Thursday, January 10, 2013

Secretary Donley on Air Force Challenges: Part 3

From AOL Defense:

Michael Donley, Air Force Secretary, wrote this third of
four op-eds on the future of the Air Force exclusively for AOL Defense. Today's piece deals with the difficult decisions the Air Force must make to preserve its readiness to respond to crises around the world.

Sec. Donley: How Low Can The Air Force Go? -- EXCLUSIVE
By Secretary Michael B. Donley, January 10, 2013

Over the past decade, the Air Force has fielded new and impressive warfighting capabilities in support of joint and coalition operations. Bolstered by combat experience, our military has never been stronger.

At the same time, the sustained focus on Iraq and Afghanistan has come with an indirect cost. While the Air Force has met the demands of a high operational tempo in support of these and other operations, this has inevitably taken a toll on our weapon systems and people, putting a strain on the overall readiness of the force. We have seen a steady decline in unit readiness since 2003.

Given the projected decline in defense budgets, we have made a strategic choice to trade size in order to protect a high quality and ready force that will improve in capability over time. Air Force and Department of Defense leaders are working hard to avoid a hollow military: one that looks good on paper, but has more units and equipment than it can support, lacks the resources to adequately man, train and maintain them, or to keep up with advancing technologies.

"Readiness" can be generally defined as the ability of a unit to provide the capabilities or outputs for which it was designed when and where needed. While protecting future readiness includes modernizing the force (a separate subject [for tomorrow's piece--the editor]), creating combat readiness in the near term is a complex task mostly involving the intersection of personnel, materiel, and training. This includes balancing time between operational and training commitments, finding the right combination of funding from different sources, and effectively managing these resources to achieve the desired effects.

Mitigating the risk associated with a smaller military requires a ready force. When units are called to deploy on short notice, a larger force structure provides capacity to reinforce units where some aircraft may be unavailable due to maintenance, repair or modification and when personnel are in training status or educational programs, or positions are vacant. The larger capacity can compensate for shortages in personnel and materiel readiness.

Given the resources available, however, we have reached a point where this larger force structure cannot be adequately sustained. If we attempt to sustain current force levels with rising personnel and operational costs, there will be fewer resources available to support our excess capacity of installations, maintain existing aircraft inventories and other vital equipment, or invest in future capabilities.
Read the full article here >>

This is the third of four op-eds written by Sec. Donley exclusively for AOL Defense.
Click here to read the whole series.

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