling with."
Gotta pay for those F/A-22's somehow ...
Amen brother. We could solve all the budget problems the AF has by buying one less F-22 a year. Instead, of course, we break everything to keep the buy. arghhh
Rummy does not believe we need a big military. Big special forces type of guy. He is hurting the military as bad as Klinton did in his own way. He and the rest of the Neocoms buy Condi need to go and I question her Israel-Palenstine negotiations, especially giving the palestinans control of their borders
There is plenty of fat to be trimmed in all the services. In the Navy, for instance, we now have more admirals than we have ships.
I'll see if I can find the Corona briefing. Lots of changes over the years leading to 2011.