Calling All Pilots!
The Air Force and our nation are facing a critical shortage of pilots. Earlier this month, the Air Force announced that retired fighter pilots were encouraged to return to active duty in order to fill critical staff rated positions. The Air Force has taken this unusual step because the shortage of pilots has reached a critical level. Since the 1991 Gulf War, the Air Force lost 30 percent of its personnel and was forced by budget shortages to cut combat-coded fighter squadrons by nearly 60 percent. That reduction not only led to a shortage of pilots but also a shortage of maintainers necessary to sustain critical weapons systems such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pilot shortage did not happen overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight. Recently, the AFA Chairman of the Board and I met with the Air Force A-3 and industry leaders to strategize a way ahead. Challenges must be resolved in both recruiting new pilots and retaining those we have. More to come as AFA continues to work with the Civil Air Patrol and other organizations dedicated to producing a new generation of Air Force pilots.
Congress Needs to Pass a Budget
The Air Force needs Congress to pass a budget, not another Continuing Resolution (CR). With only a precious few legislative weeks remaining, the likelihood of a budget is fleeting. In a recent Op-Ed I wrote that the best gift Congress could give the Air Force for its birthday is a budget. Congress has failed to support our military with a budget for nine consecutive years. And Congress and our presidents have only passed full appropriations four times in the last 42 years!
To be clear, CRs are bad news. They lock-in funding at the previous year’s level and don’t allow for new requirements that are so desperately needed to modernize our geriatric fleet. They prevent shutting down programs that are obsolete or wasteful. CRs are inefficient, cost the taxpayers billions in additional dollars and maintain an Air Force that is too small for its missions.
As AFA’s President I will continue to do my best to advocate on behalf of our Air Force, however, I need your help. Please do whatever you can to make your voices heard in support of stability and support for our Air Force by encouraging and advocating for Congress to pass a budget. Our mission is to support a dominant Air Force. Our Air Force needs AFA now, more than ever.
Larry O. Spencer