WASHINGTON, D.C. – The head of the United States Air Force reaffirmed his testimony to Congress in March by saying that less than 50 percent of the force is prepared for “full-spectrum operations.”
“To put our reduced size in perspective, in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, we deployed 33 fighter squadrons into our first conflict since Vietnam,” Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force said in his prepared remarks. “At that time, we had 134 combat-coded fighter squadrons; 946,000 active duty, guard, reserve, and civilian Airmen; and 80 percent of the fighter force was ready for full- spectrum operations.”
“Today,” he noted, “we have just 55 combat-coded fighter squadrons, approximately 660,000 total force airmen, and less than 50 percent of our Air Force is ready for full-spectrum operations – a 30 percent reduction since Operation Desert Storm.”
John Venable, a 25-year Air Force veteran who is now a senior research fellow for defense at the Heritage Foundation, interviewed Goldfein in Washington, D.C.
Venable pointed out that the Air Force is also 1,000 fighter pilots short of the required 3,800 pilots needed for complete readiness.
“We’re at a point now in the Air Force where we’ve just gotten so small that the rubber band is stretched pretty tight,” Goldfein said.
“Right now my No. 1 priority to move the readiness back to where it needs to be is to increase the numbers we need in our formations to get to the point where we now have troop-to-task assessed right relative to what the nation’s asking us to do,” Goldfein said.
When asked by Breitbart News whether the $54 billion increase in military spending proposed by President Donald Trump for fiscal year 2018 could successfully rebuild a military diminished during the eight years of the Obama administration, Goldfein said, “It absolutely moves us in the right direction.”
“The most important thing to me, quite frankly, rather than some dollar amount, is to actually get a budget,” Goldfein said. “That’s what counts.”
“We’ve got to get back to the position of allowing a service chief the ability to plan and produce for the nation that best Air Force I can produce for the resource I’m given,” Goldfein said.
Goldfein told Congress that while the Air Force is as ever committed to service, all branches of the military were the least prepared “in our history.”
“Whether in support of global counter-terror operations or near-peer deterrence, your Air Force remains constantly committed, as we have without respite for the past 25 years,” Goldfein said.
“However, 25 years of continuous combat operations and reductions to our Total Force coupled with budget instability and lower-than-planned funding levels have resulted in one of the smallest, oldest, and least ready forces across the full-spectrum of operations in our history,” Goldfein said.
“This budget follows through on my promise to keep Americans safe,” Trump said. “It will include an historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States.”
“He added that the budget would send a ‘message to the world in these dangerous times of American strength, security and resolve,’” the Times reported. “[Trump] said that the increases in military spending were required to ensure that the United States emerges victorious when it engages in wars with adversaries around the globe.”