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"As we continue to transition from a forward-based garrison force into an expeditionary aerospace force capable of responding to the full spectrum of military operations anywhere in the world, we are finding the lines that divide the active duty from the Guard and Reserve aren't as well defined as they were in the past. And I think we'll see those lines become even more blurred in the years to come."
Col. James Kempf
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April 2001 issue

The Future Total Force
Program explores bold, innovative ideas to improve tomorrow's aerospace force

By Bo Joyner

     While nobody knows exactly what the Total Force of the future will look like, Col. James Kempf is convinced it will be significantly different than the Total Force of today. Kempf, who works in the Air Force Directorate of Strategic Planning on an initiative called Future Total Force, knows that to succeed the Air Force of Future Total Force artworktomorrow will have to do a better job of integrating the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard with the active duty.
     “As we continue to transition from a forward-based garrison force into an expeditionary aerospace force capable of responding to the full spectrum of military operations anywhere in the world, we are finding the lines that divide the active duty from the Guard and Reserve aren’t as well defined as they were in the past,” Kempf said. “And I think we’ll see those lines become even more blurred in the years to come.”
     Under the Future Total Force umbrella, Kempf and his co-workers are examining a host of different ideas and concepts that could have a tremendous impact on how the Air Force of tomorrow operates.
     Originally established by Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan in 1998, the Future Total Force project was designed to explore potential solutions to some of the Air Force’s most pressing recruiting, retention, manning and budgetary problems. The people assigned to the project have been given the freedom to “think way outside the box” to come up with concepts that might strengthen the rapidly evolving Air Force of the 21st century, Kempf said.
     “Our society has changed tremendously since the 1950s, but the basic structure of the military hasn’t kept pace,” he said. “We are going to have to start thinking and operating differently to keep up with the changing times.”
     Among other concepts, Future Total Force experts are looking at how the Air Force can offer more flexible career alternatives that would enable airmen to move seamlessly between the active-duty, Reserve, National Guard and civilian programs. They believe increased career flexibility may be one way of dealing with the pilot shortage.
     “For example, one alternative career path might require new active-duty pilots to serve for seven or eight years,” Kempf said. “If they wish to jump to the airlines at that time, let them go but require them to fly for the Guard or Reserve, part time, for another seven or eight years. Then, if they wish, they could return to active duty at any time, increasing their military career to 30 to 35 years in a combination of active, reserve, active, etc., duty.”
     This “alternative career,” which is a major departure from traditional career progression and patterns, recognizes that today’s economic and social trends are evolving from those of the past, and organizations need a degree of flexibility to retain highly trained people with differing circumstances and family goals.
     “It also recognizes that most reservists today are really part-time active-duty personnel, often with many years of prior military experience,” Kempf said. “Alternative career patterns recognize the potential of what (former) Secretary of Defense William Cohen visualized several years ago as a ‘seamless’ military — a fully interactive, interdependent, co-partnering organization.
     “This alternative career program would keep pilots flying longer at a lower cost to the Air Force, provide a greater return on the taxpayers’ training dollar, utilize trained pilots’ skills longer and let them earn top dollar with the airlines during the prime of their careers. Everybody would benefit. This is just a proposal, but it shows the kinds of things we are looking at.”
     One of the Future Total Force’s proposals that has already been adopted focuses on Air Force operations in Alaska.
     “For example, for years the positions at Clear Air Force Station (a radar facility in Alaska) were filled by active-duty airmen who served their one-year remote tour working 12 hours on and 12 off,” Kempf said. “In many cases, they weren’t happy being there, especially if separated from their families. As you might expect, they quite often got out of the Air Force after their service obligation was up.
     “Air Force Space Command, working with the Alaska Air Guard, has begun the process, which is expected to take several years, to convert these positions to active Guard and Reserve slots. Recruiting for the jobs is easier because you find people who want to, or do already, live in the area. The Air Force can promise them a long career, and they do not have to move. They will have promotion opportunities at this location. In addition, the Air Force benefits because it keeps trained and experienced people whose proficiency and job knowledge will remain high.”
     A similar conversion is under way within a Pacific Air Forces air control squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
     “What is notable about these initiatives is that they take advantage of the local Reserve-Guard work force and apply it to the active-duty mission while maintaining active-duty command. In a sense, what is being created is a new type of active-duty person having some characteristics of historic career patterns and practices of Reserve and Guard personnel,” Kempf said. 
     One of the Future Total Force’s main objectives is to find ways to allow the Air Force to retain its critical human resources longer and use them more productively. It’s also committed to consolidating duplicate functions found in the active duty, Guard and Reserve.
     “We’ve spent a great deal of time examining the associate unit program and looking at ways the Air Force can improve and expand on it,” Kempf said. “The active associate unit at Duke Field (Fla.) is a great example of taking the associate concept to a different level.”
     In an active associate unit, the Reserve owns the aircraft, while the active force provides air crews and maintainers who share the responsibility of flying and maintaining the planes. This setup differs from the Reserve’s traditional associate unit program, in which reservists fly and maintain aircraft owned by the active duty. 
     At Duke Field, the active duty’s 8th Special Operations Squadron and 716th Maintenance Squadron serve with Air Force Reserve Command’s 919th Special Operations Wing. They fly and maintain MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft, which are designed to deliver and pick up people and equipment in hostile territory. They also air refuel special operations helicopters. 
     “The Future Total Force staff believes this active associate concept should be further tested by expanding it to other missions where, for example, active-duty personnel could be assigned to a Reserve unit and offered, say, a 10-or-more-year guaranteed duty assignment,” Kempf said. “Research studies reflect that such a practice could increase operational capability, reduce infrastructure and costs, and expand training capabilities. The flexibility of such a unit’s people would provide increased unit experience levels while decreasing personnel tempo issues and perhaps improving retention.”
     In the opposite direction, Future Total Force planners recently proposed establishing a traditional associate Reserve maintenance squadron to be placed inside the active-duty 93rd Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga. The 93rd flies the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft. JSTARS is a long-range, air-to-ground surveillance system designed to locate, classify and track ground targets in all weather conditions.
     Air Combat Command and Air Force Reserve Command staffs are busy working on programming issues for the associate squadron. In this case, the active-duty wing would simply absorb a stable, long-term cadre of Reserve workers within its normal structure. 
     A similar, but smaller-scale, initiative is occurring at the 97th Intelligence Squadron, Offutt AFB, Neb., to support the RC-135 mission there. In this year’s budget proposal, the Air Force proposes converting several active-duty linguist positions to full-time AGR status to permit the long-term hiring of some Reserve individual mobilization augmentees who have been serving extended active-duty tours to fill shortages there the past couple of years. This action should permit redeployment of active-duty linguists to fill wartime readiness shortfalls and provide some operations tempo relief through assumption of home training duties and deployments.
     The new full-time AGRs would also be available to train the traditional IMAs assigned to the 97th, relieving that task from the active duty.
     “A traditional IMA Reserve structure at such a unit often seemed in recent years to be just another extra burden to already over-tasked active-duty members,” Kempf said. 
     Future Total Force analysts are currently looking at another program that might help the Air Force better find, utilize and retain highly trained people. It’s known as the Sponsored Reserve concept, and it’s being studied and used by military services in other countries, including Great Britain, Australia and Canada. The British are way ahead in actually implementing the concept, Kempf said. 
     Sponsored Reserve refers to a provision in a defense contract that requires the contractor to have a specified number of its employees participate as military reservists.
     “Under this arrangement, sponsored reservists may be mobilized and deployed to contingency operations as uniformed members, rather than civilian contractors,” a Future Total Force report said.
     “The advantage to the contractor may be entry into lines of business previously unavailable to them or an expansion in the scope of existing business. The advantage to the employee may come in the form of additional pay, benefits and job opportunities as well as the protection that serving in a military status provides in a foreign theater or combat zone. The advantage to the military is the ability to deal with force reductions, privatization and recruiting/training/retention challenges while retaining required military presence and status to seamlessly support peacetime, contingency and wartime requirements.”
     “The British have had success with their Sponsored Reserve Program, but it’s still a relatively new idea,” Kempf said. “We are looking to see if a Sponsored Reserve Program could work for today’s Air Force and how we could best implement such a program.”
     Several small-scale tests of the concept are targeted for late spring or summer.
Future Total Force analysts are also looking at the possibility of establishing a single personnel/manpower system for the active duty and reserve components.
     “Having one system might make more sense,” Kempf said. “As the walls between the active duty, Guard and Reserve start coming down and you move toward a true Total Force, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a single system?” 
     In a recent memorandum to the service secretaries and assistant secretaries of the Defense Department,  the secretary of defense pointed to such an integrated system as a necessity for the U.S. military in the future.
     “The idea of integrating service military personnel and manpower systems would not just potentially lower annual operating costs, but it would help locate and place people with military skills and experience more effectively, including drawing personnel from the different components to fill jobs and taskings anywhere they occur,” Kempf said. 
     The colonel went on to say that the Air Force has taken some small steps toward fully integrating its active and reserve components, but for the Air Force to thrive in a rapidly changing world environment, it must take this integration a step further.
     “That’s what the Future Total Force project is all about,” he said. “Looking for innovative new ways for the Air Force to operate more efficiently with more capability at a lower cost.”