WASHINGTON, D.C. — Service chiefs from the Reserve and Guard components met with members of House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus on Capitol Hill, March 14.
Leaders from each branch of service spoke about their top three priorities at the caucus-sponsored breakfast. Lt. Gen. James Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve and commander, Air Force Reserve Command, said the mission, manpower and modernization are the top three priorities for the Air Force Reserve.
Jackson opened up his priority list by mentioning the lack of funding for the 14,000 Department of Defense civilians staffed at the AF Reserve; nearly 10,000 of whom are dual-status Air Reserve Technicians serving in a civilian capacity when not in military status. The ARTs are essential to the everyday mission of the AF Reserve and they work to make sure the planes get in the air and the missions are successful, he said.
“The underlying principles are to remain a combat-ready, cost-effective, experienced force,” he added. “We are that now and we want to continue to be that.”
Jackson spoke on retaining Airmen as part of his manpower priority.
“We need to be able to retain experienced Airmen for life,” he said. “We have civilian skill sets and also capture the active duty skill sets. If we can retain that manpower and the ability to utilize it [manpower] as an operational ready-Reserve, than that is a benefit to the nation.”
The last of the top three priorities for the AF Reserve was modernization.
While Jackson touched on a number of modernization issues, he focused on the use of the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account funds. The NGREA is procurement funding provided by Congress directly to all Reserve components to fill shortfalls in equipment provided by the services.
“We are spending money right now on the defense of large aircraft, targeting pods and all pieces of equipment that we need for our Air Force,” he said. “The bottom line is all of that can be paid through the NGREA funds and help the total force and the nation.”
According to a position paper from the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year-2012 authorized the appropriations of $1 billion for Guard and Reserve equipment. Without the appropriation, the Reserve Component would have only received $325 million in the Defense Authorization bill.
“I think it is extremely important to have the leaders from Congress, the Reserve components and strategic partners here to put together a game plan and a way forward, particularly as we go through this time of sequestration and a continuing resolution,” he said.
The NGRCC convenes annually to ensure the National Guard and Reserve components are resourced and have inputs on policy and force structure within the Department of Defense.
“There is no venue, with the exception of the caucus breakfast, where you have the heads of the Guard and Reserve forces in one location, laying out in clear terms what their services need to maintain readiness,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, (R-Calif.), co-chair of the NGRCC. “Given the budgetary issues facing our defense community, this is the best kind of meeting that helps Congress make sound decisions that support our men and women serving in harm’s way.”