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Readiness key to Air Force responsiveness

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force readiness is critical, especially as the time or place of the next crisis is never certain and is rarely what was expected, the Air Force vice chief of staff told a House panel April 10.

The range, speed and agility of the Air Force enables it to respond in hours, not days, when called upon, Gen. Larry O. Spencer told members of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

“The cornerstone of our success depends on Airmen who are exploiting and mastering emerging technologies, not only in warfare, but also in space and cyberspace,” he said.

But decades of sustained combat operations have stressed the force and decreased Air Force readiness to unacceptable levels, Spencer said.

“We are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain our advantage when it comes to effectively operating in contested environments and against adversaries with access to increasing levels of advanced warfighting technology,” Spencer said.

The Air Force will maintain its ability to respond to today's requirements, but it must also regain and further maintain the ability to operate in the most demanding threat environments, he said.

Readiness is having the right number of Airmen, with the right equipment, trained to the right skill level, and with the right support to accomplish what the nation asks, Spencer said.

“A good readiness plan depends on an optimum level of health in all of these areas,” he said, “but sequestration has slashed our budget by billions of dollars, forcing us to make the difficult decision to cut force structure in order to help preserve our near-term readiness.”

To maintain readiness, the Air Force had to look beyond cutting flying hours and exercises, Spencer told the committee.

“We took a close look at the preservation of modernization efforts to help us maintain our technological edge,” he said. “This includes preferred munitions; live, virtual constructive environments that can replicate the threats we may face; and installation support that allows us to literally fight and power project from our bases.”

Weapon sustainment health is also critical to the Air Force’s readiness plan, Spencer added. Logistic centers and depots contribute to the sustainment and readiness of all aircraft and equipment.

“While adequate flying hour funding ensures the aircraft on our ramps are ready to fly, weapon system sustainment readiness funding ensures we have the adequate numbers of aircraft on our ramps to fly in our missions and to complete our flying goals,” he explained.

The impact of sequestration is still being felt on Air Force readiness, Spencer said.

“The loss of time and experience flying, maintaining, supporting and integrating … aircraft equated to a loss of critical readiness for our Airmen across the entire force,” he said. “Our highly sophisticated and capable force cannot be reconstituted overnight if our readiness is allowed to atrophy.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act provided only temporary relief, he said, noting that it puts the force on a gradual path to recovery but will not fix readiness in the long-term.

“Because our readiness is heavily influenced by ongoing operations, we need to ensure we can meet these requirements while also training for the full spectrum of potential conflict,” Spencer said.

Demand for Air Force capabilities has remained high following the conclusion of every major combat operation in recent history, he said.

“If we are not able to train for scenarios across the full range of military operations against a backdrop of increasingly contested air, space and sovereign environments around the world, we face unacceptable risk to mission accomplishment and to our joint forces,” Spencer said.

Today's Air Force is an indispensable hedge against the challenges of an uncertain future, he said.

“Properly trained and equipped, your Air Force can set the conditions for success in any conflict, in any region of the world, whenever we're called upon,” Spencer said.
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