Released: 3 Aug 1998
WASHINGTON -- In a transition from the Cold War to the 21st century era of contingency operations, Air Force leaders are moving the service toward a more expeditionary aerospace force within the next 18 months.
The expeditionary aerospace force, according to Acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters, should reduce today's extremely busy deployment tempo for Air Force people. It will also provide a more rapid, robust and flexible response capability.
The EAF will be responsive, according to Peters, "yet it will allow our people to spend more time at home and, through a strong schedule of unit rotations, all of our people -- active-duty, Guard and Reserve -- can plan for deployments as much as a year in advance.
"The expeditionary aerospace force is an evolutionary change for the Air Force," Peters said. "It will affect the way we think and how we organize, train, equip and sustain aerospace forces. It will also allow us to meet the requirements of the national military strategy and the challenges of a changing global security environment."
Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Air Force chief of staff, explained that the EAF will be a "significant transition in the way we do business." Since the end of the Cold War, he said, the Air Force has not been structured to efficiently meet the demands of the many hot spots around the world calling for U.S. help.
"Our forces have been overextended for several years because of a one-third reduction in manpower as contingency deployments increased fourfold," he said, adding that the EAF will address those problems.
"By January 2000," he said, "we'll have the mindset, procedures, doctrine and organization to allow the most effective use of people and resources to meet the national security requirements of the next century."
The EAF concept provides three key things for the Air Force, the warfighting commanders and the nation, according to Ryan:
-- Known, rapid response capability tailored to support a wide range of contingencies;
-- Predictability and stability across the force improving morale and retention; and
-- Further integration of the active, Guard, Reserve and civilian forces.
Lt. Gen. Lawrence Farrell, Air Force deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, emphasized that EAF does not move any units from their current locations: "This is not a restructuring of the baseline Air Force."
Instead, the EAF organizationally links forces in geographically-separated units into standing air expeditionary forces, or AEFs. These units would launch from Air Force installations and be ready to fight or deliver humanitarian supplies on very short notice.
In full operation, the AEFs would at once bring predictability to deployments and at the same time bring stability to a heavily tasked force, Farrell said. This added predictability in scheduling would also help the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve better support contingency taskings.
AEFs are already proven, according to Farrell, the Air Force having launched five of them since Operation Desert Storm. However, these previous AEFs were "tailor made" individual groupings, pulled together for only one deployment.
However, the chief of staff explained that the new expeditionary concept requires a force that is "light, lean and lethal."
-- Light means a reduced airlift requirement;
-- Being lean means using agile combat support to operate out of austere locations with minimal resupply; and
-- To be lethal, the EAF will create decisive effects and accomplish the mission effectively with minimum resources.
By January 2000, according to the acting secretary, the service will be organized with AEFs that will take turns being on call. The revamped structure, Peters said, will allow a more effective use of people and resources to meet the national security requirements of the next century.
Under the new plan, a typical AEF can be a package of fighters, bombers, tankers, tactical airlift, radar and electronic-warfare aircraft, along with space, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, with the appropriate complement of support people ready to deploy on short notice. The force could also be organized with elements capable of responding to humanitarian and disaster-relief emergencies.
The overall plan calls for the individual elements of each AEF to be organizationally linked with units from stateside and overseas. Today's widely dispersed Guard and Reserve forces would also be counted into the AEFs, getting guardsmen and reservists engaged on a regularly scheduled basis with active units for training and deployments. This increased predictability would allow more effective planning for contingencies such as Southern Watch.
"The Air Force has always had an expeditionary mission," Ryan said, "but we need better organization to manage and train to a wide range of capabilities. Using AEFs, we can rapidly respond to contingencies requiring different types of assets without upsetting baseline Air Force organizations.
"It's an effort to organize in a manner that lets us operate with a truly expeditionary mindset," he said. "At the same time, it would make the most efficient use of our people and resources.
"Our Air Force men and women are meeting every challenge they face with consummate commitment, and this gives them the backing to carry out that mission."
* Air National Guard
* Air Force Reserve Command
* F. Whitten Peters
* Lt. Gen. Lawrence Farrell
* Gen. Michael E. Ryan