Cash-Strapped Air Force Plans to Reduce Authority of Base Commanders

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 06:35 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The U.S. Air Force, looking to reduce costs, is mulling a draft plan that would centralize support, logistical and related responsibilities now under the jurisdiction of high-ranking base commanders, The Washington Times reported.

If adopted, the Air Force would consolidate operations ranging from construction and maintenance to purchasing and space planning. Some training programs would also be centralized. The newspaper said it obtained a copy of a draft proposal. The Army and Navy have already consolidated these functions.

Until now, Air Force three- and four-star generals have insisted that they need to be fairly autonomous to properly manage their bases – much as top executives run companies.

Critics of the proposal worry that it could pit senior base commanders against more junior officers overseeing consolidated support services, according to the Times.

Advocates say it will reduce overhead, duplication, and personnel costs. Charles Wald, a retired general now with Deloitte, agrees that the proposed reform "makes perfect business sense," according to the Times. Wald anticipates strong opposition from senior commanders who would be asked to relinquish some of their authority.

If the cost-saving plan is adopted, it would produce a centralized support operation staffed by some 350 personnel plus liaison staff on the bases. Ten non-nuclear Air Force commands would reportedly be involved in the reform, which would go into effect by the end of 2016.

Separately, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that readiness levels had "reached an all-time low."

"We don't have enough units ready to respond immediately to a major contingency, and we're not always able to provide fully mission-ready units to meet our combatant commanders' routine rotational requirements."

The Air Force may also need to cut thousands of airmen next year and mothball aircraft to save money.

"Every recommendation we're making these days does hurt," Welsh told a news conference. "It's taking capability or capacity away from combatant commanders. We're figuring out how to wisely move forward, keeping our Air Force balanced as we downsize it over time. We're reducing capability in every one of our core mission areas, that's the reality of it – every, single one."

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