Major Air Force Reorganization Proposed

By Chauncey Goss   •
Credit: Adobe Stock

Five years ago, U.S. Space Force was created as a stand-alone service under the Department of the Air Force in an effort to better prepare the United States to counter near peer competitors. Earlier this week the Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, proposed another significant reorganization called Reoptimizing for Great Power Competition that would realign the major command and air wing structures to improve operational readiness while accelerating the development of future weapon systems in an attempt to maintain pace with China. In short, Kendall proposes reorganizing the Air Force from a post-9/11 counterinsurgency footing to a modernized force prepared to deter great power conflict.

At the Air Force Association’s (AFA) Warfare Symposium outside of Denver, Colorado, Kendall outlined his much-anticipated vision alongside Kristyn Jones, Air Force Comptroller and performing the duties of Undersecretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David Allvin, and Chief of Space Operations General Chance Saltzman. The reorganization was not a secret as the Secretary has been hinting at it for months and has briefed select Capitol Hill staff on the fundamentals of the plan. Kendall was reported saying in January that “[o]ver the 30-odd years since the Cold War ended, we have drifted away from preparing and assessing the readiness of the force or structuring the force – or managing the force – so that it is truly ready for a short-notice great power conflict.”

Currently, the Air Force is designed around nine major commands (MAJCOMS) that organize missions by region or function. See Chart I below.

Chart I. Source: U.S. Air Force

In this week’s announcement, the Air Force unveiled 24 key decisions to help it stay competitive that are a mix of near-term and longer- term initiatives. Some will impact the current command structure. Secretary Kendall urged swift action to implement the reorganization concluding “we are out of time.” These decisions are based around four core areas of developing people, generating readiness, projecting power, and developing integrated capabilities.


The five decisions outlined under this personnel and human resource category will allow for more training and expertise in technology from cyber to AI in an effort to better the position the Air Force for its pacing challenge with China.

  • Consolidate force development functions under an Airman Development Command.
  • Expand technical tracks for officers while creating technical tracks for enlisted while reintroducing warrant officers in IT and cyber fields.
  • Focus training on mixed skill sets to develop Mission Ready Airmen.
  • Transform leadership development and training to prepare officers to lead Airmen and Guardians in the context of Great Power Competition.
  • Redesign career paths for Guardians that to meet high tech operational demands.

The six decisions under the readiness category will lead to a demand for modeling and simulation capabilities as well as a demand for improvements in supply chain management and assessment.

  • Reorient Air Combat Command (ACC) to focus on presenting ready forces to combatant commanders.
  • Implement large scale exercises and mission-focused training from many operational plans to demonstrate and rehearse large-scale operations.
  • Design and execute no-notice/limited-notice readiness assessments and inspections to reflect pacing challenges.
  • Improve weapon systems health by restructuring key processes relating to aviation spares and systems to be data driven and risk informed.
  • Establish Space Force readiness standards that represent the new non-benign reality of a contested space environment.
  • Conduct Space Force exercises that increase in scope and complexity and are assessed through a service-level data-driven measurement process.

The four decisions for power projection appear to place emphasis on space and cyber operations while restructuring existing wings to be more responsive to future demands.

  • Restructure operational wings as mission ready “Units of Action” that are then categorized as Deployable Combat Wings, In-Place Combat Wings, or Combat Generation Wings.
  • Focus Combat Wings on warfighting readiness and Base Commands on supporting Combat Wings and base operations.
  • Elevate Air Force Cyber Command (AFCYBER) to a standalone Service Component Command.
  • Formalize Space Force Combat Squadrons as Units of Action.

The nine decisions relating to capabilities development help to structure the Air Force for modernization along the lines of AFMC’s recent digital transformation efforts to use AI to improve mission processes.

  • Create an Air Force Integrated Capabilities Office to lead capability development and drive modernization investments.
  • Create an Office of Competitive Activities to oversee and coordinate sensitive activities.
  • Incorporate a more strategic and analytically based resourcing approach by creating a Program Assessment and Evaluation Office.
  • Establish an Integrated Capabilities Command to develop concepts, requirements, and modernization plans the align with force design.
  • Create a new Information Dominance Systems Center within Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) to strengthen C3 Battle Management, Cyber, Electronic Warfare, Information Systems, and Enterprise Digital Infrastructure.
  • Expand the Nuclear Weapons Center into the Air Force Nuclear Systems Center within AFMC and creates a 2-star general officer as Program Executive Officer for the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles.
  • Replace the Life Cycle Management Center within AFMC with a new Air Dominance Systems Center to synchronize competitive development of aircraft and weapon systems.
  • Create an Integration Development Office within AFMC to provide technology assessments and road maps.
  • Create a Space Futures Command as a new field command to develop and validate concepts, conduct experimentation and wargaming, and perform mission area design.

As more details unfold regarding the Department of Air Force proposals, FBIQ will continue to evaluate their budgetary impact. The proposed changes are designed to foster productivity, efficiency, and performance improvements. Theoretically, that combination should result in more capability for a given dollar. In the short-term, these proposals are likely to cost money.

The Congressional response to the proposals may be similar to a BRAC. The proposed changes are likely to impact the command structure’s geography with potential implications on local and regional economies. The Air Force’s modernization focus on its platforms, the way it does business, and interacts with other services aligns with the National Defense Strategy.

Credit: U.S. Air Force