Addressing Manpower Needs

Newly appointed Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz says the Air Force likely will assign the personnel that it will add to its active duty roster to hold its end strength at 330,000 to priority areas such as the nuclear enterprise, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, and perhaps aircraft maintenance missions. “I can tell you that we are going to put [them] to where we need them most,” Schwartz told reporters during a press briefing with Acting Air Force Secretary Michael Donley in the Pentagon on Aug. 12. Schwartz said these decisions are “yet to be finalized.” But “the bottom line,” he added, is that the issue “certainly has the Secretary’s and my personal attention.” Donley emphasized that the additional manpower is “a pretty important change” for the service, which was scheduled to draw down to about 316,000 in Fiscal 2009 based on plans drafted several years ago, but later judged to be overtaken by events. “The main thing for us,” Donley continued, “is not just the number, but obviously the mix, in terms of what new missions need to be covered and new requirements need to be covered in that 330[K]. So we’ve been looking at that very hard.” As of April 30, active duty end strength stood at almost 324,000 as the drawdown was still in effect. But then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put the brakes on the reductions in June, shortly after the purge of the service’s top leadership.