The commander of the Air Force Logistics Command says scaling down the command at this time, even though the country is engaged in a major war, is not a mistake.

Gen. Charles C. McDonald, who was vice commander at Hill for 15 months in the early 1980s, spoke during a brief press conference Friday afternoon. The Logistics Command, with headquarters at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, maintains all the Air Force's aircraft and missiles, manages 1.4 million replacement parts, and oversees deliveries worldwide.The command has been going through major work-force reductions recently because of budget cuts. Locally, the Ogden Air Logistics Center, based at Hill, notified 833 civilian employees last week that they will lose their jobs, although because of reassignments to fill vacancies in critical positions, the number actually laid off will be about 684.

As part of the streamlining, the Air Force Logistics Command and Air Force Systems Command are being combined to form a single organization, Air Force Secretary Donald Rice said on Jan. 10.

Asked if it is a mistake to scale back logistics during the war with Iraq, McDonald said, "Well, there are those who would suggest it is a mistake." But he quickly added that he is not of that view.

The size of the logistics operation was predicated on judgments about the military threat from the Soviet Union and a possible major ground war in Europe, he said. "In recent years, that (threat) has been changed, and it's been changed drastically, and I think it's changed irrevocably," he said.

The Defense Department needs to plan for the next 15 years. Based on expectations of the kind of conflicts that might erupt, America's forces need to be faster, more lethal, quicker to deploy. In some cases, that means scaling down.

"Despite the fact that it is terribly challenging," Operation Desert Storm probably is an aberration from the long-term pattern of small-scale threats, he said. He added that he isn't saying this kind of big conflict can't happen again, especially if the allies aren't successful in achieving their goals in the Middle East.

Asked whether the Air Force's reduction in the number of its squadrons means eliminating either of the wings at Hill, McDonald said he does not think so.

"The downsizing that we're talking about is largely in the older aircraft," such as the F-4 fighter. The new F-16s, which are used by the wings based at Hill, are not going to be dropped.

However, depending on the type of F-16, "we have a whole series of upgrades," he said. Several models of the jet are presently being flown.

Some planes will get better engines, some a new cannon system. "Some limited number will have the cannon, but not across the board," he said.

Will more layoffs happen at Hill because of the scaling-down? "Not if I can help it," he said.

According to McDonald, the down-sizing was planned to bring the work force into line with projected work loads.

In the future, there will be fewer squadrons and perhaps less work required per squadron. "Will that require another reduction in force? I hope not," he said.

McDonald praised the "magnificent job" that is being down to train pilots and support the troops deployed in the Middle East. "At this time there isn't a single show-stopper from a logistician's point of view" in the theater of action for Desert Storm.

He said this success is due in part to the legacy of the 1980s, apparently referring to the military buildup during the Reagan administration.

"Those spares, those munitions and those fuels were in place" when Operation Desert Shield, now Desert Storm, began. They were also available for Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, he added.