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The Symbiotic Relationship between the Air Force's Active and Reserve Components: Ensuring the Health of the Total Force

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Journal article

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Following most major conflicts in our nation s history, the military services downsized, and their active component AC and reserve component RC faced similar dilemmas. Specifically, they had to maintain personnel readiness, modernize equipment, and retain enough force structure to meet defense strategy on a reduced budget. That situation hasn t changed. The war in Iraq is over, and major combat operations in Afghanistan remain on track to end in 2014. In the wake of these conflicts, the Air Force s AC and RC find themselves locked in a zero-sum competition over the future structure of the service. Driven by deep budget cuts, skyrocketing costs for readiness and modernization, and a new defense strategy, the Air Force proposed retaining capability and saving money by cutting force structure, primarily from the RC. Congress and the state governors, however, disagreed and placed the Air Force s plan on hold. They asserted that reserve forces were less expensive and attacked the Air Force s decision to cut the RC rather than the AC. The fact is that both the AC and RC can argue that they are less expensive, given the right set of assumptions and conditions. Such a position oversimplifies the complex interdependencies between the components that one needs to take into account when considering force-structure adjustments. The ongoing debate about cost drains time and energy from headquarters staffs, obscuring the real work necessary to ensure the health of the total force and its ability to meet national defense requirements as we adjust to a postwar drawdown. This article introduces the concept of a symbiotic relationship between the AC and RC. It provides a means of elevating the componentcentric cost debate that is driving the AC and RC apart by enabling a broader system-level dialogue on the health of the total force a dialogue intended to bring the components back together.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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