WASHINGTON (AFNS) --
The top leaders from the military service’s reserve components were on Capitol Hill here April 29 to provide statements and answer questions regarding their fiscal year 2016 budget proposals.
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., vice chairman, led discussions and listened to testimony from Reserve and National Guard leaders.
In written and verbal testimony, Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, the chief of Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon and commander, Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. outlined how the FY16 President's Budget request would fund Air Force Reserve requirements of approximately $4.9 billion. It provides for the operation and training of 35 wings and provides for the readiness of nearly 70,000 reservists.
“These men and women and their families are our greatest asset,” Jackson said. “Our Citizen Airmen provide the nation with the daily operational capability, strategic depth and surge capacity needed to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.”
The Air Force Reserve budget request is about 3.2 percent of the total Air Force budget, and includes $3.1 billion for operation and maintenance for air operations, service support and civilian pay; $1.7 billion for military personnel pay; and $65 million for military construction.
The budget request includes an increase in Air Force Reserve end strength of approximately 2,100 Citizen Airmen in FY16. These Airmen will help the Reserve meet critical current and emerging defense requirements, especially for the F-35 Lightening, KC-46 Pegasus, F-16 Fighting Falcon and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and cyber missions.
To highlight this need, Jackson explained that as the end strength increases, the size of the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell AFB, Kan. would increase to a wing structure. That produces two results; it retains the Air Force Reserve experience to help train the active duty maintenance crews and ensures excellence in training in the KC-46 mission from the beginning.
Cyber is another proposed growth area. The Air Force recognizes cyberspace as a critical domain that enables and supports every mission area.
“Our Reserve Airmen are able to leverage their civilian experience to produce game-changing contributions, especially in the cyber and space career fields,” said Jackson.
The Air Force Reserve continues to strengthen its cyber capabilities to ensure it keeps pace with technological advances.
“We stood up our first cyber operations group in fiscal year 2013,” Jackson said. “Included in the fiscal year 2016 President’s Budget request are Air Force Reserve classic associate cyber protection teams, which will be tasked with defending our critical information within the cyber domain.”
While the cyber domain is important, the Citizen Airmen of the Air Force Reserve are the nation’s greatest strength and must be a top priority. However, ongoing budget uncertainty and fiscal constraints degrade military readiness, hurt the Airmen, and strain the ability to properly train and equip the force.
With a 75 percent part-time force, Airmen must effectively balance their civilian and military careers, while remaining attuned and responsive to the needs of their families.
“We must continue to strengthen our community of Citizen Airmen,” Jackson said. “In this area, I ask for Congress’ continued support as you have provided in the past.”
This is especially critical as the Air Force Reserve retains Airmen for life.
The Air Force benefits from the high level of experience and maximizes its investment in Airmen when they transition from the Active Component to the Air Force Reserve. In many cases, without a Reserve Component career option, many separating Airmen simply leave military service for the civilian sector, taking with them millions of dollars-worth of training and years of experience. Retaining these Airmen in the Reserve Component represents a significant cost savings, benefiting both the Total Force and the taxpayer.
“I am pleased to report that our prior service accessions have gone from 45 to 68 percent from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2014,” Jackson said. “For instance, an Air Force pilot with 10 years of experience represents an investment of around $3 million in formal training and millions more in operational training and experience.”
The Air Force Reserve retains and then further develops this experience, because the value of such investment in training and experience grows over an Airman’s career and is impossible to replace quickly.
The Air Force Reserve remains an integrated and combat-ready force, providing readily accessible daily combat capability, strategic depth, and surge capacity that is significant to the future. The Citizen Airmen of the Air Force Reserve stand ready as a hedge against future uncertainty, postured to defend the nation against the threats of today and tomorrow.