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Air Force vice chief: Total Force key as budget pressures increase

WASHINGTON -- Maintaining a highly capable Total Force will be key to the Air Force mission as the service faces the challenges of the future, the vice chief of staff of the Air Force said here Sept. 28.

"This is a tough time for all of us to serve our countries," Air Force Gen. Phil Breedlove said to members of the international Reserve forces community during the 2011 International Air Reserve Symposium.

"Throughout the history of the United States military, we've had probably four big periods of what we would call downsizing - or adjusting - after big wars," he said. "This is the first time we've ever tried to downsize our military while we're fully involved in conflict, and that is making for an exciting interchange with our national leaders."

Breedlove said he is confident about the future, due in large part to the relationship the Air Force has with its reserve components.

"That relationship inside our Air Force is different than those within our sister services," he said. "Air Force officials have been able to call on our reserve components to fill gaps in required capability...and they have never let us down."

Thousands of citizen Airmen are currently activated, and a large percentage of Air Force fighter, airlift and tanker aircraft reside in the Reserve or Air National Guard, he said.

"We would be unable to do our mission if we did not have the participation of our reserve components," Breedlove said.

The Air Force also gets the benefit of the years of experience that reside in the reserve components, the general said.

As an example, Breedlove said a typical reserve component fighter unit will have a much higher experience rate than a similar active duty unit because its personnel are usually more senior.

"So not only do the reserve components bring mass and surge capability, but they also bring a little different level of experience," Breedlove said.

The general stressed that while impending budget reductions will likely result in a smaller Air Force, senior leaders are committed to ensuring the service remains a high quality and well-trained force.

"As our Air Force changes its size, we need to balance the availability of our reserve components," Breedlove said. "We'll have to use what we have, and that is going to be a challenge for all of us as we move forward."

Just as budget pressures will affect the active duty force, Breedlove said the Guard and Reserve will be affected as well.

"Our reserve force in the Air Force is very much an operational reserve force," he said. "They fill almost every tasking that they have through volunteers, and I fear that could come under pressure."

The general said he is confident that Airmen across the Total Force will meet such challenges head on, and ensure a quality Air Force for the nation that includes a highly capable Guard and Reserve.

"They are a part of our everyday business and a part of how we get business done," Breedlove said.
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