The Airlift Question

One of the big questions percolating in Air Force circles remains the strategic airlift capability that will be needed to support the increase in size of the Army and Marine Corps. The issue became even murkier this week with the comments of Vice Adm. Steve Stanley, the joint staff’s director of force structure, resources, and assessment. Going against the grain of everything that we have heard USAF officials and even Army officials say, Stanley said that the strategic airlift requirement won’t necessarily change in the years ahead as ground forces grow in number. “Our strategic lift requirement is based on different war-fighting scenarios,” the admiral said on Feb. 4 while discussing the Pentagon’s $515.4 billion spending request for Fiscal 2009. “Just because we grew the size of the ground forces doesn’t mean that our predictions about the percentage of those forces that need to be rapidly deployed, like the strategic airlift, has changed. It means that the force that we need to have available on a day-to-day basis for rotational type missions—deployment missions—has grown. So it’s not directly related, but the department is going to be updating those mobility capability studies.” Come again? (For more on strategic airlift, read The C-17 and the Airlift Question).