SECAF: Building a Strong Air Force Requires Public Awareness, Commitment to Funding

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson speaks Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California. Screenshot photo.

The greatest threat to the US military and the greater national security is an erosion of public awareness of the importance of funding a strong defense while the Pentagon pushes to implement a new strategy that requires investment, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Saturday.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, Wilson said the Air Force is looking needs significant investments to build to a level where it can face great power competition and continue low-intensity conflicts, with the goal of increasing to 386 squadrons.

This number is based on the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy, however, Wilson said she worries about the Congress and if it will make the “determination to make sure that we adequately fund defense.”

“The greatest threat to our national security right now, and to implementing the National Defense Strategy, is the erosion of public support and awareness of the need to maintain a strong national defense,” Wilson said. “”it is absolutely vital to maintain our national security and keep that high level of support for national defense.”

The most urgent need, both in the National Defense Strategy and in the service’s “Force we Need” plan for 386 squadrons, is to keep pace with China, Wilson said. While Russia is a threat and is intimidating its neighbors, China is more “rapidly growing and is more rapidly innovating,” and in a much bigger theater where it is “much more difficult to project power,” Wilson said.

This translates to the Air Force’s plan to increase its bomber and tanker squadrons, which are the “biggest limiting factors” in the possible need to confront China, she said.

“China aspires to be a global military power,” she said, and is “increasing its influence both globally and in the Pacific.”