Friday, February 27, 2015

James: In-Demand Air Force Experiences Strain

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 – The Air Force is requesting $10 billion above what sequestration-level funding provides in order to support its global responsibilities, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James told members of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee here today.

James said the potential return of sequestration jeopardizes the Air Force’s ability to sustain its various global missions and hampers its ability to focus on its main priorities: people, modernization and stewardship.

“Sequestration needs to be lifted, lifted permanently,” the secretary said.

Combatant Commander Requirements

James said the request for $10 billion in additional funding is based on combatant commander requirements and the need for Air Force support to joint operations worldwide.

The Air Force is the smallest it’s been since it was established in 1947, James said. And it has a lot of older aircraft, while the demand for air support remains high.

“The average age of our Air Force [airmen] is about 27 years old but there are many [aircraft] fleets that are substantially older than that,” James said. “More than half of our combat air forces … are not sufficiently ready for a high-end fight.”

James said the Air Force provides two-thirds of the support to maintain the United States’ nuclear arsenal. Airmen also perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she added, and carry out strike missions in Iraq and Syria to support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“I fear we’re either going to break or we absolutely will not be able to do the defense strategic guidance that has been laid out for us,” James said.

People a Top Priority

Taking care of people is a top Air Force priority, said James, noting she takes service members’ concerns about downsizing seriously.

“We have to stop this downsizing; enough is enough,” the secretary said. “We need to upsize … modestly, active Guard and reserve to a total end strength of 492,000.”

That increase in personnel would allow the Air Force to redirect people to the nuclear enterprise, she said, and fill critical gaps in its cyber and maintenance teams.

James also reported plans to expand sexual assault prevention and response program services with augmented training, plus-ups in the special victims counseling programs, and provision of full-time sexual assault response coordinators.

Other goals include increases in child care support, fitness centers and educational benefits, as well as a 1.3 percent pay increase, she said.

Balance Between Readiness, Modernization

The balance between readiness and modernization is a vital element to ensure the Air Force is ready for the high-end fight, James said.

“Our proposal will fully fund flying hours to the maximum executable level, will invest properly in weapons system sustainment, and ensure that our combat exercises … remain strong,” she said.

The secretary reported that she and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III consulted closely with combatant commanders to assemble the additional $10 billion budget request with a focus on ISR, U-2 and Airborne Warning and Control System programs.

James also noted the need to support vital space programs and the nuclear enterprise, with additional investments in the KC-46 Pegasus refueling aircraft, F-35 Lightning II, and the long-range strike bomber, which she said will remain on track with the Air Force’s budget proposal to Congress.

Making Each Dollar Count

The secretary told Congress the Air Force is “driving steadily” toward auditability of its financial books, and it’s taking on a 20 percent reduction in headquarters funding, which includes civilians, contractors and redirection of military personnel.

There are difficult money-saving choices for the Air Force, such as the retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” aircraft over time, a proposal to slow military compensation growth, and consideration of a new round of base realignment and closures, James said.

Still, if sequestration remains the law of the land, James said the budget constraints portend even more sacrifices, including divestment in programs such as ISR, U-2, AWACs, KC-10 and F-35 procurements, total force flying hours, weapons system sustainment, and cancellation of the adaptive engine program.

“Your United States Air Force is still the best on the planet, but we mustn’t take that for granted because we are a force under strain,” James said. “And we mustn’t let our edge slip away.”

Stand-off Munitions Application Center brings efficiency to force

by Capt. Christopher Mesnard
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

2/27/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- For more than a year, the 608th Air Operations Center has provided a unique capability to the Department of Defense through the Stand-off Munitions Application Center, an integrated initiative focused on efficiently building stand-off strike capabilities into the operations plans of combatant commands.

"We cannot afford to do business in such a fiscally limited environment without a synchronized, cost-saving program like SMAC," said Col. James Denton, 608th AOC commander. "Our tactics, accuracy and efficiency have advanced significantly since the bombing campaigns of World War II and Vietnam. Now we can use fewer weapons systems integrated together to eliminate or hinder an adversary's ability to operate against us or our allies."

A working group during the January 2013 Weapons and Tactics Conference at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., identified the need for advanced strike packages. The group's recommendation sought to improve the efficiency of air operations by requiring the use of integrated stand-off engagements in addition to drastically reducing the cost to use weapons systems and delivery platforms.

"The process previously in place was very similar to the system used in the Vietnam War. AOCs de-conflicted [operations] by platform-type, but the optimization piece wasn't happening," said Lt. Col. Paul Peconga, 608th AOC Combat Plans deputy director. "The job is getting done, but with the tight fiscal constraints, we're looking to get it done more efficiently using integration of weapon systems."

Prior to the SMAC's inception, members of AOCs didn't have a capability in place to integrate stand-off munitions into strike packages to counter modern-day anti-access and area denial tactics used by adversaries. By using the SMAC, current plans now take into account the advances in anti-access and area denial, which have taken place over the past few decades. The results are more efficient and effective strike packages, which decreases the potential for wasted million-dollar munitions.

Since the SMAC's inception, the effort has paid off. During an exercise last year involving multiple DOD components, the AOC's planning accomplished the stated exercise goals while reducing the number of stand-off munitions expended.

"During [last year's exercise], the savings we saw equated to approximately $25 million worth of cruise missiles," said Maj. Michael Pontius, SMAC chief.

The planning that goes into each strike package is a collaborative effort between many different organizations.

A combatant command begins the process by identifying a long-range strike requirement, such as neutralizing an enemy command and control node that is heavily defended by the most advanced surface-to-air missile systems. Members of the SMAC then assess how to best strike the target and build a delivery capability based on that requirement. For this example, Pontius described a scenario requiring a B-52. Once the B-52 was selected to eliminate the target, the next step identified the support functions to aid the aircraft's crew in completing their objective. This entails identifying varying support requirements to eliminate adversaries in the air or on the ground. This process no longer takes into account only kinetic forces to physically inhibit an opponent's forces, but also cyber capabilities which are developing into more capable assets for degrading an enemy's infrastructure.

The process achieves a "layered effect" with different weapons systems and capabilities from the Air Force, Navy and other intelligence and targeting centers across the DOD, Pontius said. Combining those different agencies' skill sets and capabilities, the SMAC caters to the needs of the requesting combatant command to integrate long-range strike assets, like the Air Force's conventional air-launched cruise missile, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, and the Navy's Tomahawk Land Attack Missile.

Both the CALCM and TLAM packages provide commanders with options to mitigate the risks of flying into contested air space, but their stockpiles are limited and the current assets must be used resourcefully.

"We don't have a lot of stand-off strike weapons to waste on non-vital targets and the weapons aren't getting any cheaper," said Maj. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm, 8th Air Force commander. "That's where the SMAC comes into play. The program benefits more than just the forces in Global Strike because it takes an integrated approach to weapons planning, tying ACC, PACOM and Navy assets into the planning phase. Through this holistic approach, we find ways to consolidate our war fighting capabilities, efficiently and effectively incapacitating potential adversaries."

A fundamental trait of the SMAC is full integration of DOD components to carry out a long-range strike plan. A plan is no longer developed around the needs of one service component; all DOD assets are incorporated into the strike plan's construction. With this holistic program in play, planners offer commanders more confidence that friendly forces have the best possible chance at mission success and survival.

"We can fly in directly over the target and deliver munitions," Denton said. "But it may not be pretty, and the chance of losing our people goes up. As we figure out ways to nullify defensive points more effectively, be it through physical or cyber-attack, then we win valuable seconds; and in an air battle, those seconds translate into U.S. and allies' lives saved."

The value of this program is not lost on the planning teams at combatant commands, since the SMAC's stand-up last year, the work load for his planners has picked up and the trend is expected to continue.

"Right now we're the only command in the Air Force with this type of capability, and we're earning our keep," Denton said. "Over the next three months, the SMAC will provide stand-off munitions expertise to PACOM, EUCOM, and STRATCOM through three separate exercises."

The 608th AOC plans to continue integrating the SMAC with other Air Force AOCs and DOD components, further improving the operational capabilities of U.S. long-range strike forces. For now, there's room for growth, as the program is still centralized at the 608th with points of contact to other AOCs.

"The current set-up we have is a good start, but there's a greater potential for the SMAC program if we're to continue focusing on optimizing the employment of our weapons systems," Vander Hamm said. "To fully realize the efficiency this program can provide the DOD, we'll need to continue integrating with fellow MAAP planners, in addition to cyber and stand-off capabilities not directly under our purview, or in the Air Force at all. The end result should be a total force effort that provides the biggest bang for our buck across all available strike options."

DoD Salutes Guard, Reserve Family Readiness Programs

By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 – The war on terrorism that began with the 9/11 attacks has meant that unprecedented numbers of reserve troops have been called to active duty. Today, the Department of Defense, as it has done for the past 15 years, honored the top unit in each reserve component for its outstanding programs that support unit missions and family readiness.

Richard O. Wightman Jr., principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, hosted the Pentagon’s Reserve Family Readiness Awards. He expressed the department’s gratitude for family readiness support programs around the country that allow soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and guardsmen to serve around the world without having to worry about the challenges of life on the home front.

‘Unsung Heroes’

“To these unsung heroes, we owe much,” Wightman said. “They have given their time, freely, without any guarantees of accolades or reimbursements, yet they sacrifice their evenings, weekends, and time with family in the selfless service of others.”

Representatives of the seven reserve components accepted the award, co-sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America.

The units recognized this year for outstanding efforts to build support networks for Guard and reserve families are:

-- The Army National Guard’s 1742nd Transportation Company, Sioux Falls, South Dakota;

-- The Army Reserve’s 75th Legal Operations Detachment, Mountain View, California;

-- The Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Baltimore;

-- The Navy Reserve’s Navy Operation Support Center Charleston, North Charleston, South Carolina;

-- The Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing, Pease, Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire;

-- The Air Force Reserve’s 934th Airlift Wing, Minneapolis; and

-- The Coast Guard Reserve’s Port Security Unit 312, San Francisco.

Family Support Programs Making “Huge Difference”

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., president and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America, today credited family readiness programs with making a huge difference in the lives of those deployed far from home.

“Service members are able to focus on their duties armed with the knowledge that a support structure back home will help care for their families,” he said.

The MOAA donates $1,000 to each of the seven honoree units’ family programs.

Senior Enlisted Advisors: Uncertainty Affects Quality of Life

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 – Service members and their families are concerned about potential sequester-caused cuts to the military’s budget and possible changes to quality of life, pay and compensation programs, the services’ senior enlisted advisors told a House panel here Feb. 25.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael D. Stevens, Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald L. Green, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody appeared before the House Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs to discuss their respective branches quality of life.

Army: Fiscal Issues Harm Trust

The Army’s senior enlisted leader said adequate funding is key to showing soldiers how much leadership cares.

“Adequate resourcing allows Army leaders to demonstrate how much we care for our soldiers,” Dailey said. When properly resourced, he said, the Army is better able to meet the needs of its soldiers, families as well as Army civilians.

Caring for the Army’s people, Dailey said, is non-negotiable for both himself and all the Army leaders he represents.

“Caring for our people builds trust, and trust is built with predictability,” Dailey said. This, he said, “is the unwritten contract” between the American people, its leaders and the Army’s soldiers and civilians.

Dailey said that as an advocate for the “greatest team the world has ever known,” he is very conscious that every fiscal decision has the potential to impact soldiers.

“Trust in leaders is essential. Not only does this affect our readiness today -- it affects the all-volunteer Army of tomorrow,” he said.

“The Total Army team must always trust that we have their best interests at heart,” Dailey said. Perhaps the greatest enemy to the Army’s future, he said, is fiscal uncertainty.

Without adequate and predictable resources, Dailey said, the Army cannot plan and conduct required training, maintain high-quality soldier and family programs, and “be the most technologically advanced Army this planet has ever seen.”

The potential return of sequestration-level funding is a tipping point, Dailey said, between the Army’s ability to maintain its responsiveness and its ability to maintain trust with its soldiers and civilians.

Navy: Sailors Concerned About Compensation, Health Care

Stevens said his conversations with sailors and their families over the past year have shown they’re overall satisfied with their quality of life.

“However, the ongoing discussion regarding possible changes to future pay and compensation has created an air of uncertainty,” he added.

Stevens said while the “spirit” of budgetary reform is to reinvest in quality of life, the Navy’s sailors are concerned that more reductions will follow in medical benefits, pay and compensation, and family programs.

“The Navy is working very hard to minimize this impact and ease their concerns,” he said, “but the fact remains -- they are concerned.”

Stevens said while he has many concerns for his sailors, if asked to pick one, his “greatest and immediate concern” would be the future of their health care.

“Health care is a quality of life issue that consistently resurfaces during my fleet interactions,” he said. “It is extremely important to our sailors and their families and is very influential in recruiting and retention decisions.”

Stevens pointed to the state of single-sailor barracks, which have fallen to 50 percent adequacy. And family support programs, which are relied on to sustain resiliency, also concern him.

“We can never take for granted these sacrifices that our sailors and their families make,” he said. “Health care, barracks, and family support programs are areas that must be valued and protected for force readiness, recruitment, retention, and quality of life.”

Marines: Decisions Must Balance Readiness

Green said Marines’ operational tempo remains high despite the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Marine Corps’ combat readiness, he said, is derived from unit, personal and family readiness.

“With the current fiscal climate, we may have to take risk in many areas,” Green said. “To meet our responsibilities we prioritize near-term readiness while assuming risk in our hometown stations, modernization, infrastructure sustainment, and quality of life programs.”

Family readiness and quality of life are key Fundamentals “of overall readiness and combat effectiveness,” he said. Green said the decisions leaders make are balanced and have synergy in areas of readiness. However, he added, within the past year his service has had to take significant financial cuts in core quality-of-life areas, while protecting programs like behavioral health and sexual assault prevention and response.

“Funding levels for the Marine Corps below the presidential budget may force a choice between quality of life and quality of work,” Green said. “We may be forced to choose between the most-ready Marines or morale and family support services such as child care and family readiness programs.”

The Marine Corps takes care of its own -- including its families, Green said. That commitment is unwavering, he emphasized, and having to choose between quality of life at home and readiness for combat abroad is not a choice that should have to be made.

Airmen Serve Proudly Despite Uncertainty

The Air Force, with a total force of more than 670,000 members, is at its smallest size since it was established in 1947, Cody said.

“This is historic for us,” he said, “and it is also exacerbated by the fact that we are more globally engaged today and continue to operate in the longest sustained combat operations in the history of our country.

“On top of all this,” Cody continued, “we do this with an all-volunteer force -- a force that continues to experience uncertainty and churn with respect to mission capability, compensation, and the meaning of service.”

It must not be forgotten, he said, that the men and women who volunteer to serve in the Air Force and other service branches do so freely and proudly because they believe in what America stands for and stand ready to defend it.

“There is no question the past year has been extremely stressful on all members of the Air Force -- active duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and civilians,” Cody said.

Joined by his wife, Athena, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Cameron B. Kirksey of the Air Force Reserve, Cody said both spouses can attest to the concerns of airmen and their families.

“Both have visited with thousands of airmen and family members over the past year,” he said, “and have listened to their concerns and witnessed, firsthand, their passion for service, and they can affirm the impact of the uncertainty … on our force today.”

Despite that stress, airmen continue to serve proudly and are grateful to the subcommittee for its longstanding support, Cody said.