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Top Air Force officer previews more org changes in 6-month update

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin told troops in a forcewide note Monday that the service is looking to revamp the umbrella units known as “numbered air forces” to be better prepared for deployments around the world.

“We are mapping out an effective approach to elevate NAFs into service component commands and we are aligning our capable and ready forces to best meet the needs of combatant commands,” Allvin said.

Most numbered air forces provide troops and assets to a particular combatant command, such as 8th Air Force’s support to U.S. Strategic Command or 9th Air Force’s support to U.S. Central Command. Others, like 5th Air Force in Japan or 7th Air Force in South Korea, work directly with a particular country. Still others oversee specific missions, like 2nd Air Force does for technical training or 16th Air Force does for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Air Force’s considerations could lend more uniformity or authority to those organizations to better serve joint commands around the globe. It’s unclear how the component commands will interact with the Air Force wings that promise to comprise the backbone of its deployed force in the years ahead.

A spokesperson for Allvin did not immediately provide more details about the options under discussion.

Talk of possible changes to the numbered air forces comes as the service begins to tackle its widest-reaching reorganization in decades, aiming to improve its contributions to the U.S. military at large and to vie with China for influence in the Pacific and beyond.

Allvin’s missive, which comes as he reaches the six-month mark as the Air Force’s top officer, touches on more than a dozen initiatives underway across the service.

Among the updates:

  • The Air Force’s first class of warrant officers focused on cyber operations and information technology will start in October and is expected to graduate by the end of December. A second class is slated to begin in January 2025.
  • Officials are considering whether the service’s new approach to year-round readiness, known as “Ready Airman Training,” focuses on the right skills and offers enough practice over the course of 18 months before units are offered up for deployments.
  • The service is rolling out deployable command-and-control kits and other materials to squadrons so they can more easily set up temporary bases on the go. “With the recent passage of the [fiscal year 2024] budget, we can now execute many of the investments we developed two years ago,” Allvin wrote.
  • Airmen in six areas — F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; Cannon AFB, New Mexico; Whiteman AFB, Missouri; Fargo, North Dakota; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Washington, D.C. — saw a 10.5% bump in their annual housing allowance this year to help offset steep living costs. Most troops saw Basic Allowance for Housing increase by 5.4% on average.
  • Eighty percent of Child Development Center jobs in the Department of the Air Force, which also includes the Space Force, have remained filled over the past six months — up nearly 20% in the past two years — as the service offers new incentives to boost hiring and expand access to child care.

“As we reoptimize our Air Force, my goal isn’t to supplant or replace previous initiatives,” Allvin wrote. “Rather, it is to ensure that we continue to make the changes necessary to see them become a reality. This biannual letter is my way of chronicling our improvements and holding myself accountable to this vision.”

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