Air Guard Chief Addresses Congress
New commitments need to be made to the nation's airmen and
others who defend North America from threats to its air
sovereignty, the Air National Guard's senior officer told members
of Congress April 22.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air Guard,
testified before the House Armed Services Committee's readiness
subcommittee in a hearing on the nation's Air Sovereignty Alert
operations. The Air Guard operates 16 of the 18 ASA sites located
across the United States to protect its airspace. ASA relies on a
host of agencies, including U.S. Northern Command, North American
Aerospace Defense Command and the Federal Aviation
"Their service displays a commitment to job No. 1: defense of
the homeland," Wyatt said. "Our reluctance to treat Air Sovereignty
Alert as an enduring mission continues to impact the men and women
serving in this very important mission area." The general explained
that past funding for the mission has been inconsistent, and that
equipment quickly is nearing the end of its service life.
About 80 percent of the Air Guard's F-16 Fighting Falcons, which
fly the largest portion of the nation's ASA missions, will reach
the end of their life span in eight years. Officials also said the
average age of Air Guard aircraft is more than 25 years, with
KC-135 Stratotankers being the oldest at 49 years. KC-135s support
the ASA mission through aerial refueling. If Air Guard units
received the "fifth-generation" fighters, such as the F-22 and F-35
sooner rather than later, the readiness issues could be avoided,
"Every day without a solution, this situation becomes more and
more urgent," he told the subcommittee. "The risk of doing nothing
is unacceptable, and we are examining all options to address
recapitalization of these aircraft." In addition to equipment,
Wyatt pointed out the need to recognize ASA as a steady-state
mission, which would provide predictability to Guard members
serving on year-to-year state active duty tours to support it.
"I think many falsely believe this mission only includes a
handful of fighter pilots," he said. "They forget about the
maintainers, communicators, command and control, life support,
intelligence officers, security forces, and others who are also
critical components to the execution of this mission."
In total, excluding tanker support, more than 3,000 airmen are
responsible for the Air Sovereignty Alert mission, officials
The issue also affects retention, readiness, and employer and
family support, Wyatt said.
"Recognition that Air Sovereignty Alert is within the
steady-state portion of the global defense posture, requiring
long-range planning and consistent funding, is extremely important
to providing predictability to the units supporting this mission
area," he said.
"Our airmen are leaning forward, standing side by side with
their joint and coalition partners, to maintain the safety of our
skies and our borders," the general continued. "We -- all of us --
have a responsibility to add stability to their funding and to
bridge the equipment capability gaps that exist on the horizon."
[ANN Salutues Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. at the National Guard
Bureau for the update.]