Gen. Mark Welsh III addressed a range of issues July 19 during his Senate confirmation hearing to be the next Air Force chief of staff.
Welsh, who has commanded U.S. Air Forces in Europe since December 2010, answered questions from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about budget and force structure, sexual assault prevention and response, the new Defense Strategic Guidance, and other areas.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to work with you to find ways to reduce our deficit and to keep our Air Force trained, equipped and ready to defend our nation, its citizens and its interests,” Welsh said during his opening statement.
“I’ll admit I’m even more excited about the opportunity to lead the men and women who serve in the world’s finest Air Force,” he added.
Welsh said America’s Airmen move people and cargo to every corner of the world, conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations for every combatant commander, conduct lifesaving aeromedical evacuations for wounded warriors, and bring fallen comrades home to the nation and the families who love them.
“They fight shoulder to shoulder with Army, Navy and Marine Corps comrades on the battlefield and they patrol the skies above them, ready to respond when lives are on the line,” Welsh said.
When asked about the Air Force’s fiscal 2013 budget request, Welsh said that should he be confirmed, he would look to improve the process by which the service develops its budget proposals.
“I believe that there needs to be a more inclusive coordination process on the budget,” Welsh said. “I think what matters the most today is how we move forward from here.”
The general vowed that, if confirmed, he would work closely with the National Guard Bureau, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, state Guard leaders and others on future budget deliberations.
The Senate committee also asked Welsh about the challenge of stopping sexual assault in the Air Force.
“Everyone is trying to do the right thing and figure out some way of stopping this,” Welsh said. “But the fact is we haven’t even reversed the trend.”
The Air Force has institutionalized sexual assault prevention and response training during the past 10 years from the most junior levels to the headquarters level, the general said. Additionally, bystander intervention training is a requirement for the entire Air Force.
“The simple fact is the goal for sexual assault in the United States Air Force is not a decline in the trend… it is zero,” Welsh said.
Welsh was also asked for his thoughts on the Defense Department’s new Defense Strategic Guidance, and its focus on the Asia-Pacific theater.
“I believe what it means is there is a new strategic focus on the Pacific, meaning that our Air Force planning for capabilities to respond to combatant commander support needs to be focused on the Pacific first, without forgetting the activity in the Middle East, which remains a focus area as well,” Welsh said.
The general said the Air Force is already well on its way in implementing the new strategic guidance, thanks to the hard work of Airmen all across the world.
“If confirmed, I fully accept the responsibility to stand beside Secretary [of the Air Force Michael] Donley and lead all of those Airmen–690,000 strong, active, guard, reserve and civilian Airmen–who selflessly serve our nation as part of an unbeatable joint team,” Welsh said.