Senator Collins Calls for Proportional Fielding of New Aircraft to National Guard and Reserves
Washington, D.C. – At a hearing to review the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the National Guard and Reserve Components, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, engaged with Chief of the Air Force Reserve Lieutenant General John Healy on the importance of fielding new modernized aircraft, to include tankers and fighters, in a manner that is concurrent and proportional to the Guard and Reserve’s operational contribution to the Department of Defense.
Senator Collins said:
General Healy, I understand that more than three-quarters of the 25 Air Guard fighter squadrons operate legacy F-15 fighter aircraft. That obviously reduces interoperability and compatibility with active duty units. The disproportionate fielding of aircraft affects other units as well, such as the air refueling wing in my home state of Maine.
My understanding is that the current KC-46A basing plan places 71% of the new KC-46 with active units, 14% with reserve units, and 15% with guard units, even though the Guard flies almost 38% of all Air Force tankers.
So, it seems disproportionate to me, if only 15% of the new aircraft is going to the Guard, if the Guard is flying 38% of all Air Force tankers. Should new aircraft be fielded in a manner that is proportional to the Guard's operational contributions?
Lieutenant General Healy:
Ma'am, I agree 100% that it appears disproportionate right now. The 77% of the Air Force Reserves' fleet is legacy. And in the words of the Secretary of the Air Force, legacy is defined as 'does not concern the PRC in a flight.' KC-135's, C130-H's, pre-block F-16's, A-10 divestment, are all issues and concerns for the Air Force Reserve in terms of proportionality. The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, in 2014, called for and recommended proportional and concurrent fielding of weapons systems, with the Guard and Reserve in association with the active component. And we're constantly advocating adherence to that recommendation.
As weapon systems are upgraded and recapitalized in the active component, if the Guard and Reserve, and specifically my concern, the Reserve, are not proportionally recapitalized, we will ultimately lack the capacity and the capability to participate in that near peer flight, if we're still flying in 37-year-old aircraft, pre-block F-16's. Whether it's the F-16 to the F-35, one for one, KC-135's to the KC-46, or any of the bombers for the B-21 family systems, we're looking to contribute and we want to be that surge capacity that we've provided for the last 75 years.
As the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins is pressing forward with Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) to hold subcommittee hearings on the President’s budget request. These hearings provide an important opportunity to assess our country’s needs for the coming year and will help guide Senators Collins and Murray’s efforts to write the annual government funding bills.
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