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GAO Report on U.S. Air Force Readiness

The following is the Oct. 10, 2018 Government Accountability Office report, Air Force Readiness: Actions Needed to Rebuild Readiness and Prepare for the Future.

From the Report

GAO’s prior work has highlighted that the Air Force faces management and readiness challenges in four interrelated areas:

  • Personnel: The Air Force has reported that pilot and aircraft maintainer shortfalls are a key challenge to rebuilding readiness. GAO found in April 2018 that the Air Force had fewer fighter pilots than authorizations for 11 of 12 years, from fiscal years 2006 through 2017. Even as unmanned aerial systems had become more prevalent and fighter pilot workloads had increased, the Air Force had not reevaluated fighter squadron requirements. GAO recommended that the Air Force reevaluate fighter pilot squadron requirements to ensure it has the pilots necessary for all missions.
  • Equipment: Air Force aircraft availability has been limited by challenges associated with aging aircraft, maintenance, and supply support. GAO reported in September 2018 that, from fiscal year 2011 through 2016, the Air Force generally did not meet availability goals for key aircraft. Further, in October 2017 GAO found F-35 availability was below service expectations and sustainment plans did not include key requirements. GAO recommended that DOD revise F-35 sustainment plans to include requirements and decision points needed to implement the F-35 sustainment strategy.
  • Training: The Air Force has identified the need to ensure its forces can successfully achieve missions to address a broad range of current and emerging threats. However, GAO reported in September 2016 that Air Force combat fighter squadrons did not complete annual training requirements due to aircraft availability and training range limitations, and had used the same underlying assumptions for its annual training requirements from 2012 to 2016. GAO recommended that the Air Force reassess its annual training requirements to ensure its forces can accomplish a full range of missions.
  • Organization and Utilization: Air Force management of its force structure can also exacerbate readiness challenges. GAO found in July 2018 that the Air Force’s organization of its small F-22 fleet had not maximized aircraft availability, and that its utilization of F-22s reduced opportunities for pilots to train for missions in high-threat environments. GAO found that unless the Air Force assesses the organization and use of its F-22s, F-22 units are likely to continue to experience aircraft availability and pilot training rates that are below what they could be. GAO recommended that the Air Force reassess its F-22 organizational structure to reduce risk to future operations.

Looking to the future, the Air Force will have to balance the rebuilding of its existing force with its desire to grow and modernize. To meet current and future demands, the Air Force has stated that it needs to have more squadrons. However, the costs of such growth are as yet unknown, and will have to compete with other military services looking to increase their force structure and recapitalize their forces. Even with growth, the Air Force would be dependent on the force of today for decades to come and will need to stay focused on rebuilding the readiness of existing forces. Addressing GAO’s recommendations are necessary steps to meet current and future needs and can assist the Air Force moving forward.

  • PolicyWonk

    The Air Force has reported that pilot and aircraft maintainer shortfalls are a key challenge to rebuilding readiness.
    ================================================
    Right – and a recently completed study, summarized on Military Dot Com, concludes that 1/3 of American citizens of recruiting age are too obese for military service.

    As if that weren’t bad enough, birth rates have declined significantly over the past few decades, and the decline has accelerated in more recent years because the costs of living are simply too high. Young couples can’t afford to buy houses, and have a lot to be worried about, given their concerns about the environment, the cost of healthcare, daycare, food, clothing, education, and all the other items that quickly add up when your trying to raise a family. They simply conclude they either can’t afford to have children, or opt to have a smaller family than they might’ve otherwise.

    Then you’ve got the competition: many opt for continuing their educations (college, trade schools), won’t serve for religious or objector reasons, or otherwise opt for civilian careers. Then you take out those without sufficient education, criminal records, drug usage, etc. None of this includes those who won’t serve due to problems in the VA, endless stories about endless deployments, etc.

    The USAF wants to radically increase the number of active squadrons; the USN (etc.) wants to increase from 284 to 355 ships; and the Army can’t meet its current recruiting goals – and there simply aren’t enough people to do all the above (the USMC is the sole exception). Even assuming the federal government learns how to add and subtract, rescinds the tax breaks for the ultra wealthy, and stops spending at a level that would embarrass a drunken Kennedy, fixes DoD acquisition (HA!), and gets their budgetary act together: there still aren’t enough people to bring bring the armed services up to acceptable manning levels.

    The only remaining way they’ll do it, is to restart the draft, assuming we get our fiscal house in order.

  • Sally

    Ha!!! This report is a joke now. Only 33 of the 55 F-22s from Tyndall AFB made it to Wright-Patterson Air Base ahead of hurricane Michael. 22 of the F-22s got left behind. So, despite the report saying the F-22 fleet had not maximized aircraft availability, it is even worse now. Even the New York Times reported: ” Air Force report this year found that on average, only about 49 percent of F-22s were mission ready at any given time — the lowest rate of any fighter in the Air Force. (That is 91 of the total 187 F-22s). The total value of the 22 fighters that may remain at Tyndall is about $7.5 billion”. This happened once before in 1952 at Carswell AFB with a tornado taking out 2/3rds of the the B-36 strategic bomber fleet. You would think the Air Force would have learned something about parking all of its eggs in one basket, but in the 66 years since, it apparently hasn’t. .