Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, joined his counterparts from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and National Guard May 4 to virtually testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
Reserve component and congressional members discussed specific Reserve missions, modernization, mental health, diversity and the fiscal year 2022 budget. In addition, Scobee touted the many accomplishments of Reserve Airmen in a year marked by challenges.
“The Air Force Reserve is a cost-effective, accessible and ready force,” Scobee said in his opening remarks. “We provide strategic depth with rapid surge capability across every Air Force core mission set. We do so cost effectively because we are a predominantly part-time force.”
The general went on to highlight strengths the Reserve provides as an accessible, ready force.
“When the nation needed rapid pandemic response, we had medical personnel on the ground in New York and New Jersey within 48 hours,” he said. “We provide strategic depth for national defense while operating on only 3% of the total Department of the Air Force budget. We are committed to attracting top talent by fostering a culture of inclusion in which every Airman is valued and can thrive.”
“With Congress’ assistance, we preserved pre-pandemic gains in both individual and unit-level readiness across the force through innovations such as virtual training. We modernized key weapon systems and lessened critical manpower shortfalls, increased our organizational effectiveness and enhanced our ability to provide excellent care for our Citizen Airmen and their families through internal reforms and process improvements.”
The hearing enabled Scobee to thank lawmakers for their support of several important initiatives.
“We are grateful for the $19.5 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding, which allowed us to rapidly scale our telework capability to protect our workforce during the pandemic,” he said. “We are also grateful for continued direct hiring authority for critical career fields. Last year, with this authority, we significantly increased Air Reserve Technician pilot manning from 75% to 97%.”
The commander also thanked legislators for enabling access to Tricare Reserve Select.
“This major legislative accomplishment will offer affordable continuity of care for all our Airmen and their families. However, the legislation currently does not go into effect until 2030,” Scobee said. “To improve our readiness and Reserve forces’ quality of life, I request your support for accelerated implementation and funding of this healthcare access.”
Scobee also discussed the requested fiscal 2022 budget and how it will enable the Air Force Reserve to meet the National Defense Strategy’s objectives with the multi-domain force.
“We are in lock step with the chief of staff of the Air Force’s vision to Accelerate Change or Lose,” he said. “We diligently request only those funds we can execute. Reserve Personnel Appropriations and Operations and Maintenance funds drive our readiness. These accounts fund our training, flying hours, mobilization requirements, equipment maintenance and salaries. In particular, our flying hour and civilian pay programs have taken considerable reductions in recent years, primarily due to insufficient justification and overestimation of funding requests. We have made significant internal strides in adjusting these accounts.”
The general went on to address the importance of equipment parity accomplished through the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation.
“NGREA enables us to modernize equipment, sustain our capability and replace obsolete equipment to maintain parity with the active component when recapitalization is not feasible,” he said. “Parity is critical to seamless Total Force integration. We remain grateful for these appropriations, and cannot overemphasize how vital they are to our readiness.”
In closing, Scobee thanked the subcommittee for its steadfast support and pledged continued Air Force Reserve support to the country.
“The Air Force Reserve remains prepared to defend our great nation and the American people,” he said.
A rebroadcast of the hearing can be viewed here.