Traditionally, the reserve forces of the United States have comprised a pool of military manpower and units available to expand our forces rapidly toward required wartime strength. In every war in which the United States has been involved, these “citizen soldiers” have been a most important factor in achieving our national security objectives.
Nevertheless, in recent years it has become apparent to the Air Force that something more than a pool type of reserve force would be required in the event of future wars. To be truly effective in the modern era of ballistic missiles, supersonic aircraft, and nuclear weapons, our air reserve forces must be an “in-being” part of Air Force combat and support capabilities—comparable in effectiveness and readiness to our first-line active units.
Today, our air reserve forces do comprise a significant portion of this nation’s over-all aerospace capability. An idea of the current importance of our air reserve forces in terms of total force can be gained from the fact that two-thirds of the tactical reconnaissance units, nearly half of the tactical fighter units, and more than three-fourths of the troop carrier units available to the Tactical Air Command in an emergency are contained in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. In addition, a considerable portion of our interceptor fighter defense capability is in the Air National Guard.
Despite these substantial contributions, it has become apparent, through comprehensive study of the possible uses of the air reserve forces, that there is additional potential in these forces—a potential which if efficiently managed would result in better utilization of our total Air Force resources—both in wartime and in peacetime. Consequently, the Air Force approved a new plan for the management of the air reserve forces—a plan generated in response to several factors. These included: The necessary and vital role that the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve play in our present-day over-all aerospace power; their proven capability to perform wartime missions; the desire to find more useful missions that the reserve forces could effectively and economically accomplish; and the requirement to gear the combat and support units to a much higher degree of operational readiness.
The high cost of maintaining aerospace power and the comparatively lower cost of using reserve forces to perform some of the necessary functions of the Air Force mission clearly indicate the desirability of assigning to the air reserve forces greater responsibilities in certain areas. In many cases these forces already have demonstrated their capability to assume such responsibilities.
Fine as the record of the air reserve forces has been, the Air Force and members of the air reserve forces must jointly continue to exert every effort toward improving the value and usefulness of the reserves. In this respect, the new management plan for the air reserve forces provides for a closer integration of the reserves into the active establishment than ever before. It accomplishes this by placing the responsibility for peacetime supervision of training and for the measurement of training progress and capability of reserve force units in the hands of the Air Force commands which would have operational control over these units in an emergency.
The new plan also puts the vast and virtually untapped reservoir of planning and management ability in the reserve forces to work by providing for much of the management of the Air Force Reserve program to be done by reservists themselves—in region headquarters as well as in local units.
The plan also provides—in addition to the specific new missions—for the assignment of additional missions to the reserve forces whenever such missions will improve the Air Force’s over-all capabilities.
I am confident that implementation of this plan will result in greater contributions by the air reserve forces to the over-all Air Force mission and will permit more effective and economical utilization of our total Air Force resources. This, in turn, will enable the Air Force to perform its share of the total national defense task more efficiently.