WASHINGTON D.C. --
In back to back hearings, Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense and the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense March 2-3.
Scobee was joined for both hearings by his counterparts: Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, Vice Admiral Luke McCollum, chief of the Navy Reserve, Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, chief of the Army Reserve, and Lt. Gen. David Bellon, commander of the Marine Forces Reserve.
“The Air Force Reserve is an essential component of the Total Force and we provide experience and critical capabilities for our national defense,” Scobee said in his opening statement. “We are a predominantly part-time force. However, we provide full-time capability to the Joint Force.
“Our personnel are interoperable and interchangeable with everything we do in the Air Force. The National Defense Strategy has directed us to be ready and prepared to operate in tomorrow’s battlespace and that’s what we’re going to do. Our Airmen are the foundation of those efforts, and it’s essential that we provide excellent support to our Airmen and their families.”
The hearings were an opportunity for Scobee to share with Congressional members the status of the Reserve, highlighting the Reserve’s contribution to the Total Force, strategic priorities, modernization and manning.
“During the last year, we had some lines of effort where we made significant progress, especially in readiness and reforming our organization,” he said. “Our ability to support the Joint Force has really been enhanced by our modernization initiatives and we’ve replaced a lot of obsolete equipment.
Our National Guard and Reserve equipment appropriations have provided essential funding for our modernization efforts and we thank you for past-year appropriations.”
Scobee went on to address the fiscal year 2021 budget.
“The Air Force Reserve’s full-time manpower has improved over the last year, but it’s still insufficient. So, the command chief and I are going to continue to work on that,” Scobee told both subcommittees.
“The conversion of Air Reserve Technician to Active Guard/Reserve billets and the Congressional approval of direct hiring authority – where we’ve hired 970 additional Airmen over the past year – have worked well for us.
“Last year, Congress also authorized our Air Reserve Technicians to receive medical coverage through Tricare Reserve Select. Thank you very much for that,” Scobee said. “That health plan is going to help us with retention and it’s really going to help us from breaking health care coverage for our technicians as they deploy. My ask as we go forward is that we try to get that benefit for all of our Airmen.”
Members of both subcommittees focused much of their attention on their concern about the loss of National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriations funding and how it would affect the services.
“[Modernization] capabilities will have to be slipped, although it should not necessarily impact many of the readiness issues we face,” Lt. Gen. Scobee said. “It will impact some self-protection systems for A-10s and F-16s, and all the way to B-52s we have at Barkdsale, where we have some debrief capabilities we really need for our aircrews. It will [also] impact some self-protection for our pararescue folks that are flying helicopters in harm’s way. Some of the money we have, because it’s three-year money, we’ll be able to bring forward for these very critical systems. But some of these needs we’ll have to delay and continue to fund in future-year dollars.”
Airmen resilience was another topic of concern for the Congressional members.
“The command chief and I take this personally,” Scobee said. “We have to do a better job of taking care of our Airmen. We’ve looked into it and there are two areas where we are focusing our attention – financial issues and interpersonal relationship issues. We need to focus our education efforts on what healthy finances look like and what healthy relationships look like. The last thing is we need to make sure our Airmen feel connected and understand they are always part of our family – no matter what status they are in.”
Both hearings can be found on the House Subcommittee
on Defense website and the Senate Subcommittee
on Defense website.