I'ts official now: The 81st Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Wing (USAFE), Spangdahlem AB, Germany, have been identified for inactivation in fiscal year 2013.
On Thursday, the Pentagon released additional details about planned reductions in the U.S. military presence in Europe as part of a budget-cutting drive.
One of the changes: Deactivate the 81st Fighter Squadron of A-10 aircraft at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during 2013. The change will affect about 525 U.S. airmen, who will be reassigned based on the needs of the Air Force.
Related news coverage:
Spangdahlem A-10 squadron to shut down
By Jill Laster - Staff writer
Air Force Times
Posted: Thursday Feb 16, 2012 16:03:48 EST
The Air Force will lose an A-10 squadron in Germany as well as an air control squadron in Italy as part of proposed budget cuts in fiscal 2013, a senior defense official said Thursday.
The 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, would be inactivated under the Air Force's plan, eliminating 20 A-10s and 525 airmen's positions. The 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, would also be cut along with 336 positions.
The defense official, speaking to reporters on background during a press briefing, said the U.S. plans to reduce its force numbers in Europe from 80,000 to 70,000 over the next five years. Those cuts include the loss of two Army brigades and 2,500 soldiers in Germany.
Force structure changes hit 52nd Fighter Wing
by Staff Reports
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2/17/2012 - SPANGDHALEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz announced detailed force structure changes to take effect in Fiscal Year 2013 at a press conference at the Pentagon Feb. 3.
The Air Force will cut 286 aircraft to include 123 fighters, 133 mobility aircraft and 30 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. Among the fighter aircraft that will be retired are 102 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and this reduction includes the A-10s of the 81st Fighter Squadron.
According to the USAF Force Structure Changes: Sustaining Readiness and Modernizing the Total Force white paper, [Air Force leadership] has accepted the risk in our Combat Air Forces by retiring or reclassifying aircraft from seven squadrons: five A-10 squadrons, one F-16 squadron and one training/support coded F-15 Aggressor squadron.
"There are still going to be 246 A-10s left in the inventory," Schwartz said. "We are doing close-air support with B-52s, with B-1s, certainly with F-16s and F-15s and AC-130 gunships."
The bottom line, he said, is there are plenty of assets that can deliver pinpoint close-air support.
"The United States Army and the United States Marine Corps and our own battlefield Airmen can rely on having plenty of close-air support provided by the United States Air Force from above," the general said.
These force structure changes mean a reduction of 9,000 Airmen - 3,900 active duty, 5,100 Air Guardsmen and 900 Air Force Reservists. Officials expect all these reductions can be made voluntarily.
Even though the Panthers have been identified as the overseas A-10 squadron to be retired, Col. Chris Weggeman, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, says the future of Spangdahlem AB still remains bright.
"As a service, we've been opening and closing squadrons for more than 60 years in response to the demands of time, and our base has weathered these storms along the way," he said.
The colonel also stressed that regardless of the type and number of aircraft assigned to the wing, "we have a massive capacity to provide ready and responsive combat power around the globe as recently demonstrated during Operation Odyssey Dawn."
The colonel equated the change to a smart tablet or phone with a robust capacity to support people during their daily lives by adding and subtracting a multitude of "apps" to meet individual needs.
"Spangdahlem will continue to be that smart tablet or phone," he said. "What the Air Force will continue to do is change the 'apps' we're running to ensure the greatest capability and capacity exists for us to achieve enduring mission success.
"The mighty Saber nation remains a strong and vital part of our U.S. Air Forces in Europe arsenal in the Eifel thanks to the dedication, strength and flexibility of our German-American friendship ... dare I say no one comes close!"
For more information on service changes or the Fiscal Year 2013 budget announced Feb. 13, visit http://www.af.mil or http://www.spangdahlem.af.mil.
(Editor's Note: Information used in this article came from Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.)
FY2013 budget cuts to impact U.S. Air Forces in Europe
from U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
2/17/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force released its fiscal 2013 budget Feb. 13 and stressed the need for difficult budgetary cuts to meet the new defense strategy while maintaining the service's agility, flexibility and readiness. These cuts include several impacts to force structure in Europe.
The Air Force is requesting $154.3 billion in the president's 2013 budget, a reduction of five percent from the $162.5 billion the service received in fiscal 2012. The impact of this reduction to U.S. Air Forces in Europe will include the inactivation of the 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base and the retirement of its 20 A-10 fighter aircraft. The Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base in Italy will also inactivate. More details on Air Force wide force structure changes and the impact to personnel will be announced in March. Both units will inactivate by the end of Fiscal Year 2013.
According to officials at U.S. European Command, the United States has an enduring interest in supporting peace, prosperity, unity and freedom in Europe, as well as bolstering the strength and vitality of NATO. Despite the announced force structure changes, the U.S. will maintain a robust military presence in Europe.
Budget reductions affect the entire Department of Defense and according to Maj. Gen. Edward L. Bolton Jr., the deputy assistant secretary for budget, "The Air Force made some very difficult choices. But it was our priority to tightly align with the new strategy and also stay within the fiscal environment as a result of the realities we are facing economically."
The Air Force Strategic Choices and Budget Priorities paper, released by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz on Jan. 27, calls for streamlining of the force, making it smaller and more efficient with care to not create a hollow force.
While the Air Force is working to adjust to a new strategic environment, the Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe emphasized the continuing importance of USAFE's forward presence.
"Despite the changes to our force structure and budget, close cooperation with Europe remains key to our national security strategy, and USAFE is a major part of that," said Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "We are strategically located and provide critical capabilities to NATO, EUCOM, AFRICOM and CENTCOM. From mobility, to communications, to logistics, to command and control, to contingency response ... USAFE remains vital."
Under the Budget Control Act, the Department of Defense is required to reduce expenditures by $487 billion over the next 10 years with a reduction of $259 billion over the next five.
"It is worth noting that our budget has reduced by 12 percent in real terms since FY09," Bolton said. "So we have seen a consistent trend of reductions in the budget.
"The Air Force budget portion of the Budget Control Act reductions over the next five years is $54 billion," Bolton said.
The Air Force's portion is not a result of simply dividing responsibility between the services. Instead, the budget amount is strategy driven, while maintaining a properly equipped force with the ability to deter, deny and defeat an opportunistic aggressor in a combined campaign anytime, anywhere, he added.
"The strategy requires a different force structure and different tools; the Air Force is realigning the total force to address the future," Bolton said.
The service has drawn down many times in the past, but never as a nation still at war. Previous size reductions focused more on maintaining force structure, which left the Air Force with a hollow force, he said.
"It is really about balancing risk among the themes of force structure, readiness, modernization and taking care of our people," Bolton said. "We have sized the force to the strategy within the fiscal constraints we are facing."
The Air Force is looking at a nearly $3 billion reduction in procurement cost because the service divested and is purchasing less hardware. Also, there is a reduction of about $500 million in research, development, testing and evaluation, but the Air Force continued its focus on modernizing key components that will maintain the service's technological edge, Bolton said.
"Funding for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and space remain a priority," he added. "We will continue to develop programs in ISR ensuring we are supplying this skill set to the joint warfighter and coalition partners."
According to Bolton, funding also remains in place for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter -- the centerpiece for future modernization to be able to prevail in contested environments.
"Ensuring fiscal goals are met and fleet modernization continues are only half of the goal in the new strategy," said Bolton. "Taking care of Airmen and their families is a key component and cannot get lost in talking of mere numbers.
"We are reducing the force by 9,900 Airmen, which will reduce the end strength of active duty, Guard and Reserve to around a 501,000 total force," he said. "This allows us to appropriately size the force structure to the strategy and hardware we are going to have in the inventory."
The Air Force is proposing a 1.7 percent military pay raise in fiscal 2013 and a 4.2 percent raise in basic allowance for housing and 3.4 percent raise in the basic allowance for subsistence as a continuing growth of compensation for service.
"We are budgeting more than $700 million for family programs including child and youth programs and child development centers," Bolton said. "We will continue to take care of our folks; we just need to ensure it is being done efficiently under tighter fiscal constraints."
Housing is a key ingredient to taking care of Airmen and the Air Force is close to reaching its goal of 53,000 privatized housing units force-wide with over 40,000 units in place and the remaining units to be ready in fiscal 2013.
"We've increased our family housing budget by $93 million and this will allow us to meet our goal," Bolton said. "Completing this transition is important because we have found through privatization we are able to increase the quality of housing for our Airmen and their families."
Looking back to the 2011 requirements -- military action and support in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting NATO missions in Libya, along with humanitarian support to Japan following a major earthquake -- Bolton reinforced the reach and responsibility placed on today's Airmen and emphasized the importance of providing them the tools required for a versatile force.
"We will continue to do everything we can to provide them with the tools they need to continue to be the best Air Force in the world for decades to come," Bolton said.
Editor's note: The U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Agency, USAFE Public Affairs and EUCOM Public Affairs contributed to this story
What the FY13 Budget means to USAFE
Commentary by Gen. Mark A. Welsh III
U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander
2/17/2012 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Since the first Gulf War, the U.S. has been engaged continuously in combat operations and U.S. Air Forces in Europe have played a critical role. Not only have we deployed thousands of our Airmen and assets, we have also served as an essential support platform enabling the long-term projection and sustainment of combat power throughout the U.S. Euprean Command, Central Command and Africa Command areas of responsibility. At the same time, NATO has increased both in size and scope of operations. Through all this, USAFE has steadily increased engagement and strengthened relations with our partners and Allies. We demonstrate the value of forward-based forces every day.
However, our challenges today are many and changing: a global economic slowdown, shrinking defense budgets, continuing operations in Afghanistan and the rise of missile threats to the U.S. and our allies. We're also witnessing a significant transition in the command's mission as we inactivate 17th Air Force and assume the role of air component to U.S. Africa Command in addition to our traditional role as the air component to U.S. European Command. We must meet these challenges head on to maintain our effectiveness and capabilities within a much larger area of responsibility.
Dealing with the same challenges on a global scale, the Department of Defense recently concluded a thorough review of our defense strategy and has begun a transition to a new approach that emphasizes future challenges, supports federal deficit reduction, and accounts for the declining costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Operating within constrained budgets is simply a reality. On February 13, the President presented a proposed budget to Congress that reflects these strategic changes and reductions, and includes a reduction of about $8 billion, or about 5%, in FY13 for the Air Force. Over the next 10 years, the DoD will need to cut more than $487 billion; $54 billion will come from Air Force accounts. Further, within the next year, the Air Force will bring the Total Force end strength down by around 9,900 Airmen.
What do these reductions and strategy changes mean for USAFE?
For the DoD and the entire Air Force, all of this means a shift in focus and a change in how we do business. Our senior leaders, including the President, have determined that our national focus needs to emphasize Asia and the Middle East. However, the new strategy also calls for continued engagement in Europe and Africa. As recent operations in Libya proved, USAFE's forward presence and close relationships within NATO and throughout our entire area of responsibility are of critical importance.
We must also target investments to ensure we have the resources to execute the missions of the future. We will be smaller, but we will be effective and well-trained. Let me be clear, even with these budget cuts, our military and our Air Force are by far the best resourced, best trained and best equipped in the world. We can and will adapt to the new paradigm. And as we always have in the past, we will meet these challenges head on.
Of course, changes to our strategic focus and reductions in Defense spending will change how USAFE looks in the future. The 81st Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem will be inactivated as part of an overall reduction of five A-10 squadrons. In addition, the 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano will be inactivated. While personnel reductions Air Force wide will often hit close to home, what that means for USAFE is still unclear.
However, this is not just about downsizing. It's about adapting to a changing environment. As Ballistic Missile Defense becomes more critical, our investment and participation in Integrated Air and Missile Defense in theater is increasing. We are also taking a hard look at all of our installations to ensure we are operating efficiently at every location and that we are postured to support future operations. There are certainly more changes to come, but we will work through them all carefully and we will ensure our people are taken care of.
The bottom line: USAFE has been and will remain critical to our national defense strategy. We have an expanding mission in terms of geography and operations, and the new strategy will continue to draw heavily on our forces and our enduring capabilities -- mobility access and throughput; communications throughput; logistical support and throughput; contingency response; and command and control in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Air Operations, ballistic missile defense, and humanitarian response. We will also continue to rely on and partner with our close friends and Allies, especially those who host our bases, personnel and families.
I know change is never fun, but it is necessary ... it is an opportunity to get better at what we do and there is no doubt in my mind that we will. As we move into the future together, let me thank you for all you do to ensure freedom's future.
The FY13 budget overview available on-line at http://www.saffm.hq.af.mil/budget/ provides a great look at many of the efforts we will continue to pursue from training, to building partnerships, to supporting our Allies, and more.
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