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Presence policy helps define expeditionary force

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (May 03, 2004) -- The secretary of the Air Force recently signed a policy clearly defining the structure and role of the air and space expeditionary force within the joint warfare environment.

The Air and Space Expeditionary Force Presence Policy, among other things, defines AEF, outlines its command structure and explains how its capabilities will be served up to joint combatant commanders, said Brig. Gen. William L. Holland. He is the director of air and space expeditionary force matters.

"This policy is the overarching document that guides the Air Force through what we've been doing for the last couple of years," General Holland said. "It codifies those processes, and the policy that guides those processes, in how the Air Force organizes, trains and equips to meet combatant commander's requirements."

The policy now allows combatant commanders to ask the Air Force for services in terms of capability. In the past, they would present their needs in terms of units, aircraft or numbers of people, the general said.

"Perhaps the combatant commander has a requirement for close-air support," General Holland said. "Depending on the background of the combatant commander and his staff, they may automatically think of the A-10 [Thunderbolt II]."

Having a combatant commander ask for a specific type of aircraft, or even a specific unit, can be taxing on the Air Force, the general said. For example, if a combatant commander has priority and asks for a specific Air Force unit, the unit may be pulled away from work it is already engaged in.

"If they ask for an A-10 and we don't have one available, it becomes a matter of taking it from somewhere else -- so then somebody else's needs may go unfulfilled," the general said.

General Holland said it would be more efficient for the commander to say what capability he or she needs and to then let the Air Force decide how best to provide it. The policy allows that to happen.

The policy will soon be available to all Airmen on the Air Force's publishing Web site. The general said he hopes Airmen will take the time to read the document, because it explains in full what the service has been asking them to do for so long.

"(It) will provide Airmen with the strategic vision of why they are being asked to do what they are being asked to do," he said. "We have a lot of smart folks out there who will do just about anything if they understand why. Senior leaders are always looking for a better way of explaining it to them, and the (policy) helps us with that."

The policy also solidifies what Air Force leaders have been talking about for years, the general said. It turns what before had seemed to many a concept or an idea, into something leaders can point to.

"The AEF is no longer a concept; it is a reality," General Holland said. "It is so because we have been doing it and have been successful at doing it.