Readiness was a top priority for both the National Guard and the services’ Reserve components when planning budgets for fiscal year 2020, their leaders told Congress yesterday.
During a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, the chiefs of all four service reserve components and the National Guard Bureau briefed lawmakers on the status of the components they lead, and some of the priorities that went into developing their budget request for fiscal 2020.
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the three priorities for the National Guard included preparing to fight overseas, defending the nation and building partnerships. Each of those missions supports the national defense strategy, he said.
Lengyel also told lawmakers that for the National Guard to be ready to do what it needs to do — to be deployable, sustainable and interoperable with the active component of the Army and Air Force -- “we require such things as appropriate levels of full-time support, and replacing and upgrading old, worn-out facilities. We require parity in equipping our force through concurrent and balanced modernization and recapitalization of our force along with our active components.”
Army Gen. Charles D. Luckey, chief of the Army Reserve, highlighted “Ready Force X” in his submitted testimony.
“This construct, Ready Force X, remains the way in which we focus energy, optimize our process, and prioritize our resources to deliver capabilities at the speed of relevance for a major war,” he said.
Ready Force X, or RFX, Luckey said, begins at the individual soldier level.
“While many aspects of collective readiness at the unit level can be tuned up quickly upon mobilization, the key individual soldier requirements of physical fitness, medical readiness, tactical discipline, professional education, and fieldcraft proficiency must be ‘baked in’ to the entire force,” he said. “Put simply, at a profound level, we are all in RFX.”
Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, chief of the Air Force Reserve, said his focus is to “prepare to operate in tomorrow’s battlespace while providing excellent support to our airmen and their families.”
In the past year, Scobee said, the Air Force Reserve activated its first cyber wing and its first intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance wing, which is expected to help the service further expand its support off those missions.
Vice Adm. Luke M. McCollum, chief of the Navy Reserve, said recapitalization of aging hardware “is critical to ensuring the highest levels of readiness and interoperability with the active component.”
A No. 1 priority there, he said, is recapitalization of the Navy Reserve's Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force capability. Two Navy Reserve units, one at Whidbey Island, Washington, and the other at Jacksonville, Florida, currently operate P-3C maritime patrol aircraft. Plans are to replace those with the P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
“Recapitalization of the two RC squadrons currently operating the legacy P-3C’s, through FY 2022, with additional P-8A aircraft, aircrews and associated military construction, will buy down warfighting risk,” McCollum said in his written statement.
The budget request seeks funds to help accomplish that, McCollum said, as well as other Navy Reserve priorities such as avionics upgrades for the C-130T aircraft, 40-foot patrol boats and the Joint Reserve Intelligence Centers.
Maj. Gen. Bradley S. James, commander of Marine Corps Forces Reserve, told senators how they could contribute to a “more ready and lethal Marine Reserve force.”
First, he cited continued support of the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation, and he asked for “greater spending flexibility within this appropriation in order to procure critical shortfall items, and modernize equipment and systems.”
Second, he highlighted the timeliness of the fiscal 2019 budget and said the predictability has a positive impact in the training of Reserve Marines.
“I would like to thank you for this year’s appropriations,” he told the panel. “On average the Marine Corps Reserve [members] only have 38 training days a year, which places an increase in importance on adequate and timely appropriation.”