The Air Staff’s new personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Richard Newton, basically told the House Armed Services military personnel panel Feb. 26 that self-financing weapon system recapitalization on the backs of airmen has come to an end. He stated in his written testimony, “Maintaining a Required Force of 86 modern combat wings will also be significantly impacted by current programmed reductions in Air Force end strength.” He explained that the service has submitted a report to Congress outlining USAF’s “Total Force end strength requirement due to new and emerging missions” that calls for “681.9K in FY09 growing to 688.5K by FY15.” (These numbers would include active, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command, and civilians.) The Air Force has been on a planned downslope to an active end strength of 316,600, but service leaders have indicated that may be too big a bite. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen recently questioned whether USAF could find another billion dollars or so to maintain an active end strength of 330,000. Newton said that the Total Force report explains how USAF “will fund” both a larger than 316,000 active force and its 86 combat wings.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.