A new Congressional Budget Office report analyzes the potential recruiting and retention factors affecting each of the services through 2011 of the Future Years Defense Program. For the Air Force, the CBO looks at the coming personnel reductions that will drop the service’s planned active duty end strength from 351,800 for 2006 to 316,500 in 2011. (The CBO data, developed earlier this year, also includes cuts USAF expected to make to the Air National Guard, but Guard officials have decided not to reduce personnel. The Air Force Reserve does plan some strength cuts.) According to CBO, the Air Force must tread carefully as it attempts to manipulate accessions and continuations to control end strength numbers. If the service maintains the continuation rates it used to restrict end strength in 2005, it would fall more than 11,000 below its desired end strength by 2010. Of course, it could offset a reduced continuation rate by increasing its accessions goals over the FYDP, but recruiting is never a sure thing.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.