Healy Testifies Before Defense Subcommittee

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner

Lt. Gen. John P. Healy, the chief of the Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command, joined other senior Reserve and Guard leaders in testifying before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense April 30.

In addition to Healy, the panel of senior leaders included Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Lt. Gen. Jody J. Daniels, chief of the Army Reserve and command general of Army Reserve Command; Vice Admiral John Mustin, chief of the Navy Reserve; and Lt. Gen. Leonard F. Anderson IV, commander of the Marine Forces Reserve.

At the hearing, Healy was joined by Chief Master Sgt. Israel Nuñez, his senior enlisted advisor and AFRC’s command chief master sergeant.

During his testimony, Healy was asked how the ongoing deployments and world-wide crisis have impacted readiness and if the Air Force Reserve is prepared to support a major war. Healy said the Air Force Reserve is designed to augment and surge the active-duty component so they can maintain 24 hour-7 days a week operation.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the requirements for Air Reserve mobility aircraft and air refueling over CENTCOM," said Healy. “I think we do well to prepare our crews and aircraft to be able to respond within 72 hours, but it comes at a price. The price is mobilization-to-dwell. For every three or four months a Reserve unit mobilizes, they get a five-times (15-20 months) where they’re not approachable and not deployable. The purpose is to ensure they can reset, get the aircraft working and operable that they might have overused during that time. In the case of an all-out war, if that were to occur during that mobilization reset, all bets are off. We’re all in and the mobilization-to-dwell restrictions would likely be waived by the Secretary of Defense.”

Asked how the Guard and Reserve counter the constant pull from the private sector for cyber enablers, Healy highlighted a pair of initiatives that are helping the Reserve attract and keep cyber professionals.

“We are actually retaining these cyber professionals through innovative things like a direct commissioning source where we are able to direct commission enlisted members and folks off the street who have the necessary requirements for those positions. In addition to that, we have constructive credit which we’re allowing people to take from the civilian community and bring it forth and allow them to continue to work in a military capacity. This is what’s allowing us to keep this elite talent in the civilian sector and allow them to be Citizen Airmen at the same time.”

Saying that the Reserve’s most important weapon system is its Airmen, Healy said the Reserve is focused on ensuring Reservists and their families receive the support they need.

“Two of our most significant lines of effort focus on providing accessible, affordable childcare for our members as well as making health care more accessible for family members with special needs through the Exceptional Family Member program,” he said.

When questioned what one quality-of-life issue he thinks has the greatest effect on retention or recruiting for the Air Force Reserve, Healy identified access to Tricare Reserve Select for Air Reserve Technicians and Title 5 civilians.

“That’s in excess of 10,000 of the folks working for us,” he said. “They don’t have access to Tricare Reserve Select until 2030 – that’s the time frame now. In some cases, this is doubling or tripling the cost of premiums for them. What it lacks is the continuity of care. If we have a Reserve technician who is a civilian during the week under the Federal Employee Health Benefits System and then they are on a set of orders for an extended period of time, they are having to transition back and forth between multiple care providers which provides a challenge. This is the force that trains our part-timers. It’s critical to readiness and it’s certainly a retention issue and a recruiting issue for that full-time force.”

During their opening statements, each senior leader highlighted near-term and longer-range budget and operational plans.

“I am continually amazed at the accomplishments of our Reserve Airmen as they meet every challenge they are given on behalf of the nation,” Healy said. “The Air Force Reserve provides the nation with operational capability, strategic depth and surge capacity across every Air Force core mission set, both overseas and here at home. As part of a largely part-time component, we provide a ready-now, accessible force that is both mission-effective and cost-efficient.”

Highlighting recent Reserve operations across the globe, the general spoke about the importance of recapitalization and modernization for the command. “To optimize our performance as the Total Force, the Air Force Reserve must transform for the future,” he said. “This transformation requires the Air Force Reserve be proportionally modernized and concurrently fielded with regular component equipment. Maintaining equipment parity with the regular component ensures our ability to match a pacing threat. Legacy aircraft divestment without recapitalization and delayed modernization adds substantial risk to sustaining combat credible air superiority and surge capacity in the future.”

Asked why current and proportional field was so important to the Guard and Reserve, he said, “so that we can have fifth generation aircraft participating as a surge capacity in a fifth-generation fight.”

The entire hearing can be seen at https://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/34330.