April 12, 2007—The Air Force is well underway with its Total Force Integration plan, recently portioning out 138 “mission sets” to be split between the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Air Force officials say they coordinated these revised missions with Guard and Reserve leaders, but at least one state already has taken exception.
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Whether this latest TFI phase will engender the hot debate surrounding USAF’s earlier efforts unveiled during the BRAC 2005 process remains to be seen. (See the last three items in the box at right and “Total Force Turbulence,” for a refresher.)
According to Brig Gen. Allison Hickey, TFI director, this latest phase marks a program milestone in a number of ways: It provides 60 new associations among active, Air Guard, and Air Reserve elements, and it “significantly increases the Air National Guard’s footprint in Associate units.”
The service has said it doesn’t plan to issue publicly a list of the TFI initiatives; rather the initiatives will trickle out at the local level as actions unfold. However, it already has shared such a list with Congress, sparking a quick reaction from Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, who complained about the absence of a flying mission for the 183rd Fighter Wing at Springfield.
Among the 60 or so new associations—the term USAF uses to describe a working relationship between two or more units that lets one “own” equipment, such as aircraft or space systems, and the others share in its operation and maintenance—are 36 Classic Associate, 20 Active Associate, and three Air Reserve Component Associate arrangements. In a “classic” arrangement, an active unit owns the equipment; in an “Active Associate” situation, a reserve unit owns the equipment; and in an ARC arrangement, one reserve unit owns the equipment shared with another reserve unit. The Classic Associate arrangement has been in use for many years, but the other two are new. USAF created its first Active Associate unit just last year in Cheyenne, Wyo. (Read “High Plains Lifters.”)
Hickey told the Daily Report that the 36 Classic lash-ups “are likely in existing Air Force locations,” adding that they represent new and permanent missions for the reserve units assigned. About half of the total 138 mission sets are new, emerging, or stand-alone missions.
Many of the new missions are space-related, which Hickey said is ideal for reserve forces since it comprises “reach back participation” that minimizes disruption to their lives. For example, she noted that an Air Guard or Air Reserve airman flying a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle out of Nellis AFB, Nev., that is operating over Southwest Asia can more easily switch from their civilian job to their Air Force job “and then go home and coach the soccer team.”
The Air Force has been developing its Total Force Integration plan since 1997, when a strategic planning effort focused on the 2015 time frame clearly revealed a “bit of a train wreck coming,” said Hickey. The long-term study concluded that the future force would have fewer aircraft and would grow into new mission areas such as space and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance endeavors, including the greater use of UAVs. “Part of our strategic thinking about this was to ensure that new missions going into the Air Force [would] have reciprocal units in the Guard and Reserve,” said Hickey, adding, “There was never a process to do this before.”
The Air Force already has gotten funding for about 90 of the new mission sets. Other funding will come as the service works through the next Future Years Defense Plan. “The actual mission stand-ups will occur as we get close to whatever the mission requirement dates are,” she said. Some of the missions may reach initial operational capability in one FYDP and attain full operational capability later. For instance, the deployment of the MQ-9 Reaper UAV to the New York ANG will begin with training in Fiscal 2009, but the Air Guard won’t begin receiving its aircraft until 2010.
Hickey also said the Air Force believes that Congress should amend legislation that requires Defense Secretary approval to employ the Air National Guard full-time for operational missions and give that approval to the Secretary of the Air Force. Currently, SECAF can only approve full-time use of Reservists not Air Guardsmen. “What we need is to be able to use the Air National Guard under the same legal rules that we’ve got for the Air Force Reserve,” she said.
That may prove no easy task, given the number of lawmakers and governors still incensed at being left out of the Air Force’s BRAC plans for the Air Guard. And, then there is the more recent negative reaction (see “Latest ANG Brouhaha” at right) of the National Guard Caucus to a suggestion by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley that the Air Guard should more closely resemble the alignment of the Air Reserve with USAF.
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