Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III gave his in-uniform presentation to members of the Air Force Association May 26 during the association’s breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.
During the event, Welsh stressed to members of industry and media that manpower, readiness, modernization, airpower and Airmen all matter very much to today’s Air Force.
“We talk a lot about technical things — capabilities and mission sets — but the biggest problem we have in the Air Force right now is manpower,” Welsh said. “And every problem we have with growing, modernizing and increasing mission capabilities is manpower-related.”
He said it’s not a complicated problem; it’s just the reality of the Air Force right now.
“What we can’t do is take the same number of people and just expand all the things they’re doing by thinning out every mission area,” Welsh said. “People are a limiting factor right now, and adding more burden on them in any way, shape or form is a bad idea.”
Airmen are already tired, and if they leave the Air Force because they’re completely worn out, “we’re in trouble,” he said.
“Our response requirements dictate that our entire force be ready — active, Guard and Reserve — they have to be trained to the same standard, have the same qualifications and evaluations because they’re all responding together,” Welsh said. “Within the first couple months of any major conflict, almost 100 percent of the Air Force would be required to deploy. So, we have to be ready now.”
Welsh said the Air Force has to be ready, capable and equipped to win the fight today, and ready, capable and viable to win the fight years from now.
“All the things we have today won’t make us successful 10, 20, 30 years from now — it just won’t,” Welsh said. “We have to be modernizing — there’s no other option — it’s modernize or fail. Right now we need to be worrying about winning the fight in 2030. Modernization is our lifeblood; we have to do it.
“The weapons systems that made us great for the last 50 years are not the ones that will make us great for the next 50,” he continued. “We just have to wrap our minds around that and move forward because if we don’t, we will eventually fail. Without airpower, you will lose. It’s just the way warfare is.”
Airpower is equally as critical as land and maritime power; without it, future fights will be lost, Welsh said.
“We should be talking about modernization, where missions fit together, where they overlap, where we can save money, where we need more capabilities,” he continued. “There ought to be a debate about where airpower fits in the joint scheme of priorities because we need to be looking 20 to 30 years from now, from a joint perspective, and deciding what the U.S. military must have.”
Welsh said the education, training and professional development of Airmen is “absolutely essential” to the nation’s success.
“We can’t skimp on that at all. We shouldn’t take a dime out of that. In fact, we should be adding more resources to it,” he said.
In addition to deserving the best possible care, programs that ensure Airmen feel encouraged, enabled and valued should be a continuous focus of the Air Force, he continued.
“The great, great, great majority of people in our Air Force are unbelievably dedicated, committed, patriotic, brave, courageous and wonderful – that’s just who they are,” Welsh said. “I’d compare this workforce to any workforce on the planet. And I’m really going to miss them.”