The defining task for US military power in the years ahead will be the response to regional crises. The responsibility for this mission will be vested in a force that is much smaller than before and based primarily in the United States. That force will be expected to respond quickly and resolve conflicts decisively with an absolute minimum cost in American lives.
Meeting that requirement is complicated by the fact that the United States will not have a monopoly on advanced technology. The proliferation of high-quality sensors, computers, highly accurate weapons, and weapons of mass destruction has already begun. It will become increasingly possible for an aggressor to instigate a significant military action with speed and surprise, precipitating a crisis at an unpredicted place and time.
Much will depend on the relative capability of US forces to look deep, reach far and fast, penetrate hostile territory, maintain a global situational awareness, and strike with precision. More often than not, holding the combat advantage will depend on systems operating in air and space.
In addition, US forces must continuously project US power and presence from intercontinental distances and deter aggression across the range of military operations. With genuine respect and regard for the contribution of other force components, we believe that response to conflict of the future will be heavily dependent on landbased airpower and space power and that our planning should be directed to that end.
We stand on our position that to fulfill the two-conflict strategy and meet its requirements in wartime and peacetime, the Air Force component of the force structure must include not less than twenty-four combat-coded fighter and attack wings, at least 184 operational bombers with precision guided munitions, and a modernized airlift capability that will meet requirements for forty-nine million to fifty-two million ton-miles per day.
We further note that while the emphasis is properly placed on regional conflicts, the armed forces also retain their fundamental strategic mission of deterring aggression on the United States and its allies.
The fact is, the reductions have gone too far already. By the turn of the century, the United States is projected to spend only 2.8 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense, compared with 11.9 percent in the 1950s. Time and again, the defense program has been marked down from the requirements of strategy in order to meet arbitrary budget ceilings.
We reject the proposition that the only way to fund “Quality of Life” initiatives and other valid defense requirements is to divert money from elsewhere in the defense budget, primarily from force modernization accounts. Many of the defense reductions over the past decade were levied in the name of economy. For the most part, however, the resources have been reallocated to other spending instead. Since 1990, total federal outlays have risen by 22.8 percent while defense outlays fell precipitously.
Unfunded defense requirements exist, and they are at least as deserving as most of the nondefense programs that continue to grow. The Air Force Association reaffirms its belief that 4.0 percent of GDP should be established as the minimum level required to support forces needed for a two major regional conflict strategy and below which defense should not be reduced to meet external budget constraints.
In 1995, for the first time in its history, the Air Force will purchase no bombers and no fighters. The Air Force is not programmed to purchase another combat aircraft of any kind until 1998. A shortage is developing in the attrition reserve. Without more aircraft, the Air Force will not be able to maintain even its reduced complement of twenty fighter wing equivalents beyond the turn of the century. Force modernization programs have been held up, delayed, and scaled down.
The Persian Gulf War of 1991 demonstrated the overwhelming advantage that accrues from superior technology. Other nations saw the results as clearly as we did, and many of them have intensified efforts to catch up or perhaps gain some advantage of their own. Superiority of US forces in conflicts of the future depends on priority and investment today in force modernization, particularly in stealthy aircraft, precision-strike munitions, modern air mobility, information warfare capabilities, and space systems that enable us to hold the high ground.
The Air Force is responsible for ninety-three percent of the people and eighty-nine percent of the funding for the military space program. We believe that the nation would gain in effectiveness and economy by formally designating the US Air Force as the executive agent for launch, operational control, research, development, and acquisition of military space assets.
Military pay has not kept up with inflation and has fallen behind private-sector compensation by 12.6 percent. The gap is projected to widen to eighteen percent by FY 2001. Service members, most of whom live off base if they have families, currently absorb twenty-two percent of their off-base housing costs because allowances for quarters do not match actuality. Reimbursement for a typical permanent change of station move is only about sixty-five cents on the dollar. It is not surprising that service members rate pay and allowances as their chief complaint about military life.
The combination of changes to the military retirement system has already reduced the lifetime value of retired pay for newer service members by twenty-six percent. Retirees are increasingly concerned about their benefits, especially medical care. We call on Congress to confirm that military retirees and their families are entitled to medical care that it is not simply a “contingent benefit” that can be withdrawn at will and that older retirees will be assured access to the military health-care system by allowing Medicare to transfer funding to military Medical Services on their behalf.
The Air Force Association considers it timely and appropriate to associate the official auxiliary of the Air Force the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) with the Total Force of the USAF and that CAP’s unique civil resources, capabilities, and training activities be used to augment USAF missions when feasible.
Current policy, stated earlier this year, is that the armed forces may be used on behalf of interests that are deemed important but which are not necessarily vital interests of the United States. We particularly urge the utmost care in deciding our national interests, national security objectives, and role for the military in “Operations Other Than War.” Too often in the past, concepts of employing forces for limited objectives have led to the mistaken beliefs that warfare can be regulated and that military power can always be applied in measured increments and for such uncertain purposes as the sending of signals. We believe clear military objectives must be established, based on national goals, before forces are committed.
When US forces are committed to combat, it must be under US command, except as provided for by established treaty arrangements.
In addition to the five declared nuclear weapons states, at least twenty other nations have acquired or are attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons and the means to deliver them. The number of nations that possess ballistic missiles is growing, and we do not yet have an effective means to counter this threat. In the years ahead, we will see rapid proliferation of modern fighters, air defenses, and access to space technologies.
To meet the challenges that are to come, the nation will have a continuing need for superior land, sea, air, and space forces that in their composite strengths are second to none. The most severe challenges, however, are likely to be complex, fast-breaking, and highly technological, occurring in distant locations where the zone of conflict is lethal and deep.
Core capabilities in this realm of conflict point to the US Air Force as the nation’s first line of defense. The threat to the interests and security of the US is not gone. It has diversified, proliferated, and evolved.