National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force - Good News for the Air National Guard

The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force released its findings to Congress and the president last week. To make a long story short, the Air National Guard has a good deal to be happy about.

After a year of interviews, site visits, data collection, analysis and hearings, the commission was able to reach several foundational conclusions, to include:

  • Past and current Air Force leaders have committed the resources and effort needed to allow the reserve component to maintain the same standards of skill and operational readiness as the active component.
  • Part-time force structure—that capability delivered by traditional Reservists and Guardsmen who do not serve continuously on active duty—costs less than the force structure provided by full-time personnel.
  • Recognizing that some missions must be performed by the active component, the Air Force can, and should, entrust as many missions as possible to its reserve component.
  • Transitioning missions from the active component to the reserve component will allow the Air Force to perform these missions while saving money in the military personnel accounts that can be put to use in readiness, modernization and recapitalization accounts.

The report includes 42 recommendations that commissioners believe should be adopted across the spectrum, from policy in the Defense Department and the Air Force to congressional legislation. 

Ultimately, the commission recommends greater reliance on the Air Guard and Air Force Reserve; creating opportunities and incentives for longer service in uniform to minimize military personnel and family turmoil; and increasing opportunities for movement by airmen within the components for the Air Force.

The paradigm has shifted and the Air Force should move towards tasking the reserve component with everything it can do, using its components to their best advantage based on current environment. The reserve component now has superior strength and talent, at a small cost, but is not being effectively utilized.

Important Observations

  • The cost of a traditional reservist, who is not performing active-duty missions during the year, is approximately 1/6th the cost of a full-time active-component airman. They are essentially the same when each is providing full-time service.
  • The Air Force could shift component mix from 69 percent AC and 31 percent RC to 58 percent AC and 42 percent RC.
  • A personnel shift of 36,600 to the RC would yield a savings of approximately $2 billion per year in manpower costs with no reduction to Total Force end strength.
  • If the Air Force replaced 1,800 active-component instructor pilots with seasoned, prior-service volunteers from the RC, who would not rotate back to operational squadrons, the Air Force could save $1.3 million per instructor billet in the short run, and close to $2.8 million per instructor in the subsequent three to five years.
  • Greater utilization of Air Guard bases is inherently less expensive because those bases tend to have fewer nonoperational facilities than active-component installations do. Air Guard bases have sufficient existing capacity to absorb additional force structure.

The commissioners stressed that their findings are valid regardless of any budgetary environment. In this day and age, it’s even more critical to utilize the reserves as a cost-effective, mission capable force and as a means to alleviate stress on the active component.

As the year continues, NGAUS will work with stakeholders to ensure important provisions from this report are codified and made accessible to the public.

Stayed tuned to this blog, the NGAUS website and NATIONAL GUARD magazine for stories and updates on the commission’s report.

Full text of the report is available on the NGAUS website at www.ngaus.org/sites/default/files/NCSAF_report.pdf.

NGAUS Press Release
NGAUS Fact Sheet

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