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SASC Chairman Inhofe Remarks for the Record at Air Force Posture Hearing

U.S.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,
submitted opening remarks for the record this morning at a SASC hearing on the
posture of the U.S. Air Force. 

Witnesses
included the Honorable Barbara Barrett, Secretary of the Air Force, and General
David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. 

Inhofe’s
full statement for the record follows: 

The
Committee meets today to receive testimony on the posture of the U.S. Air Force
and its fiscal year 2021 budget request.

We
welcome Barbara Barrett, Secretary of the Air Force, and General David
Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Thank you both for your
distinguished service and your continuing willingness to serve our great
nation.

The
National Defense Strategy directs our nation’s military to prepare for the
return of great power competition. This means we must be prepared to deter and,
if necessary, defeat our near-peer adversaries like Russia and China. 

In
order for the Air Force to achieve that goal, it must be properly manned,
trained, and equipped.  At the end of the Obama administration, the Air
Force was at a historic low in readiness and size. Less than 10 percent of
combat squadrons were ready to deploy and even less were prepared for a peer
fight. We commend the progress you have made in rebuilding readiness, but more
needs to be done. A high state of readiness is crucial for our nation to
demonstrate peace through strength. 

While
our forces suffered from being ill prepared, our adversaries moved out and recapitalized
both their conventional and nuclear forces with alarming speed. China and
Russia present a credible threat to America and our allies. In fact, in some
areas they have even surpassed us.

You
both have testified that the Air Force is too small and too old to do what the
nation asks. We agree with you and the many independent studies that show you
need to grow and modernize. But we are concerned that your current budget is
inadequate to allow you to reach the requirement of 386 squadrons.

Given
the need to grow, there is concern that this year’s budget request takes risk
by divesting aircraft we need today; in hopes of buying modern capability in
the future. Historically, that approach has failed to achieve the desired
results.

We
understand that much of those decisions were caused by a flat budget that falls
well short of the three to five percent growth recommended by the National
Defense Strategy Commission report. In fact, it does not even keep up with
inflation.

Any
successful modernization strategy must focus on results and meeting the needs
of tomorrow’s fight but also needs to maintain forces capable of deterring and
defeating an adversary today. We look forward to working with you to ensure be
meet both the needs of today’s warfighters while modernizing to ensure we
regain our advantages for the future.  

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