GRAPEVINE, Texas — As Air Force leaders are working to improve the readiness of squadrons throughout the service, the Air Force’s top civilian says the goal is to get 204 of the service’s 312 operational squadrons to 80 percent readiness by 2020.
“This plan will accelerate readiness recovery of those units by six years. This is the difference between focussing our resources on where it matters most and peanut butter spreading readiness money we’ve received across the entire workforce at the same time”, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the audience at the Airlift Tanker Association’s annual symposium outside Dallas.
“We have to reorient ourselves, our readiness, our presentation of forces, our training, to be prepared for the great power competition we face. And if we are there, the likelihood that we will have to fight will go down", she went on to say.
As for what 204 units are being prioritized, Wilson said they were units that are “most relevant to the high-end fight”, and that the remaining 108 of the service’s 312 squadrons would reach the readiness goal by 2023. It is likely those units will include the Air Force’s fourth and fifth-generation fighter, bomber, and C4ISR squadrons.
While Wilson did not identify in her speech exactly which units were selected for readiness improvements, she did say that the Air Force had perhaps become too “used to” low readiness, mostly due to budget issues.
“Years of shortages of parts and budgets that were inadequate, I think have made us a little bit accepting, perhaps too accepting and complacent. We’ve come to think that maybe its OK to have mission capable rates that are constrained by what we can afford. Its not. It is not OK”, she said.
Wilson added that as maintenance funds go up, the Air Force has to change their attitude towards readiness, and that it would be a team effort across the service.
“All of us have to find a pathway back from crowdsourcing and cannibalizing the United States Air Force located here in the continental United States and rolling forward 10 or 20 percent of our people in onesies and twosies onto mature infrastructure in the Middle East, to fight with exquisite command and control in a place where we have air superiority.”
It’s important to note that funding increases are dependent on whether or not the Air Force stays funded at the level it is in FY2019. On Oct. 20, President Trump said the Pentagon’s 2020 budget would “probably” be $700 billion, as part of a plan to cut the spending at all federal departments by 5 percent. However, depending on which party controls Congress, that number could go up or down.
Jeff Martin is the Associate Editor for Multimedia and the host & producer of Defense News Weekly, airing online and on American Forces Network worldwide. In his role as Associate Editor, he reports worldwide on the military and defense industry and leads a market-leading multimedia team.