WASHINGTON, D.C. — Reserve and Guard component senior leaders testified at the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Defense hearing on their FY19 budget issues and requests, April 17.
SAC-D Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Vice Chairman Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) hosted the hearing to listen to resource challenges from the reserve and guard chiefs.
“On any given day around the world 6,500 active Citizen Airmen stationed stateside or deployed, are supporting our nation’s defense,” said Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command. “There is no distinction between our active guard and our reserve Airmen. They are lethal and privileged to defend this great nation.”
Miller said the AFR is committed in amplifying readiness in accordance with the National Defense Strategy. She said that the joint force commanders’ demand has justified the growth of reserve personnel.
“My growing reserve end strength is commensurate with the joint force demand,” said Miller. “The need has expanded our total force recruiting initiatives and increased our flying hour program.”
Miller also thanked the committee for supporting the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account appropriation, which helps upgrade equipment, weapon systems, and aircraft.
“We remain focused on our weapon systems sustainment program to ensure we sustain the fight into the future,” said Miller. “We are recapitalizing vehicles and support equipment and increasing the lethality and survivability of our weapon systems.”
During the hearing, Miller said the AFR continues to have a problem in retaining full-time pilots and aircraft maintainers.
“In response to these challenges, we’ve implemented bonuses, incentive pay, and special salary rates for our pilots and maintenance force. Though this approach has positively impacted retention, it may not be sufficient for the long term,” said Miller. “We need to continue to discuss other full-time support options and incentives with your staff and we need to garner support for these options to improve our full-time manning.”
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) asked Miller if the AFR needs creative solutions to help with pilot training, such as partnering with universities and the guard.
“Our chief and secretary are working and building those relationships with the aviation universities,” said Miller. “This is a national problem. The Air Force is 2,000 pilots short across all three of the components and we are all working to drive that number down.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) asked Miller if she would support her bill to allow reserve component Service members retirement credit points for distance learning. Miller said the AFR currently gives reservists up to 130 retirement credit points a year for distance learning credit.
“Our civilian experience is a great asset in all that we do and we never fail to leverage that experience in our military duties,” said Miller. “Whether it be a pilot, an aircraft maintainer, security forces airman, firefighter, cyber defender or medical expert—we succeed because of the support of this great country, of our Congress, this distinguished committee, our employers, and most importantly our treasured Airmen and their families.”