Commission: Air Force should shift 36,600 to reserves

The Air Force should rely less on active duty forces and more on “cheaper” reservists during a time of shrinking defense spending, an independent commission said in its recently released report. 

“Part-time forces are cheaper to maintain than full-time forces,” said commission chairman Dennis McCarthy at a defense writers breakfast in Washington on Friday.

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Specifically, the commission recommends cutting approximately 36,600 airmen from its active duty force, and shifting that to the reserve components, in order to save $2 billion per year. 

Currently, the mix is at 68 percent active and 31 percent reservist, but should be more like 58 percent active and 42 reservist, McCarthy said. 

Relying on reservists more would have the benefits of keeping them ready for when they are needed, as well as taking strain off the active duty force, he said. 

"We felt that the active component forces of the Air Force were pretty close to maxed out, and that sustaining the current level of their dwell-to-deploy ratio would be challenging," McCarthy said. 

The recommendation was one of 42 contained in a congressionally mandated report released on Thursday that could inform future force structure of the Air Force ahead of the Pentagon’s 2015 budget release. 

McCarthy, a retired Marine lieutenant general, said there was no specific timeframe for any of the recommendations but that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James were looking for ideas along the lines that the commission were recommending. 

He said there were "broad opportunities" to brief top Air Force and Pentagon leadership on the commission's findings. 

“What we’re showing them is a way to make manpower savings so that they free up money for readiness and modernization,” McCarthy said. 

“If they don’t make the manpower cuts ... then they’re going to have to take the cuts somewhere else, and that somewhere else will be readiness and modernization,” he said.