04 August 1998
(10 combat-ready units will be key to reorganization) (630) By Jacquelyn S. Porth USIA Security Affairs Writer Washington -- Recognizing that the United States needs to have a permanent capability to respond rapidly to multiple emergencies around the world, the Air Force announced plans August 4 to reorganize equipment and personnel into 10 Air Expeditionary Forces (AEFs) beginning in the year 2000. Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Ryan says the decision represents a shift from a strategy of containment to one of global engagement. He told reporters at the Pentagon that it represents "a real paradigm shift." Each unit will be able to provide "decisive firepower and humanitarian support," according to Acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters, who accompanied Ryan at a Pentagon briefing on the reorganization strategy. He says the new plan will "link geographically separated Air Force operational wings, groups, and squadrons -- Active, Reserve, and Guard -- into AEFs, each with a cross-section of Air Force weapons systems to include fighters, bombers, support aircraft and tactical airlift, with integrated command and control, trained as a unit to respond rapidly and decisively to potential crises anywhere in the world or to fill in rotational assignments such as Operation Southern Watch" in Iraq. Peters said under the new initiative each AEF will be "tailored" to the particular contingency it will support whether it is in Bosnia or Africa. This will allow air forces to be "lighter, leaner, and more lethal than ever before," he added. It is meant to provide "a superior 21st century fighting force," he said. According to the plan, which will be implemented on January 1, 2000, each AEF will be on-call every 15 months to handle any emergency overseas for a 90-day period; two AEFs will be on-call at any given moment. The plan will allow Air Force Active, Reserve and Guard units to train together deploying from some 29 military bases in the United States and overseas. Each AEF will be equipped with 175 aircraft with a full spectrum of capabilities such as F-15 fighters, A-10 attack aircraft, C-130 transports, E-3 surveillance as well as refueling aircraft. F-117 Stealth fighters and B-52 and B-2 bombers also will be available for deployments if needed as part of the package. The plan attempts to address a number of factors including the desire: -- to have a more agile force, -- to improve the quality of life by lowering the tempo of operations for Air Force personnel who have been deployed overseas with ever greater frequency since the end of the Cold War; -- to use the Air Force Guard and Reserve forces more effectively, particularly as the numbers in the active Air Force continue to decline; -- to boost efforts to retain qualified military pilots; and -- to provide more advance warning for families and employers regarding planned deployments. Ryan said the driving force behind the Expeditionary Aerospace Force is to ensure a world class Air Force. This involves responding quickly to "many pop-up contingencies" as well as easing the burden on overworked military personnel. In the past six years, for example, the Air Force has conducted more than 500 humanitarian missions to the former Soviet Union. In the past two years, there have been more than 60 Air Force deployments dealing with counter-narcotics efforts in Latin America. Peters pointed out that the Air Force still will respond to major theater wars outside of the AEF organization "in accordance with existing war plans." But as the AEF structure matures, he said, "we expect it to be used for major theater wars as well as contingencies."