Thursday, October 05, 2006

The New African Command: Air Force Components Emerging?

As the Pentagon moves further towards officially announding the creation of an African Command -- as proposed early on by Tom Barnett; and suggested close by this Time Magazine piece back in late August -- small signs of the concomitant reorganization of assets can be found ... or am I just looking too hard? Take this item from Stars and Stripes today:

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Nearly a year after deactivating the historic 3rd Air Force, the Air Force is bringing it back. But what the headquarters command will do, where it will go and why it is coming back, officials will not say. Brig. Gen. Michael Snodgrass, director of Plans, Programs and Requirements at U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters, confirmed the command would return but told Stars and Stripes he could not give any details because they were still being negotiated by the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department. Nations involved in the reorganization also must be notified. (...)

The 3rd Air Force officially was deactivated during a ceremony in England last November. The Air Force shuttered the headquarters as part of a plan to merge commands and create a new one at Ramstein. About 100 staff members from the 16th Air Force based at Aviano Air Base in Italy and the 3rd Air Force in England moved to Germany to create a new, 650-member “warfighting” headquarters with the job of planning combat and humanitarian operations.

The new African Command might just be where the 3rd Air Force is going. EUCOM's strategic importance has dropped a lot since the end of the Cold War. Reducing numbered European USAF Air Forces to two therefore made sense in an efficiency oriented perspective. But then most of EUCOM's operations are NATOesque 'out of area' -- more precisely: out of Europe, into Africa -- operations. This focuses a large chunk of Air Force activities on one specialized kind, namely long range contingency operations in various shapes. 3rd Air Force has been doing this since the mid 1990's at least ( never ceases to amaze).

Back in December last year, I wrote about the impossibility of a Civilian Transportation Command for civilian contingencies, Stabilization and Reconstruction, disaster response, etc. This means the military, and especially, the USAF will have to literally carry the major weight in the growing area of joint, inter-agency and multinational operations -- and especially, overlapping civilian and military operations, whether proactively pre-conflict or reactively post-conflict. 3rd Air Force could be brought back as a component in the African Command, leaving Rammstein as the EUCOM AF HQ component.

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