Reserve leaders testify before House
By Lt. Col. Denise Kerr
/ Published May 25, 2017
Senior leaders from the military reserve components testified before the House Appropriations Sub-Committee for Defense on readiness and the President’s fiscal year 2018 budget request May 24.
Congresswoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, chairwoman of the HAC-D and Congressman Peter J. Visclosky, D-Indiana, ranking member, led the hearing and listened to the reserve chiefs discuss their budget priorities and operational readiness. The committee questioned the panel on their top issues, pay and benefits disparities, and deployments.
“Your Air Force Reserve operates with 16,000 fewer Airmen, and 220 fewer aircraft than we did in Desert Storm,” said Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command. “The stress of our size, the steady state operations tempo and our funding shortfalls keep us challenged but we remain a lethal, combat-ready force, composed of amazing and resilient airmen and families.”
Nearly 70,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen support the nation in military and humanitarian operations around the world. Last year, the AFR responded to more than 10,000 Air Expeditionary and volunteer taskings across the U.S. and in 30 foreign countries.
“The Fiscal Year 2018 President’s budget request continues our efforts to build readiness and capability by adding 800 positions across our rated, space, cyber and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,” said Miller. “The budget request, with additional Overseas Contingency Operations support, begins to fund weapon system sustainment closer to required levels, ensuring we can produce the exercise, training, and combat sorties needed to sustain the best Air Force in the world.”
On May 23, President Donald J. Trump sent Congress a proposed defense budget request of $639.1 billion. The Air Force’s portion of the FY 18 budget request will help with filling critical gaps, improving lethality and readiness recovery.
“We must continue to leverage our strengths and always partner with the active component to successfully field new weapon systems, as we have with the F-35 and KC-46, and support space, cyber, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions,” said Miller, in her written testimony.
Reserve components also receive funding through the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation for weapon systems modernization and recapitalization. In FY 17, $105 million in NGREA provided F-16 all-weather targeting pods, enabled KC-135 defensive systems, and updated A-10 digital displays and personnel recovery equipment for the Pave Hawk helicopters.
Miller stressed the need for a stable and predictable budget, which will ensure the AFR is a combat-ready operational reserve.
Congressman Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, said he understood that funding can resolve a lot of issues and asked each reserve chief to list their top priorities.
“The two things I think are the most important for the Air Force Reserve are the critical skills manning, particularly our pilot shortage and our need for cyber professionals,” said Miller. “On the cyber front, industry is just pulling them – we can attract them and train them, but we don’t always keep them. So your Reserve is the capacity that can keep them in uniform, which is great. The other priority is weapon systems sustainment and that is a vital piece of our readiness.”
Miller emphasized, portions of our force are stressed, but Reserve Citizen Airmen are resilient, engaged and honored to serve.