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Air Force looks to cure Guard, Reserve wounds

Air Force leaders have taken to the podiums at the autumn conference circuit to try and cure wounds torn open by a budget battle that has pitted service leaders against the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Monday at the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition the service has worked with Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Stockton to re-examine the process of integrating the Guard and Reserve into the budgeting process.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh delivered a similar message last week at the National Guard Association of the United States General Conference in Reno, Nev. Welsh told Guard leaders he'd include them earlier in the budgeting process, making state requirements a higher priority.

“We have to fight and argue and throw emotion on the table and debate the tough issues,” he said. “We have to include … state requirements at the front end of this process, not at the end," Welch told Guard leaders.

Donley stood by the Air Force's decision to cut the size of the Air Force -- more so the Guard and Reserve than active duty -- in order to maintain quality and the ability to grow in future years to account for unforseen threats. He explained the service must balance force structure, readiness and modernization with a smaller budget.

"The strategic balance has to be maintained in a fashion that will not break the active duty, Guard or Reserve," Donley said.

With personnel cuts looming , Air Force Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. James Jackson said Monday that future force reductions will hurt the Air Force Reserve’s overall mission effectiveness.

The Air Force Reserve is part of every mission area the Air Force has responsibility over, Jackson said at the Air Force Association’s meeting at National Harbor, Md. Whether it involves global strike missions, cyber operations, weather reconnaissance or mortuary affairs, “we have units, personnel and equipment in every single one of these enduring contributions that the Air Force does,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s comments come as Air Force’s senior leadership is proposing to cut 900 Reserve personnel in 2013. In addition, the Air Force’s plan would cut 5,100 Air National Guard members and 3,900 active duty members.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the Council of Governors have opposed the plan because it threatens to drain experienced personnel that the Guard and Reserve cannot afford to lose.

Jackson said the Air Force Reserve performs 100 percent of the Air Force’s weather reconnaissance and aerial spraying missions and is involved in 60 percent of the service’s air-medical operations. While he offered few specifics, Jackson said he wanted to see his command take on an expanded role in missions such as aerial firefighting.

Jackson, who has been in the job less than two months, said he plans to ensure the Reserve remains a “combat-ready, cost-effective and experienced force.”

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