Abolishing Air Force Reserve Command ‘dead in the water’

wcrenshaw@macon.comApril 30, 2014 

Senator Saxby Chambliss at the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing for the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force

SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS

WARNER ROBINS -- Recent comments by the Air Force’s top civilian have all but erased concerns about a recommendation to abolish Air Force Reserve Command.

The 21st Century Partnership, a Robins Air Force Base booster, says the issue is now off its radar. The command employs about 1,100 people at the base.

At a Tuesday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on a report by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James opposed the recommendation, at least for now.

“I absolutely do not agree with the disestablishment of the reserve command, until such time in the future that we have really and totally cracked the integration nut so well that we will no longer need a team of people currently at the command who are specialized in taking care of 70,000 reservists,” she said.

She was responding to a question by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican with close ties to Robins.

Any decision to abolish Air Force Reserve Command ultimately rests with Congress. However, James’ comments effectively put the issue to rest for the near future, said Chrissy Miner, chief operating officer for the 21st Century Partnership.

“If the Air Force doesn’t support it and Congress doesn’t support it, then it’s dead in the water,” Miner said.

When the report came out in January, Georgia’s congressional delegation immediately came out against the recommendation on abolishing Air Force Reserve Command. Miner said there have been no indications of support for the recommendation elsewhere in Congress.

Chambliss also noted that the military construction budget for next year includes funding for a new Air Force Reserve Command headquarters at Robins.

The recommendation to abolish the reserve command came as a surprise to Air Force brass because it had not been discussed in the committee’s hearings. The Air Force says it has embraced many other aspects of the report and is already implementing those recommendations.

The recommendation on Air Force Reserve Command called for putting reservists under the command of the active-duty Air Force. It drew criticism from the start because opponents of it said the reserve command is needed for its specialized expertise in managing a part-time force.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh had indicated to a group of local officials visiting Washington recently that he didn’t support the committee recommendation.

“I appreciate the strong support that Secretary James and Gen. Welsh have shown for Air Force Reserve Command and the role it plays in supporting the 70,000 Reservists serving around the world,” Lt. Gen. James Jackson, Air Force Reserve Command commander, said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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