Taking the Total Force Forward

Making her first public appearance as Air Force Secretary, Deborah Lee James testified before the final public hearing of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, telling the panel more work must still be done to better tie the Air Force’s Active Duty and Reserve components together. James, who served in the Pentagon in the 1990s as the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said the Fiscal 2013 budget tensions reminded her of similar Active-Reserve component service issues in the aftermath of the Cold War. But just a few weeks into her new position, James told the commission she believes USAF has made “enormous progress” on the differences between the components. She said a lot of that credit must be given to the Total Force Task Force, set up by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. TF2 helped discover a capability and cost “starting point” on which USAF can base future force shaping initiatives, she added. “It’s a lot better than I thought it would be,” James said of the state of Total Force relations. She said the Air Force has since stood up the “total force continuum” in the Air Staff’s strategic plans division, which is charged with continuing the task force’s work on the Air Staff.