Watch, Read: Top Guard & Reserve Leaders on Meeting the Needs of the Nation and What’s Ahead

Heather Penney, senior resident fellow at the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies hosts Maj. Gen. John P. Healy, deputy to the chief of the Air Force Reserve; Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, director of the Air National Guard; and Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard, for a discussion on “Guard & Reserve: Ready and Willing” at the AFA Warfare Symposium on March 4, 2022. Watch the video or read the transcript below. This transcript is made possible through the sponsorship of JobsOhio.

Heather Penney: Good morning. I’m Heather Penney, senior resident fellow at AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. Welcome to the session of Guard and Reserve: Ready and Willing. I myself served as a proud Guardsman and Reservist. As a matter of fact, Lt. Gen. Loh was my commander during my first combat deployment to Iraq in 2003. And we have logged missions and hours together. We were then, and the Guard and Reserve remain, ready and willing.

Our nation and our Air Force rely on these citizen Airmen. At the end of the Cold War, the nation cut the Air Force in half, but it didn’t slow operations down, so the Guard and Reserves stepped in to fill that gap. Since then, they have transformed into an operational reserve, not a strategic reserve, and they have captured so much of the experienced talent from the active duty. They’ve modernized their fleet with advanced capabilities and ensure that their Airmen are trained and ready. For the last 30 years, the Guard and Reserve have shown just how much the nation depends on its forces. These Airmen stand ready to fill a wide spectrum of roles, from defense support to civil authorities, like COVID response disaster relief and protecting the U.S. Capitol, to operational deployments around the globe. Building partnerships in the INDOPACOM theater or the standing and sacred mission of homeland defense, the Guard and Reserve are there.

Today we’ll have a chance to discuss how the Guard and Reserve are working to meet the needs of our nation in an ever more complex and dangerous global environment, how they partner with the active-duty Air Force, as well as discuss some of the challenges that they face. Please welcome our panelists, Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, director of the Air National Guard; Maj. Gen. John Healy, deputy to the chief of the Air Force Reserve; and Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard and president of the Adjutants General Association of the United States. Today, we’ll ask them to provide some opening remarks, and then we’ll have a conversation, and at the end, open up to questions. Gen. Loh, let’s start with you.

Lt. Gen. Michael Loh: Hey, Heather. Thanks very much. And yes, it is true, we have logged combat time together. Hey, thanks for putting on this wonderful event. AFA, absolutely wonderful, in a great location, and I really appreciate all the stuff that AFA does on behalf of the Air Force and the Air National Guard. And it is truly a great day to be in the Air National Guard.

The title of this event: Air National Guard and Reserves: Ready and Willing—I love that. I love to talk about our readiness, and I love to talk about our willingness. And so when you look at where we’ve been: Over three decades of continuous mobilizations, but then especially the last two years, the longest mobilizations and the largest in our history since World War II. It’s pretty impressive. On average, over 14,000 Guard Airmen were on duty over these last two years, supporting combatant commanders overseas, defending the homeland and providing support to a broad range of missions, including COVID-19, natural disasters and civil unrest operations. Your National Guard is on mission every day. But this also means that almost 90% of the force is in that reserve capacity. And they’re trained, ready and willing whenever the nation calls.

Just some highlights from this year: 2021 started out lightning fast as your Guard air crews flew nearly 800 sorties, transporting 14,000 Guard Airmen and soldiers and their support equipment for the protection of the Capitol and the inauguration. Throughout 2021, the National Guard mobilized over 12,000 Airmen in support of FEMA, our lead federal agency as we continue to bring the fight to the COVID-19 pandemic. National Guard Airmen and soldiers have put over 14 million shots in the arms of civilians and over 2 million shots in the arms of military members. That’s pretty impressive. The fire season, something that both the Guard and Reserve combined react to, 2021 was the largest fire season in over a half-century. And during that fire season, we activated all eight MAFFS aircraft, six Air National Guard, 2 AFRC. We put 2.5 million gallons, fly 945 sorties on 26 complex fires. Also our mobilization planners processed over 120 mobilization packages last year, providing nearly 9,000 Guard Airman to various combatant commanders around the world. And we were in 85 countries.

Last fall as we withdrew out of Afghanistan, Air National Guard Airmen were among the first U.S. troops into Afghanistan way back in 2001. And, Heather, it was your old unit, the 113th Fighter Wing from the D.C. National Guard, they were the last fighters out of Bagram. Obviously, during that same timeframe, 260 Guard air crew members in the C-17 enterprise from nine different wings and nine different states flew 275 sorties, transporting more than 11,000 passengers and nearly 800 short tons of cargo out of Afghanistan. And this was a true total force effort. We had active-duty Air Force and Reserve air crews, flying Guard aircraft and vice versa. It was a seamless operation. You talk about the mobility side of this operation. We are a total force in that, and it is wonderful. Then, we went to Operation Allies Welcome, and over 1,000 Guard Airmen along with the addition of our reserves and our Active-duty counterparts, setup Operation Allies Welcome. And we just got our last passengers out of Holloman here recently.

Despite working another year of pandemics, and another year of historic levels of mobilizations, your Guard Airmen continued to demonstrate their willingness to serve, and it truly is our Airmen that make this happen. Our retention rates have been over 90% the last three years, and we’ve exceeded our end strength. That’s willingness. And we continue to provide our recruiters and their commanders with the best tools and training to reach today’s young people who want to serve their country. Airmen are exactly ready and willing.

And, Heather, you brought up what keeps me up at night. What are the challenges that we face? So let me address a few of those. How ready and willing are 60-year-old aircraft. So modernization, recapitalization keep me up at night. We’ve been in this two-decadeslong war in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Our focus now shifts to responding to adversaries that are pacing threats. We heard Secretary Kendall talk yesterday and last year at this AFA of his top three priorities: China, China, China. So it’s how we’re going to modernize the force to get after China. And then of course this year, Russia is here also. So we are ready and willing.

Some of the steps we’re taking is the F-35s are fully operational capable in Burlington, Vermont, the first Air National Guard wing to do that. We have conversions going on at Madison, Wisconsin, in Montgomery, Alabama, and Jacksonville, Florida, over the next couple of years. We’re bringing the F-15EX online, both in the FTU, the formal training unit at Klamath Falls and the first operational unit in Portland, Oregon, and then we’re going to stand up more after that. And then, of course, C-130J aircraft arrived this year, brand new ones, into Fort Worth, Texas; Charleston, West Virginia; and Louisville, Kentucky. And then we’re also excited about the 179th in Mansfield, Ohio, converting to a cyber warfare wing. All of this is going on.

However, we do have gaps in readiness. And here’s where I need your help and advocacy. And I’ll just put it to you that way. Um, our weapon system sustainment accounts continually come under pressure. Last year in ’21, we were funded at 87%. In ’22 right now, it’s down to 79%, but we’re still sitting on a CR. So I’m interested to see what happens in Congress as the budget goes through this year. A recent study by the Heritage Foundation talked about how much fighter pilots need to train, and they need 200 hours a year. We did not make that last year. Our fighter pilots across the Air Force, across the total force, are at their lowest levels. And in ’21, we flew all our flying hours; 100% of our flying hours, and we still stopped flying in September, early before the end of the year. That causes readiness gaps. This year, we took another 3.5% reduction in flying hours. Again, I’m waiting on to see what Congress does as we go there. And of course, we have the conversions going on, which take resources. And we also have another 18 states in preconversion status as we go through this. All of those, that bow wave is hitting right now. And all of those are challenges that require resources. And we’re going to get after those gaps.

Modernization, recapitalization, weapon system sustainment and flying hours, all of them require appropriate resourcing. That being said, hey, it’s great to give the Guard the leading edge in innovative missions, OK, and keeping them there. It makes all the sense in the world. When you consider the value that the reserve components, both our National Guard and our Reserve, have and what we bring to the fight. For the Guard, it’s 108,000 Guard Airmen; we provide 30% of the total Air Force’s combat power. With 20% of the aircraft, we conduct 94% of the homeland defense day-to-day mission. And your Air National Guard is across all Air Force mission sets. And we do it all with only 7% of the budget. Hey, we are the foundation for national defense. And so we need your help and advocacy to continue to make us a strong partner in this total force. Thank you, Heather.

Maj. Gen. John Healy: Thanks. Thanks, also. Thanks, Heather. Thanks to the AFA for allowing us to do this total force discussion. Pleasure being on stage with you, sir, pleasure meeting you as well.

Ready, as you said, ready and willing is an easy conversation to have and something that we continue to talk about within the reserves as it pertains to how we tie into the active-duty force. You know, our mission in the reserves is to be combat ready to fly, fight and win. And we prove our readiness and our willingness on a day-to-day basis. Just in the recent, as we go back in time a little bit, just about the time we commenced for the last AFA, Operation Allies Welcome or Refuge had just started. Twenty-four hours after the balloon went up, we had 13 crews volunteer, ready to go. Seventy-two hours, which is what the benchmark is for making sure that we get out the door, we had 80 crews and 36 tails out the door in 72 hours, which is, I mean, quite honestly even Air Mobility Command as we did the hogwash on the mobilization said we could not do without the total force. At the end of the month of August, we ended up executing 37 missions, where we brought Afghans in need out of the country and started to forward-deploying them. Follow on with, Afghan Welcome, 500-plus, not as strong but in partnership with the Guard at Holloman, which just shut down in January, and McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, we had 500-plus folks setting up that tent city ensuring that all those Afghans in need had the proper supplies, had the proper infrastructure there to settle and be welcome in the country. We do that through volunteerism. We do that through voluntary mobilizations as well.

We’ve got folks still supporting COVID, 40-plus MRT folks split between hospitals in California and New York, some on their second deployment right now, ensuring respiratory therapists and vital career fields are out there at the point of need. We’re a ready and willing force. And we do that because we have excellent volunteerism and because we were constantly looking at our capacity, our access and our value, and we’re trying to tell that story.

As Gen. Loh said, the capacity, what we make up, this is a capacity and value story that you heard Gen. Scobee mention before, and you’ll hear me as well, almost 25% of the Air Force for 3% of the budget. So it’s a value proposition to be utilizing the reserves and just about every mission that’s out there for active-duty. Capacity, Air Mobility Command talking about Allied Refuge and Welcome, almost 25% of the RGM force is made up of Air Force Reserve; 62% of the air evac forces are reservists; 46% of the aerial porters … are in the reserves. And in emerging mission sets, the Space Force, we’ve got 1,500 folks working in space missions at 11 units around the world, and it makes up almost 25% of the Space Force mission right now too. And we’re able to do it because of the value that we provide.

But the capacity is there as well. I’m sorry, the access is there as well, constantly reminding pundants at times that we are an accessible force. You just need to understand the levers to pull, and you’ll get 24-, 72-hour response times. Most specifically within the last two weeks with the Russian incursion into Ukraine, the Russian invasion. I mean, we had 419th Fighter Wing’s F-35s out of Hill Air Force Base flying side by side with their TF brethren over to Eastern Europe; the 315th out of Charleston taking the the bulk of the 82nd Airborne over to make sure that we have that credible deterrent force for our NATO partners; 934th out of Minneapolis, beautiful tail flash on CNN on Thursday morning after the invasion started. I think they’re a two-ship follow with a Savannah 130 unit making sure that we’ve got maintenance and infrastructure there for intra-theater airlift, supporting EUCOM and our NATO partners as well.

The value, as I said, 3% of the cost for the life-cycle cost, so from the first time we get a reservist all the way through when they retire, 28 cents on the dollar for what it costs to put that same life-cycle on an Active-duty service member, so the value’s there. We’re looking long when we look at our value proposition. We got to find a way to break the code in active duty to make sure that short-term value is seen as well when we’re talking about force structure and so forth.

It doesn’t necessarily keep me up at night, but what is constantly on my mind is maintaining the relevance of our fleet. As I believe, as the secretary said yesterday, they have an aging fleet of 30 years old. Ours is a touch more mature: 33 years is our average age; 44% of our aircraft are over what their lifetime expectancy was. So we need to ensure that we’re maintaining relevance, so we’re relevant to the COCOMs in all the fights. So that we’re relevant in the near-peer and the potential-peer competition. You know, we’re doing that through NGREA. We’ve had some hiccups in the last couple of years with NGREA being pulled and put back. CRs certainly damage our ability to get that NGREA and get after making sure that we have the proper updates to our legacy systems. But in addition to that, we’re making sure that we recap where we need to.

So KC-46s out of Seymour Johnson, started in 2019, replacing some of the aging 135s. They’re a little bit old. We’ve got nine out of the 12 delivered right now. Mod 5 was just announced about a month ago, so March Air Reserve Base is going to be getting the next tranche of 12 KC-46 is in lieu of their 135s. MH-139s as we see our oldest C-130H2s go out the door at Maxwell are coming in to take over the Global Strike transportation role as well as D.C. So we’re looking at standing up a schoolhouse, the MH-139 as well. And then we’re extremely excited about, in 2024 when we get the first delivery of F-35s down at Carswell, excited to have a unit equipped, F-35 unit, within the reserves. Currently pouring money into a $15 million on the apron to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure to support when those aircraft do arrive.

Our focus has always been on maintaining a ready force. And that ties in perfectly with a willing force as well. It’s all about making sure that we’re at the leading edge, that we can fight side by side with our active-duty and our Guard brethren in any kind of strategic competition that might be on the road ahead, while maintaining mission modernization and realistic training to meet our COCOM needs. And we’re looking forward to the future as well.

Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac: Yeah, good morning, everybody. It’s really good to be here with Gen. Loh and Gen. Healey. And, Heather, thanks to you and the AFA for the invitation. It’s a good morning to be here. It’s a good day, like you say, sir, it’s a good day to be in Air National Guard.

You know, I would go back to some of Gen. Loh’s comments and so, I want to amplify on those. So when you think about the National Guard’s response, and not just the Air National Guard, but the Army National Guard’s as well, their response to protect democracy following the events following sixth January, it was pretty amazing. And there were doubters that we could do this, which was to put 25,000 boots on the ground in our nation’s capital within a week, and it was done. It was done because the Air National Guard rallied to that on a moment’s notice literally many of the things that Gen. Healy talked about in terms of response timeframes and not just 72 hours, but 24 hours or less. And 14,000 of those bodies were delivered by Air National Guard aircraft into the nation’s capital. And so, to put that into context, to think about that a little bit, is to think about one of the largest Air Combat Command wings, which is the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, taking that wing and moving it five times in a week. OK, so I don’t know how many other military forces across the world could do that. And that was a true partnership. So that was a pretty amazing thing, and then get them all back home safely too. So that always counts. I think that we did that.

We did COVID. We did some missions that we were never expecting to be in, in the National Guard in the Air National Guard, like being in schools, driving buses, things that really quite frankly, this doesn’t keep me up at night, but I think we have to have a candid conversation about, ‘Are those the right things for us to be doing? Do they enhance readiness? Do they? Do they create willingness and do they create retention?’ And I think that’s something that we are looking at in the National Guard is that national enterprise about saying, ‘Hey, you want us to do X? Does that help us with our mission essential tasks? Does that help us with our readiness?’ And if it does, then that probably makes sense. We have to be cautious about becoming the easy button across the nation to turn to the National Guard time and time again. And yet, our Airmen and our soldiers, you know, they raise their hands and go forward. So it’s a pretty amazing thing to watch.

The other part of that, though, is the relationships, and it’s the relationships with our employers and our communities and our families. Those relationships enable us to do what we do for our nation and for our states, whether it’s the Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard. Without those relationships, without care and nurturing of those, we do put the mission at risk if we’re not thinking, being thoughtful about that. And so those kinds of things matter day in and day out in, particularly in the reserve components to be able to be effective.

I share the concern about the aging fleet. So, you know, we fly the KC-135 in Nebraska at the 155th. The planes on the ramp there were built in 1957 through 1963. They’re projected to fly sometime into the 2040s, and there’s been some chatter at times about going to the 2050s. Now, that is a testament to the engineering of that aircraft, I suppose. But I’d asked you if you’re driving a 1957 model car to work every day. And I’m guessing probably not. So fleet modernization, and how does the Air National Guard be a part of that, and how is the total Air Force thinking about that, I think is something that the adjutants general do think about and are concerned about. It has to be, you know, the issue of relevance and being a part of the total force means that you’re part of the total forces that go forward.

And as Gen. Brown talks about, you know, accelerate, change or lose. Well, the National Guard and across the states need to be in that mix. And part of that is retaining talent, retaining capacity and talent when there are other budgetary pressures and money shifts to other things, where can you put the talent? Where can you put the capacity? Well, it’s in the reserve components for the same reasons that Gen. Healy talked about. So in terms of cost, so 28 cents, you know, 28% of the cost for the life-cycle of an Airman. That’s a pretty amazing value to Americans, the United States Air Force.”

Bohac: The other thing that I think that we bring to the fight, and it’s really being amplified right now given the events over in Russia and Ukraine, is the State Partnership Program. So the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, this is a program that started in 1993 that doesn’t really get a lot of visibility except to the combatant commanders who would take more if we could afford to give if we had the money, the funding to do it. In 1993, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lt. Gen. John Conway said, ‘Let’s partner state National Guards with former Warsaw Pact nations that want to turn away from communism and turn toward democracy and become NATO partners.’ And that’s where it’s expanded—far beyond that. But here’s some of the original partnerships: Ukraine with California, Poland with Illinois, Estonia with Maryland, Latvia with Michigan, Lithuania with Pennsylvania, and Nebraska and Texas with the Czech Republic. Those are some of the original nations that partnered with National Guard states. All of those became, with the exception Ukraine, became NATO partners. And they are in the fight with our support today. And so those relationships matter a great deal in terms of our nation’s security interest and our partnerships and with our allies and partners. So I lift that up today where there’s 85 partners, 93 nations that the Air National Guard’s involved in through the State Partnership Program. So when you talk about global reach, global engagement, we’re definitely there day in and day out in that program.

And then I’ll just come back to the issue of relationships. The relationship with the active component with the Air Force Reserve with our joint force partners across the world is what’s going to make a difference. And it’s what, in my view, is going to enable us to move beyond this point where we’re at in the world today and move through this budgetary situation that we’re facing, not just in the Air Force, but in DOD, writ large and be successful, be successful together. If we go together, and we can leverage the power of the reserve components, and in particular, I would say the adjutants general and their leverage with Congress, and, you know, go together on that issue, I have no doubt that we can join in. No doubt that we’ll be successful as we move into the future. Thanks.

Penney: Thank you, gentlemen. So a consistent drumbeat that we’ve had over the last year and a half has been accelerate, change or lose. We know that Gen. Brown has sort of updated those action orders. How has it shaped your strategic direction within the Guard and Reserve? Gen. Loh, let’s start with you.

Loh: Sure. On this particular topic, I would say it goes back to both Airmen and readiness. Those are the two priorities that I focus on. And I’ll just go through them. On the Airmen side, it’s bringing things to the unit like times where I can take decisions made at the STOB when the secretary of defense says, ‘Hey, I need this capability out there, and I can put orders in hand in three days,’ which makes sure that both Guard and Reservists get their orders in a timely manner to get everything going on there. It’s things like implementing the MOMS Act and making sure that we can go out there and do that. It was passed a couple of years ago; we keep pushing that. It is going to be duty status reform and how we get down from the multitude of authorities and pay statuses down to a core four.

And so it’s things like that that we continue to push. On the bureaucracy side, it’s flattening the organization, over-communicating, developing those things and institutionalizing some of the things that we learned during COVID, which is you don’t have to be in a place to actually make an impact. Permanent telework, things like those things.

On the competition side, out of the counter-VEO fight in CENTCOM, we have a group of Airmen that have known nothing other than going to CENTCOM. And that’s all they showed up to work to prepare to do, because that’s what it was. Now, how do I get them out of that and think about China, China, China. And then finally, on the design side, we were, we being the United States Air Force, were placed in a wicked problem set. We have to recapitalize nuclear capability and modernization, as well as recapitalize conventional capable modernization across all three components: active, Guard and Reserve. That is a wicked problem set in today’s budgetary environment, but we need to do it. So now, how can I do that design? How can I leverage everything that we do in things like our combined AETC test center to get after some of the modernization, some of the things that we can do to get into a South China Sea scenario with our legacy platforms, like the 135, that’s gonna be sticking around. So stood up a test bed in Salt Lake City, OK, yeah, cutting the ribbon on that bringing that in, because that 135 is going to be there. So how do I keep that relevant? That’s just one on our old platforms, obviously, on the other one, that’s there.

Healy: Now, from the Reserve perspective, the modification, one that just came out with the chief’s action orders, they still, we still nest nicely in terms of our lines of effort within the reserves. But the way we’re getting after, I mean, Airmen as we maintain for Airmen, you know, we put 45, full-time first sergeants into our units in the last year, 10 full-time chaplains, and we converted 13 of our command chiefs into full-time command chiefs, which really provide that, you know, that face on the ground in order to make sure that our Airmen are being taken care of.

With bureaucracy, it’s a challenging one, there’s a lot of, at the Pentagon, there’s a lot of very prescriptive ideas right now in terms of collaboration tools in order to decrease the timelines for staffing. But what we’re looking at from the Reserve perspective is within and our own reform the organization in terms of how we can break down these silos of data that we’ve collected in our arcane systems into a shared data environment, which allows us to use modern tools, Power BI, etc., to come up with quick data-fed, accurate ideas and actually, in some cases, predictive analytics. So we can not only make a decision, but we can probably see what the second third order effects that we might not have seen before as a result of that decision.

With competition, I think I see A.J. in the audience right there, so a shout out. So he’s one of the guys leading up what we have called a Reserve hypersonics team, which are IMA, so these are pinch hitters. It’s a bullpen of half a dozen to 15 hypersonic experts. I mean, wicked smart people who are essentially on loan where needed, whether it’s thermodynamics of a glide vehicle needs a couple extra people to come work on it. I’m not qualified to do that. So that’s how we’re contributing to the competition. When it gets into the design phase as well, there’s, you know, as you heard, the secretary mention, where my mind focuses is on the SECAF7 and the operational imperatives. And how do we tie into that? So when we’re talking about space, I think it’s obvious. You know, we’re going to be moving forward in space as a growth industry and mission set for the reserves. ABMS, likewise, we’re a little bit underrepresented in command and control but certainly something that I think is a growth industry where the reserves can have a very good institutional role.

And when we talk about the NGAD, or the B21, you know, I fully expect and hope that we’re going to be tied in at the end the onset in terms of associations as those systems of systems come online, and we help develop those tactics and procedures associated with it. A war footing, you know, I think the last week shows that we’re already prepared to be standing on a war footing. Basing’s a little bit more challenging since we don’t have any bases overseas. Moving targets at scale is more of a, not a tactical issue, because it’s from an operational perspective, but we certainly see ourselves working toward the correct force balance within the reserves as part of that design. Specific in support of the seven operational imperatives.

Penney: “Gen. Loh, I’m glad that you had mentioned the test center, because that’s one key way that the Guard goes fast and accelerates change. And I appreciate those examples. But how has the instability of an NGREA funding impacted the ability of the Guard and Reserve to innovate rapidly and then integrate those onto their elderly fleet.

Loh: CR and also the NGREA funding that got pulled in 2020 means quite frankly, we’re out of money at the end of this year, which puts a lot of programs at risk, a lot of that innovation. We get the programs, as the secretary says, across that valley of death, OK? And we do; we partner with the active duty because we have to. It’s through the acquisition community. The PEOs out there are wonderful to us in this enterprise. The lead MAJCOMS, Air Combat Command, AFSOC, Air Mobility Command, all OK, sign off on these things. So they’re all looking at doing that. And now we’re able to bring this to fruition. And so, right now, we need a budget. I’m just gonna say it that way. And then we need a pretty high number on NGREA. Because two years ago, we lost out on that. And so we are running out of money pretty quickly.

Healy: I mean, likewise, purchasing power and purchasing time, we were impacted the same way with the 2020 NGREA pullback. And likewise, the longer we go without a budget, with the uncertainty of what we’re going to be able to spend it on, the less time that we’re going to have to be able to execute, and it’s critical that we do this because of the fleet, the age of the fleet.

Penney: Absolutely. And I believe from Mitchell Institute’s perspective, that it’s unnecessary that we take passthrough out of the Air Force budget. Passthrough is funding that does not go to the Air Force, does not go to the Guard and Reserve. Nearly 40% of the Air Force’s procurement dollars go to entities that are not Air Force. If we don’t take passthrough funding out of the Air Force budget, we’ll never have true insight and oversight into these really challenging procurement problems and the necessary monetization and recapitalization that the entire total force faces. Gen. Bohac, let’s turn to you because you really are the man in the field. And what I’d like to know from you is as an adjutant general, how is your state acting to implement, accelerate, change or lose? And how are these funding issues affecting you?

Bohac: Yeah, I think, for us in Nebraska, and I see this across the states, it’s about leadership creating time and space for innovation to occur so that we can do things to accelerate change. That’s a challenge in the Reserve component sometimes, because you have a limited amount of time with about 70% of your force, which is often two days a week and the so called 15 days a year. Now, I haven’t met an Airman that’s been doing only two days a month and 15 days a year in a long time. In fact, probably can’t remember the last one I met. And so it’s creating time and space against all other requirements to make room that, I think, you know, if we can get out of the way of our Airmen sometimes, we can see amazing results. And it’s giving them permission to innovate, permission to go try things and to fail, and to fail. But to fail forward. So I think that’s, you know, at the local level, that’s … how we pursue it. And then taking advantage of community resources.

So, for example, at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln has an innovation center that’s five minutes from our wing, so we can partner with them, go to their center, leverage their technologies, whether it be 3D printers, and their expertise to help our Airmen. That helps the Air Force, that helps Air National Guard, in my opinion. The funding challenges for us is the stop and go all the time, right? And it’s what Gen. Loh talked about and what Gen. Healey talked about. Whether it’s NGREA or any other funding line in the United States Air Force and the flow into the budgets into the state, when you can’t predict what you’re going to be able to train your Airmen with, because you don’t have the resource, that degrades readiness, and that degrades willingness at the same time.

Healy: I piggyback on that. You know, one of the challenges of COVID as when we started the COVID back in ‘21 and executing under a CR as well, was you know, it’s typically just a math problem to figure out what the 721 account. For us, that’s what, you know, how many drill weekends is … each reservist going to do, and how many annual tours is each reservist going to do? It seems relatively straightforward. It’s math. We’ve got 10 reservists, and they get 47. So it’s 47, or 407. It’s not that simple because there’s a factor that goes into it that says OK, 12% are going to be deployed and constructively credit and so forth.

So when we went into the ’21 execution year with a CR, we were thinking, OK, same same. COVID through a wicked knuckle curve at us and said, ‘Hey, by the way, if you have the opportunity to do that drill weekend at home and actually not come in and do your IDTs at home, and by the way, we’re not deploying you, would you be willing to do it?’ And everybody’s, ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.’ So the obligations went through the roof. And it created uncertainty and created a lot of consternation within the command to be able to manage that. So we’ve ended up having to turn around, and the first thing we did this year going into the CR was to ensure that there was predictability for the basic blocking and tackling of our forces. AFSC training, we made sure that there was no risk whatsoever in terms of that account to make sure that all the drill weekends and all the annual tour was funded upfront. And then we started looking at risk elsewhere, just to make sure that our Airmen could get that training that they needed.

Bohac: Yeah, here’s a real pragmatic impact of that whole CR issue is don’t ever schedule your drill on the first weekend in October, because you’re likely going to cancel.

Healy: I learned that as a major.

Penney: Gen. Bohac, as the president of the Adjutants General Association of the U.S., you represent the interests of 52 adjutants general: What’s their top three priorities as we go into this year?

Bohac: Yeah, there’s 54 of us, actually. So they’re 50 states, three territories and the commanding general of the D.C. Guard. But yeah, the top three things for us are duty status reform. We need to get that done. It needs to go to Congress. It needs to happen to simplify everybody’s life. It reduces the pundants’ discussion about access, I think, when we get this passed, and it provides an equity of benefits for Airmen, regardless of the component they’re coming from performing the same mission. So for example, tankers to Guam to support Pacific Tanker Task Force, an Air Guard Airman sitting next to an active-component Airman may be getting the same base pay, but they’re not getting the same benefits and entitlements. That’s wrong. And so that’s why, that’s an example of why duty status reform matters. And it matters to all of us.

The second one is Space National Guard. That issue has gotten really convoluted by analytics that weren’t fully informed. Quite frankly, where cost estimates to convert 1,000 Airmen from the Air National Guard to the Space Force to become Guardians was just simply not accurate. It’s probably about $300,000 to actually do that, to lift and shift and move. And it’s a zero-sum game in terms of end strength. In other words, those authorizations go from the Guard to the Space Force, they become Airmen to Guardians. And most importantly, though, I think, is the capability that if that doesn’t happen, the Space National Guard, the capability, the U.S. Space Force and Gen. Raymond is going to lose. Currently, today, the Space Control Squadron of the Colorado Air National Guard is on Title 10 activation supporting the nation’s work, supporting our NATO allies. That goes away if there’s not a Space National Guard because those 1,000 Airmen will stay with the Air National Guard. That’s the risk to the nation, not just to that Airman. Risk to nation, risk to capability. And it probably takes, I don’t know, five to seven years to grow that talent and expertise back, particularly in the noncommissioned corps.

Penney: Well, thank you. In terms of ready and willing, one thing that we haven’t touched upon, but I’ll briefly suggest, is that Guard and the Reserve have the most multicapable Airmen out of the entire total force. Gen. Loh, you’ll recall, we had a crew chief that as a civilian worked for the Bama Power and Light, and when we were building up our base, he actually stepped in and helped us build our electrical infrastructure.

Healy: So it’s worth noting, too, that it’s not part of the curriculum, but multicapable loadmasters delivered babies as well, so.

Penney: True. Well, thank you to all of our panelists for being here today. In lieu of speaker gifts, this year, AFA made a donation to enable additional Airmen and Guardians to attend the poolside barbecue last night. Our final set of panel sessions begins at 10:35, so please check your programs for the schedule. And don’t miss the final award ceremony and Spark Tank event starting at 11:20. Finally, for more insights on issues surrounding air power, stay in touch with the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Power at And make sure you subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates on our latest reports, events and podcasts. Thank you for joining us for today’s panel. And from all of us at the Air Force Association and the Mitchell Institute, ave a great aerospace power kind of day. Enjoy the rest of the show.