WASHINGTON — The Air Force must have a higher and more stable budget to provide security for the nation, said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein during the State of the Air Force address Nov. 9, 2017, at the Pentagon.
“The fiscal 2018 continuing resolution is actually delaying our efforts to increase the readiness of the force, and risk accumulates over time,” Wilson said. “We are stretching the force to the limit, and we need to start turning the corner on readiness.”
If the Air Force goes through sequestration again, people will walk. Congress needs to lift sequestration as it is currently structured, she added.
Wilson and Goldfein addressed several of the issues the Air Force faces, including the service’s response to the church shooting Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“The events of Sunday, and since, were heartbreaking not only for the Air Force but all of America,” Wilson said. “The Air Force has launched a full-scale review of this case and all others like it…Our approach here is to act in accordance [with] our values, which includes integrity and excellence, and that’s the way we’re proceeding.”
Goldfein echoed the secretary’s sentiments.
“We offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of this awful, awful attack in Sutherland Springs,” Goldfein said. “This is a community with extensive ties to the Air Force, and we’re ensuring all of our resources are made available to the families of all the victims.”
Wilson also stressed the importance of restoring readiness, cost-effectively modernizing the force, driving innovation, developing exceptional leaders and strengthening America’s alliances.
The Air Force has moved forward in providing equipment and support for its allies, to include the delivery of the first F-35s to Norway and Israel before the end of the calendar year, Lebanon’s stateside A-29 attack aircraft training and Bahrain’s acceptance of $2.7 billion in equipment.
“Those partnerships we are creating with our allies, [as well as our] training, equipment and information exchange … make the United States stronger because we’re stronger when we’re together,” Wilson said.
Every dollar the Air Force spends is focused on readiness and making the service more lethal, Goldfein said. As the service with the most diverse portfolio, the Air Force is involved in every joint force mission.
Today, there are 34,000 Airmen working together with Naval nuclear forces to stand watch. In space, 12,000 Airmen launch, operate and control six constellations for the joint force around the globe. In the cyber domain, Airmen join their Soldier, Sailor and Marine counterparts to defend the nation and refine tactics, techniques and procedures to produce strategic effects in this new domain.
Each of these missions is a growth industry, and every mission is no fail. Though Airmen make carrying out these missions look easy, it’s anything but, Goldfein said. The Air Force’s high operations tempo is taking its toll.
“Surge has become the new normal,” Wilson said. “Less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform and protect the rest of us, and they’re carrying a heavy burden. We are burning out our people because we are too small for what the nation is asking of us.”
The service is making the mission happen, but on the backs of its Airmen, Goldfein added. “We are looking for ways to reduce the tension on the force.”
Wilson and Goldfein recognized the commitment Airmen and families are making in service to the nation and advocated for Congress to provide the resources needed to sustain global operations and win.