Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and other senior leaders testified before the House Armed Services Committee about readiness and the fiscal year 2017 Air Force budget request Feb. 12.
The panel, which also included Lt. Gen. John Raymond, the deputy chief of staff for operations, and Lt. Gen. John Cooper, the deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection, testified that with today’s national security challenges, the world needs a strong American joint force. The joint force depends upon Air Force capabilities and requires airpower at the beginning, the middle and the end of every joint operation.
“Since our establishment in 1947, the Air Force remains the world’s first and most agile responder in times of crisis, contingency and conflict,” Goldfein said.
He added that the last 25 years of continuous combat operations and reductions in the total force, combined with budget instability and lower funding, have resulted in one of the smallest, oldest and least ready forces across the full spectrum of operations in Air Force history.
Goldfein also stated the Budget Control Act further degraded readiness while limiting recovery. While the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 provided some readiness recovery and modernization efforts, the Air Force needs permanent relief from BCA with consistent and flexible funding, more manpower and time to recover readiness.
For the past two years, instead of rebuilding readiness for future, high-end conflicts, Airmen have responded to events across the globe leading and in support of the joint force while remaining the world’s greatest Air Force. A return to sequestration would worsen the problem and delay the Air Force goal to return to full-spectrum readiness, Goldfein said
“We are too small and you have seen us trying to build back up capacity so we can do what our nation needs,” Goldfein said.
To improve mission quality, the vice chief of staff said the budget includes a modest upsizing of the total force to address a number of key areas, including critical career fields such as intelligence, cyber, maintenance, and battlefield Airmen. Aircraft maintenance career fields are approximately 4,000 maintainers short. The manpower requested will keep existing aircraft flying at home and abroad.
“We have offered numerous retention incentives to our older maintainers so they will stay and retain that training, that expertise, but we are digging a continuous hole as we go forward,” Cooper said.
According to Goldfein, this budget request prioritizes readiness and modernization over installation support. Today’s Air Force maintains infrastructure that is in an operational excess. There are 500 fewer aircraft now compared to 10 years ago, therefore, a reduction and realignment infrastructure would best support Air Force operational needs by base realignment and closure, he said.
Airmen are educated, innovative, motivated, and willing to ensure the Air Force continues to outwit and outlast opponents and defend the United States from harm, Goldfein said. They assure air superiority so American ground forces can keep their eyes on enemies on the ground rather than concern themselves with enemy airpower overhead.
“This budget request is an investment in the Air Force our nation needs,” Goldfein said. “America expects it; combatant commanders require it; and with your support for this budget request, our Airmen will deliver it.”