The United States Air Force is on the verge of a significant restructuring initiative, set to be unveiled in the coming weeks, as part of the broader Pentagon effort to keep pace with China’s military expansion.
The restructuring involves consolidating some of the Air Force’s major three- and four-star commands, integrating fighter jets and bomber aircraft into unified units, and reinforcing its budget and planning capabilities, according to six sources familiar with the plans.
The primary objective of this overhaul is to streamline the Air Force’s bureaucratic structure and address the evolving challenges posed by China. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has been leading this initiative, known as “Reoptimizing for Great Power Competition,” since September.
Those who disclosed the details to POLITICO, including a Space Force official, three congressional aides, and two Air Force advisers, requested anonymity due to the plans not being public yet.
The restructuring aims to transform how the Air Force strategizes, budgets, and designs new aircraft. It is expected to catalyze new projects involving unmanned aircraft and fighter planes, especially at a time when defense budgets are anticipated to either slightly increase or remain relatively stable.
The announcement of these plans is scheduled for February 12 at the Air & Space Forces Association Warfare Symposium in Colorado. While several details are still in flux, primarily related to complex basing issues and internal tensions, the changes reflect Kendall’s vision for a more agile and prepared Air Force in the face of evolving geopolitical challenges.
Kendall first alluded to the impending reorganization in September, emphasizing a “sweeping” review of Air Force readiness to “reoptimize” its capabilities for wartime preparedness.
Two Air Force spokespeople confirmed ongoing changes but refrained from providing specifics, emphasizing the necessity for a significant effort to “reoptimize the Department of the Air Force” due to shifts in the strategic environment.
Space Force Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein hinted at the impending changes during a December 13 speech, suggesting a departure from the traditional major command structure.
Despite some initial backtracking, his remarks align with the broader outlines of the “Reoptimization” plan described by congressional staffers and Air Force advisers.
Kendall’s strategy involves a fundamental shift in the Air Force’s long-standing organizational structure to enhance efficiency while centralizing planning and analysis under civilian leadership.
The intent is to bolster civilian planning and budget analysis typically handled by Pentagon staff, refining the Air Force’s procurement priorities and fiscal strategies.
However, this shift is expected to introduce challenges, fostering tension between civilian and military stakeholders within the Air Force.
The impending restructuring, as described by one insider, is deemed more complex than the creation of the Space Force, reflecting its far-reaching implications for the Air Force’s operational paradigm and readiness.