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Total force readiness topic of Capitol Hill testimony

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Cassidy
  • Air Force Public Affairs
Senior leaders from the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve were on Capitol Hill here April 24th to discuss the impact of sequestration on Total Force readiness.

In written and oral testimony, they reconfirmed the Air Force's commitment to serving America's long-term security interests by providing airpower and contributing its core missions to the joint team. They also highlighted sequestration and budget impacts to the Total Force's flying hours, weapon system sustainment, personnel and infrastructure.

"Despite the challenges of the dynamic fiscal environment, the Air Force remains committed to developing and implementing a program that focuses on maintaining readiness levels required to support combatant commanders in their assigned operational missions", said Lt. Gen Michael R. Moeller, Deputy Chief of Staff, Strategic Plans and Programs. "However, the fiscally constrained budget has already begun to increase the level of risk in our ability to provide unique Air Force capabilities required to meet our national security requirements."

One impact of sequestration was a significant cut in flying hours. Thirteen active duty units have completely stopped flying -- 11 combat-coded, and two training-coded. In addition, portions of four combat-coded units have stood down at home station, and will completely stand down when the remainder of the unit returns from deployments. Fifteen additional flying training units and Nellis aggressors are currently supporting the Air Force Weapons Instructor Course and will stand down when the current 13A course ends in early May. What it will take to return to full readiness remains a question.

"In terms of long-term how can we get back to full-spectrum readiness, if we're fully funded and we have enough time to do it, it would probably take about two years...It would take shorter if we didn't have operational commitments around the world, but that's not the case," said Lt Gen. Burton Field, Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations Plans and Requirements. So taking into account the operational commitments that we have around the world, it would take probably about two years at a fully funded rate."

Weapon System Sustainment is a key component of full-spectrum readiness. Depot maintenance and sustainment of current equipment are part of WSS.

"History tells us that recovery in our depots from the impacts of sequestration will require two to three years to regain the same level of production even with additional funding in FY14 to minimize the bow-wave of work, said Lt. Gen. Judith Fedder, Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics, Installations and Mission Support. "The impact of potential civilian furloughs will be especially crippling and drive a reduction in depot workload production, increase carryover, reduce supply chain spares for operational units, degrade workforce proficiency, and ensure future volatility and higher operational costs."

Since Desert Storm, more than 20 years ago, the Active Duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve have continued to operate as an integral force. As a result, limited funding is having an impact on the Total Force.

We're not grounding any squadrons in the Air National Guard at this time, but there are things that we're not testing ourselves, so we're not flexing the bicep as much, said Lt Gen. Stanley Clarke, III, Director of the Air National Guard. "We're not doing big exercises like Red Flag, where we used to really stress our forces to see how good they are. Once you stop doing those, you don't even know how good you are anymore."

As with Active Duty, the full impact on readiness is not fully recognized.

"We are that combat- ready, effective and efficient force that our nation calls on when needed as a strategic force, Once we sense that that tier one readiness is starting to be mitigated, marginalized, that is when I believe we will be able to answer your questions more appropriately, and then we don't know what will happen in F.Y. '14," said Maj. Gen. Richard Haddad, Deputy Chief of the Air Force Reserve.