WASHINGTON, D.C. — The chief of the Air Force Reserve testified alongside the chief of the National Guard Bureau and other services’ Reserve chiefs before the Senate Appropriations Committee – Subcommittee on Defense, April 26.
With the deadline of the continuing resolution looming, all of the services’ described the need for budget stability and predictably.
“Constrained defense budgets and a lack of fiscal stability stress our readiness levels and threatens our ability to reach and sustain full-spectrum readiness,” said Air Force Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, in her written testimony “As a critical component of the One Air Force Team, we will not be fully successful without proper and sustainable funding across the future years defense plan.”
Of the 69,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen, nearly 6,000 Reservists serve on active duty, operating in the air, space, and cyber domains and supporting overseas contingencies and stateside operations. Demand for AFR services has never been higher, but budgetary concerns coupled with high operations tempos pose a challenge to readiness.
“The readiness concerns which weigh the most in our preparation for the fight, are having insufficient manpower both in full-time support and critical skills, training availability and funding, weapon systems sustainment and concurrent fielding of aircraft and equipment,” Miller said.
The shortfall in manning is not as a result of recruiting but due to retention, operational demands and budget constraints. The Air Force Reserve is in need of 445 more pilots and 1,500 maintainers. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked Miller to describe the nationwide pilot shortage and how Congress can help address the problem.
Miller said the challenge is the pull from the airlines for the full-time AFR pilots; AFR consists of 70 percent part-time and 30 percent full-time pilots, of which 66 percent is manned.
“How do we arrest that? We are doing that through recruiting, retention and relocation bonuses, and with special salary rate adjustments; so we are trying through many means of budgets to get after that full-time support piece,” she said.
Miller warned that a yearlong continuing resolution would stifle improvements in readiness, decrease aircraft availability, curtail training and degrade the ability to sustain any progress that has been made to date.
“Modernization, recapitalization, and military construction funding are essential to guarantee that we remain agile and combat capable,” said Miller. “The Air Force Reserve leverages the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation to increase our capability and ensure interoperability in the joint fight.”
As part of the total force, Reserve Citizen Airmen are associated in two-thirds of the Air Force enterprise. Reservists are also integrated throughout the major commands and the Department of Defense to enhance mission execution. Additionally, there are approximately 8,000 Individual Mobilization Augmentees working around the world in all AF core missions and DoD, particularly in space, cyber, and intelligence.
“Over nearly three decades of being engaged around the globe, we have successfully adjusted to an operational reserve,” Miller said. “Portions of our force are stressed, but Reserve Citizen Airmen are resilient, engaged, and honored to serve.”