JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Leaders at Joint Base Charleston-Air Base announced plans March 10, 2014, that could reduce force structure positions at the base.
Those cuts would come if Congress approves the Air Force's proposal to convert eight C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft from primary to back-up inventory status as laid out in the Fiscal Year 2015 Presidential Budget.
These changes, which, if approved, could include the loss of one of Joint Base Charleston's four flying squadrons, reflect an Air Force-wide transition to a leaner, more cost-effective force, as the U.S. draws down from the longest conflict in its history.
Base leaders remain optimistic that Charleston will continue to fill a robust place in the Air Force's mission to conduct operations on the global stage.
"We will, in fact, become slightly smaller, but I'm confident that the country's combat power is very capable of providing for our nation's defense," said Col. James Fontanella, 315th Airlift Wing commander.
"The number of C-17s here wouldn't change under the President's budget proposal," Fontanella said. "The planes would stay on our ramp and would be allowed to be scheduled and receive maintenance, inspection and repairs. But their new status would drive a reduction in the associated manpower authorizations, because the crew ratios are tied to wartime requirements."
Col. Darren Hartford, 437th Airlift Wing commander, said these proposed changes are essentially a right-sizing effort.
"These changes reflect the fact that for more than a decade, we've had roughly 12 C-17s in the shop for preventative maintenance at any one time, but had manpower based on 100 percent of the aircraft being ready," Hartford said. "This move to recategorize some of the fleet would align our status with reality and, in so doing, adjust the manpower to support the combat-capable fleet."
For the remaining 36 C-17s in primary inventory status, the crew ratio would reduce even further, from 4.5 to 4.0, as part of an AF-wide effort to rebalance the force in a post-Afghanistan environment, Hartford said.
Altogether, base leaders could expect to lose flying aircrews and the associated maintenance crews.
In addition to cuts in the 437th and 315th Airlift Wings, the 628th Air Base Wing also would reduce some positions.
"Our primary job here at the 628th is to support our 53 mission partners," said Col. Jeffrey DeVore, 628th Air Base Wing commander and the Joint Base's installation commander. "Our authorizations correlate directly with their numbers, so a change for them often triggers an adjustment for us."
According to Air Force officials, leaders from the active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, and two state adjutants general, contributed to the decision process that led up to these proposed changes, with the intent of preserving capability and stability across the Total Force.
The air base will continue supplying combat-ready servicemembers for the deployed mission, while supporting and conducting inter-theater airlift operations, DeVore said.
Fontanella stressed the possibility of Airmen who are being cut from Active Duty, whether through force management programs or base restructuring, finding positions with the Reserve.
"I encourage anyone who may be interested to consider this option. The Reserve is looking for quality people, especially as budget constraints cause the Air Force to rely on the Total Force for more of its mission," Fontanella said.
Members who are interested in the Reserve can contact an on-base, Reserve recruiter at (843) 963-5358.
As of right now, there are no significant force structure changes proposed for the Joint Base Charleston-Naval Weapons Station.
For more information on proposed AF and DoD restructuring, visit the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review at http://www.defense.gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review.pdf.