Force Structure:

Potential Exists to Further Reduce Active Air Force Personnel

NSIAD-97-78: Published: Mar 28, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 1997.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Carol R. Schuster
(202) 512-3958
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO reviewed the Air Force's personnel reduction efforts, focusing on: (1) how the size and composition of the active Air Force has changed since 1986; (2) whether the Air Force has sufficient numbers of personnel to meet wartime requirements; and (3) whether there is potential to further reduce the active force that could result in a more efficient force.

GAO noted that: (1) between fiscal year (FY) 1986 and 1997, the Air Force will reduce its active military personnel from over 600,000 to 381,100, or by 37 percent; (2) mission forces have been reduced at a much greater rate than infrastructure forces during the last decade; (3) as a result, approximately two-thirds of the Air Force's 381,100 active duty personnel are now allocated to infrastructure functions such as installation support and acquisition; (4) further, today's smaller force has a higher ratio of officers than in 1986; (5) potential exists to reduce the active Air Force below the 381,100 minimum level set by Congress, without adversely affecting the Air Force's war-fighting capability; (6) in May 1996, GAO suggested options to consolidate fighter squadrons which, if implemented, would permit the Air Force to maintain the same number of aircraft but carry out its missions with fewer active duty personnel; (7) GAO has also reported that the Air Force could achieve savings by replacing military personnel in some administrative and support positions with civilian employees; (8) for FY 1998, the Air Force plans to seek statutory authority to reduce the active force by about 9,400 below the current minimum; (9) GAO's analysis shows the majority of these planned decreases are in infrastructure functions; (10) prompted by the Secretary of Defense's goal to reduce infrastructure to free funds for force modernization, the Air Force has recently identified a potential to reduce the active force by as many as 75,000 additional military personnel beyond FY 1998; (11) the Air Force is reviewing options for replacing military personnel assigned to infrastructure functions with civilian employees or contractors that may be able to perform some functions at less cost than military personnel; (12) the actual number of active personnel that will ultimately be replaced will depend on the results of continuing Air Force analysis to determine whether such substitutions will be organizationally feasible and cost-effective; (13) the Air Force projects it would have an active wartime shortage of about 19,600 personnel if two major regional conflicts occurred; (14) however, the Air Force does not need additional active personnel to cover this wartime shortage because it has identified ways to compensate for the shortage; and (15) moreover, this shortage would present little risk in carrying out the military strategy since it primarily affects forces that would provide operating support for bases in the United States rather than in the forces that would deploy to war.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO's work on competitive sourcing over the past 2 years has shown that the Air Force is continuing to study whether it can replace military personnel with contractors or civilian employees. However, the Air Force's goals have changed over time, and it has not developed a comprehensive plan with timeframes as GAO envisioned. Rather, the Air Force has revised its competitive sourcing estimate with each new budget submission and is examining alternative approaches such as strategic sourcing (which provides a complete functional or organizational assessment of government functions and activities but does not require competition between the public and private sectors).

    Recommendation: Several ongoing Air Force studies have identified the potential to replace military personnel with contractors or civilian employees. Therefore, once the ongoing studies are completed, the Secretary of the Air Force should develop a plan that identifies time frames to study whether it is more cost-effective to transfer commercial activities now performed by military personnel to civilian employees or private contractors.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force has developed a plan through fiscal year 2007 that identifies the number of military positions each year that will be studied to determine whether they can be converted to civilian positions or outsourced to the private sector. In total, the Air Force plans to conduct A-76 studies of 8,374 military positions.

    Recommendation: Several ongoing Air Force studies have identified the potential to replace military personnel with contractors or civilian employees. Therefore, once the ongoing studies are completed, the Secretary of the Air Force should develop a plan that includes time frames to convert military positions in inherently governmental functions to civilian positions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 21, 2016

Sep 19, 2016

Sep 12, 2016

Sep 8, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Sep 6, 2016

Aug 25, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here