Report: Sequestered Air Force Should Cut Active Duty, Boost Reserves

Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force's chief of staff, has testified about the impact budget cuts will have on the military branch. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force's chief of staff, has testified about the impact budget cuts will have on the military branch. Defense Department file photo

Facing a budget crunch, the Air Force should scale back its number of active forces, while boosting its reserve members, a report released Thursday recommends.

"Greater reliance on a larger Air Reserve Component provides a quick, 'reversible' way to generate manpower cost savings," according to the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force's findings.

The report added that recommended changes aren't "a criticism of the preceding force structure" but a suggestion on how to comply with budget caps imposed by Congress.

Reserve forces are less expensive than active forces, and by reducing spending in military personnel, the report notes the Air Force could use the funds to offset "cuts to readiness, modernization, and recapitalization."

The commission was created by Congress as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act after members pushed back against a Pentagon plan to scale back its Air Guard.

And the Air Force isn't alone in trying to find ways to save money. Pentagon officials are trying to decide where to cut more than $40 billion from its 2015 budget request. Officials said last year that they would request $542 billion for the 2015 fiscal year, but base spending for the Defense Department under the budget agreement is $498 billion.

And one potential -- but serious -- roadblock to any cuts is Congress. Members are working to block the Air Force from retiring the A-10 ground-attack aircraft to help free up spending for newer planes. And last year Congress rejected the Defense Department's request to reduce the number of bases it does not need.

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