AF to Congress: Readiness depends on strong, resilient force

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WASHINGTON (AFNS) —
Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force manpower, personnel and services deputy chief of staff, testified on Air Force personnel posture before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in Washington, D.C., May 17.

In 2017, the Air Force Human Capital Enterprise faces three distinct challenges for the future: the need for increased manpower to support current mission requirements, a national pilot crisis, and the quality of life and quality of service needs of Airmen and their families, explained Grosso.

Manpower requirements

The Air Force must continue to leverage the total force to support ongoing operations and future missions based on global security and joint force requirement.

These new missions, coupled with existing operational needs, drive manpower requirements even higher.

“We’re grateful for the congressional support to increase fiscal year 2017 active-duty end-strength levels to 321,000,” Grosso said. “Even with this increase, Air Force readiness depends on responsible growth in fiscal 2018. This growth is necessary to support current operations.”

Pilot shortage

At the end of fiscal 2016, the total force made up of the active duty, Reserve and Guard, was short 1,555 pilots across all mission areas.

From a pilot shortage hearing on March 29, the Air Force explained the pilot crisis results from multiple factors, including sustained high operational tempo over many years, quality of life, and quality of service issues.

Additionally, the commercial aviation industry has a current and projected high-level demand for pilots with an inability to rapidly increase production.

“We are meeting with several airline senior executives to seek ways to collaboratively address the national pilot shortage,” Grosso stated.

Resilient and ready Airmen and families

“Air Force readiness depends on a strong, resilient force,” Grosso said.

The Air Force recognizes this and is increasing resiliency skills programs by adding installation resilience trainers, evaluating military family needs, and ensuring Airmen exposed to combat and traumatic events receive needed care.

Additionally, Grosso acknowledged another detriment to resiliency is any form of interpersonal and self-directed violence, and not all violence is physical.

“Forms of violence have bled into social media,” she explained. “The chief of staff of the Air Force chartered a working group to evaluate the policies in place for appropriate conduct online and via social media. New guidance is currently in coordination. This guidance will be punitive and will be completed and issued in the next 60 days.”

Moving beyond immediate challenges

To move beyond the immediate challenges, the Air Force established a comprehensive human capital strategy across six lines of effort to addressing talent planning, talent acquisition, talent development and utilization, talent evaluation, talent compensation and retention, and transition.

“Our talent management strategy focuses on how to best leverage the abilities of our total force Airmen, maximize efficiencies, and increase human performance to produce warfighters and leaders for the Air Force and joint force,” she said.

To further this strategy, the Air Force has established a Talent Management Innovation Cell to rapidly identify and deploy initiatives within existing authorities.

“As this team produces policies and programs to better attract and retain talent, we will work with the other services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to present options for Congress to modify or add authorities, as needed,” Grosso explained.

Grosso also continued, “Our talent management strategy would not be possible without the support and authorities granted by Congress. We also appreciate the authority granted for expanded parental leave and the first aviation bonus increase in 18 years. The increased bonus will help alleviate our pilot crisis by retaining more pilots after their initial active-duty service commitment ends.”

When Congress asked what the future challenges are and how they can help, Grosso replied, “What you can do to help us the most is to provide stable funding over an extended period of time. Because the ups and downs, especially from a military manpower perspective, are impossible … it’s been very difficult to manage a human capital strategy.

“America’s Air Force is always there and provides global vigilance, global reach, and global power to combatant commanders around the world,” Grosso said. “However, being ‘always there’ comes at a cost to equipment, infrastructure—and most importantly—our Airmen.”