The Air Force’s target date for restoring readiness to levels that existed prior to sequestration has been postponed once again, with the objective still remaining more than a decade away, officials told the House Armed Services’ Readiness Subcommittee last week.
“The 2025 timeframe was based on some assumptions that haven’t panned out,” said Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff. “We assumed we wouldn’t be increasing our activity in Europe, in the Pacific and in Iraq and Syria. As long as that demand signal is there, what you’ll see is a continual, rolling eight-to-10 year delay in getting to full spectrum readiness. Our prediction is that for the next two-to-three years, we’ll probably be able to just hold our own,” said Goldfein, reported Federal News Radio.
Currently, only about half of the Air Force’s combat units are sufficiently trained for conflict against high-end adversaries. One of the primary hurdles preventing air crews from regaining desired readiness levels is that instead of conducting training missions, units are committed to carrying out missions overseas that don’t provide the appropriate experience.
“What that means in the F-16, for instance, is that air crews that are trained and designed to do high-end peer-to-peer conflicts in a contested environment are actually spending most of their time flying counterinsurgency missions, and they lose their skills over time,” Goldfein said.
The service also is trying to cope with a deficit in maintainers needed to work on next generation F-35s, which are slowly being introduced into the fleet.
“We’ve offered numerous retention incentives so that our older maintainers will stay in, but we’re still digging a hole because we have a force structure we can’t divest,” said Lt. Gen. John Cooper, the deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection.