Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne (left) looks on as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley answers a question during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee Oct. 24 in Washington. The Air Force senior leaders were on Capitol Hill to discuss Air Force strategic initiatives with congressional members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)
Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne (center) looks on as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley answers a question from U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, D-FL, (left) during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee Oct. 24 in Washington. The Air Force senior leaders where on Capitol Hill to discuss Air Force strategic initiatives with congressional members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)
by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
10/26/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- People, equipment and money were the main topics Oct. 24 when the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff testified before the House Armed Services Committee.
Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Gen. T. Michael Moseley answered questions from the committee about warfighting resources required for today and the future.
"While we're fighting the war on terror, we're also preparing for an uncertain future by doing all we can to become an even more efficient and effective instrument of national power," General Moseley said.
To that end, the Air Force is committed to flying a new air refueling tanker, testing rotary aircraft for combat search and rescue and developing a new long-range bomber. In addition, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II will be the staples of future fighter wings, the general said.
"A new refueling platform is our number one priority -- we don't maintain air superiority and global reach without it," General Moseley said.
As one potential solution, several HASC members asked if the Air Force has considered a civilian contracted "fee-for-service" air refueling solution similar to a Navy program.
"We're open to exploring it as an option," General Moseley said. "What we'd like is the freedom to test it on our own to see if it works for us. There are a lot of variables in a service like that."
The secretary hammered home the need for recapitalizing the Air Force inventory and retiring airframes that are no longer viable. At the center of the discussion were the KC-135E Stratotanker, C-5A Galaxy and C-130E Hercules aircraft.
"Congressional legislation keeps us from maintaining our own fleet," Secretary Wynne said. "What we want is to be able to retire aircraft that don't fly anymore."
For example, some grounded KC-135Es have to be towed around the flightline every few days just to keep the tires from going flat. In addition, once a month, the engines have to be run, just to keep within federal regulations. Because these grounded aircraft have to go through these mandatory procedures, they must continue to be funded, General Moseley explained.
"This wastes time, money and the efforts of our crew chiefs to work on airplanes that don't fly," the general said.
In order to save the money necessary to recapitalize the fleet, the Air Force has conducted several money-saving initiatives, including reshaping the service to operate with fewer people.
"Ultimately our goal is to ensure the Air Force maintains the right size and mix of forces to meet the global challenges of today and tomorrow. While our force size is getting smaller, we are making every effort to do business smarter," Secretary Wynne said.
"Some of our most successful initiatives have led to even more seamless integration of all elements of our total force," he added.
Members of the HASC expressed concern on how exactly the Guard and Reserve would be affected by the Air Force's plan to draw down by 40,000 Airmen and if their missions would still be relevant.
"We have Guard and Reserve units partnering with their active duty equivalents in several areas," General Moseley said. He cited F-22 squadrons at Langley Air Force Base, Va., and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, as perfect examples of active duty and Reserve Airmen working side by side.
"We also want to integrate the Guard and Reserve into our cyberspace mission," Secretary Wynne added. "This will keep them close to their home station while still performing a critical Air Force mission."
General Moseley and Secretary Wynne also answered questions about Air Force readiness considering more than 6,100 Airmen are filling in-lieu-of taskings for the Army.
"The Air Force has been in combat consistently for 17 years -- we never left. Our jets were flying no-fly zones getting shot at everyday," General Moseley said. "Our rotating schedule has changed and adapted over the years to work with our Airmen and their families. But there will always be a need for airlift as well as (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) in the Middle East. We're prepared to be there for at least another decade."
Overall, the Air Force must provide combatant commanders with the tools, people and resources needed to be successful, General Moseley told the panel.
"We're part of the joint mission," he said. "We develop our officers to think that way at Air University so they're ready to operate on a joint team or a combined team. We're in the middle of the fight, and we're happy to be a part of it."