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Reserve, Guard leaders discuss budgets, DOD cuts on Capitol Hill

Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, testifies May 23, 2012, at the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations on Capitol Hill. Seated to the left of the general are Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, commander of Marine Forces Reserve; Vice Adm. Dirk Debbink, chief of Navy Reserve; and Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of Army Reserve. National Guard Bureau Chief Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III and Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. William Ingram Jr. also spoke to the senators about funding in the fiscal 2013 President’s Budget request. (U.S. Air Force photo/Col. Bob Thompson)

Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, testifies May 23, 2012, at the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations on Capitol Hill. Seated to the left of the general are Lt. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, commander of Marine Forces Reserve; Vice Adm. Dirk Debbink, chief of Navy Reserve; and Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of Army Reserve. National Guard Bureau Chief Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III and Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. William Ingram Jr. also spoke to the senators about funding in the fiscal 2013 President’s Budget request. (U.S. Air Force photo/Col. Bob Thompson)

WASHINGTON -- The top leaders from Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force Reserve and National Guard programs provided statements and answered questions at a Senate hearing regarding their fiscal 2013 manning and budget proposals on May 23.

Cutting budgets, making decisions and retaining the most capability were the hot topics led by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), during the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations subcommittee on Defense as the reserve component leaders testified.

"Nobody wants to cut our forces, but we have to rebalance and realign for the new strategy and today's budget realities," said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of Air Force Reserve at the Pentagon and commander of Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. "So if we want to keep a military that the nation can afford, we need to keep as many cost-effective reservists as possible."

Faced with austere budget times, the Air Force is refocusing and reducing the size of its forces to comply with the president's new defense strategy and the Budget Control Act's requirements to cut $487 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years.

The Air Force's share in reductions is about $54 billion, and Air Force leaders plan to save $8.7 billion in FY13.

"We provide 3.5 combat-ready reservists for the price of one active-duty Airman," Stenner said.

He added that the Air Force Reserve is rich with combat veterans and highly-skilled reservists who average four to five years more experience than their active-duty counterparts.

The Air Force Reserve FY13 budget is about 4.6 percent of the Air Force's $110.1 billion allocation. This includes more than $5 billion and funding for 70,500 Citizen Airmen who fulfill Title 10 or federal roles and missions in time of war or national emergency. Reservists are called upon to serve whenever more units and people are needed than are in the Regular Air Force as well as to fill daily mission requirements.

"We're concentrating our resources to ensure maximum return on our investment," Stenner said. "We can sustain operations at significantly lower cost than active forces. Trading away highly experienced Reserve personnel to invest in future active component daily operations is a sub-optimal choice that exchanges trained and available combat capability in the Air Force Reserve for recruiting and training new personnel in the active component."

The general discussed how the FY13 President's Budget request would fund Air Force Reserve requirements at $5.062 billion. It provides for the operation and training of 34 wings and includes $3.166 billion for operation and maintenance for air operations, service support and civilian pay. Another $1.885 billion funds military personnel, and $11 million goes toward military construction.

"We recruit and retain reservists in every Air Force career specialty in order to fulfill the nation's need for cost-effective and efficient daily operations as well as a ready global surge capability," Stenner said.

If Congress approves the President's Budget for FY13, the Department of Defense and its service components will begin their budget reductions on Oct. 1. This plan will decrease Air Force Reserve's end-strength manning from 71,400 to 70,500 Citizen Airmen. Besides the reduction of 900 Air Force reservists, the Air Force plans to decrease by 3,900 active-duty Airmen and 5,100 Air National Guard Airmen. These plans may change as Congress and the President shape and approve the budget.

"Our Air Force has set priorities and made some tough choices," Stenner said. "We have to find a balance among the active and reserve components that is sustainable and affordable."

If approved, the current FY13 budget plan will require the Air Force Reserve to change its force structure and retire 82 aircraft and realign 5,000 to 6,000 jobs into new locations or career fields. Many of these jobs will require reservists to retrain into other career fields and will result in a loss of experience.

"That loss could potentially break the Strategic Reserve," said Stenner. "With the continued support of Congress, we will never return to the days of a 'hollow force.'"

The downsizing of the aircraft fleet has been a rigorous process, according to Stenner. The Air Force used four guidelines: create no negative consequences to the combatant commands, no new bills, increase mission capable rates, and evaluate the fleet as a whole.

The current Air Force plan includes closing the 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station, Pa. If the 911th AW is deactivated as planned, the Pittsburgh ARS is expected to close. However, the plan calls for Pittsburgh Air National Guard Base to remain operational.

"Historically, we've been vulnerable to reductions," said Stenner. "Often our cost-effective and efficient capability isn't always recognized."

The Senate Appropriations Committee is the largest committee in the U.S. Senate. Its role is defined by the U.S. Constitution, which requires "appropriations made by law" prior to the expenditure of any money from the Federal treasury. The Defense subcommittee is responsible for reviewing the President's budget request, hearing testimony from government officials, and drafting the spending plans for the coming fiscal year.

Video of the hearing is posted at:
http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/webcasts.cfm?method=webcasts.view&id=d63d1bb7-a4fe-4ac4-a41c-aebb743c49be

General Stenner's written statement is posted at:
http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/ht-defense.cfm?method=hearings.view&id=46237e1f-3cc0-40ac-a875-2d08636d10c8