Continental Air Defense:

A Dedicated Force Is No Longer Needed

NSIAD-94-76: Published: May 3, 1994. Publicly Released: May 3, 1994.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO assessed the viability of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's recommendations to significantly reduce the continental air defense mission and assign the mission tasks to existing active and reserve general-purpose combat and training forces.

GAO found that: (1) the United States no longer needs a large, dedicated air defense force because the former Soviet Union no longer poses a significant threat; (2) other general-purpose combat and training forces' aircraft are capable of performing the air defense and sovereignty missions that the dedicated force has been performing; (3) the locations of reserve and active units would support air defense coverage requirements; (4) active and reserve pilots have skills comparable to those of pilots in the air defense force; and (5) the Chairman's recommendations could result in significant cost savings. GAO also found that: (1) in response to the Chairman's recommendations, the Air Force proposed to retain and slightly reduce the air defense mission within the Air National Guard as a dedicated force; (2) the Air Force would still incur significant personnel, operating, and support costs; and (3) although the Department of Defense (DOD) has not formally endorsed the Air Force's plan, the DOD fiscal year 1995 budget submission reflects adoption of the plan.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although DOD partially concurred with the report, the President's fiscal year 1996 budget reduced the size of the force by half, thus saving about $97.4 million annually.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should not approve the Air Force's plan unless it is modified to: (1) eliminate or sharply reduce the dedicated air defense force; and (2) reassign the air defense mission to active and reserve general-purpose and training units.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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