WASHINGTON — Discussing the future of the Air Force, senior military and industry leaders gathered at the Air Force Association’s 2013 Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16-18.
More than 5,000 U.S. and allied-nation Airmen along with corporate and media representatives attended the annual event to discuss challenges and financial austerity facing the Air Force and aerospace community.
“The most important thing we have is our Airmen,” said Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon and commander of Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
“Our Reserve Component programs retain the Air Force’s investment,” said Jackson. “Retaining ‘Airmen for Life’ saves recruiting, training and education dollars.”
As senior leaders make structure and budgetary decisions, they will be adjusting the active component and reserve component mix.
The Air Force Reserve is part of every Air Force core mission. However, the future roles and missions of the Reserve Component will be a key part of leveraging the cost advantages while keeping the right balance of Air Force capability and capacity.
“The biggest challenge to Air Force Reserve is funding and how we keep ‘Tier One’ ready,” said Jackson during a conference breakout session.
“Tier One” means being ready now. Currently, Air Force reservists train to same standards as regular component Airmen and prepare to deploy in 72 hours or less.
“We need to figure out which missions are best suited for the Air Force Reserve,” said Jackson. “We need to do what’s best for the Air Force. Take mission sets and put them into the component that can make the best use of them. Mission and functional areas also need to be big enough for a force development pyramid so our Airmen can clearly see their path to success.”
In many cases, the Reserve Component reduces life-cycle costs to the Air Force by recruiting and retaining reservists who have leading-edge, high-tech skills that they use in their civilian jobs. These reservists bring valuable insight and innovation to military programs.
“Citizen Airmen want to serve,” Jackson said. “They want to put their combat-tested operational experience to use.”
“Together, we provide Global Vigilance, Global Reach and Global Power better than anyone else,” Jackson said. “Three components are what the Air Force needs to get the most capability and capacity out of it. Three components actually helped to mitigate some of sequestration’s effects.”
In the coming months of 2014, Congressional leaders will review Air Force structure and budget plans for fiscal year 2015. New-updated enterprise-wide actions will make the Reserve Component Airmen more accessible to planners who wish to capitalize on the strengths of each component.
“When the Air Force fills combatant commander requirements, every single one of our Airmen should be in that planning,” Jackson said. “We are now using all of the Total Force and that is a good thing.
“We are a combat-ready force with operational capability, strategic depth and surge capacity,” he said. “We’re going to keep on doing what we’ve been doing – providing combat-ready Airmen.”