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Research Questions

  1. What will future operations require of the agile combat support (ACS) manpower mix?
  2. How well is the current ACS manpower mix prepared to meet the requirements of future operations?
  3. What can the USAF do to better meet the requirements of future operations?

The U.S. Air Force's (USAF's) current approach to sizing and shaping non-maintenance agile combat support (ACS) manpower often results in a discrepancy between the supply of ACS forces and operational demands because much of ACS is sized and shaped to meet the requirements of home-station installation operations, not expeditionary operations. This report proposes a more enterprise-oriented approach to measuring ACS manpower requirements by synthesizing combatant commander operational plans, Defense Planning Scenarios, functional area deployment rules, and subject-matter expert input. Using these new expeditionary metrics to assess the capacity of the current ACS manpower mix to support expeditionary operations, this report finds that there are imbalances among its career fields relative to expeditionary demands. To address these imbalances, it develops and assesses several rebalanced manpower mixes and finds that the USAF can achieve more expeditionary ACS capacity than it currently has by realigning manpower, and it can realize substantial savings by reducing end strength and substituting civilian billets for military billets.

Key Findings

The U.S. Air Force can achieve more expeditionary agile combat support capacity than it currently has by realigning manpower, and it can realize substantial savings by reducing end strength and substituting civilian billets for military billets.

  • The current ACS manpower mix has imbalances among its career fields relative to expeditionary demands.
  • More expeditionary capacity can be achieved by rebalancing manpower among ACS career fields and between civilian and military billets.
  • Cost savings can be realized by reducing end strength with no impact to expeditionary capacity if ACS manpower is rebalanced.

There are significant obstacles to rebalancing ACS manpower to better align with expeditionary demands.

  • ACS authority is decentralized and unintegrated, hindering a concerted effort to balance ACS functional capabilities with an enterprise view.
  • There is inadequate policy to inform the manpower system as to how to shape ACS forces to meet expeditionary demands.

Recommendations

  • The U.S. Air Force (USAF) should provide clearer strategic planning guidance about future objectives to direct planners and programmers in sizing and shaping the force.
  • USAF operational objectives should be translated into measurable agile combat support (ACS) objectives.
  • The ACS manpower system should broaden its planning objectives to include both expeditionary and home-station requirements, using guidance provided by USAF leadership.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    An Enterprise Approach to Determining ACS Manpower

  • Chapter Three

    Current and Alternative ACS Manpower Mixes

  • Chapter Four

    Additional Considerations for Shaping ACS Forces

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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