Speaking at a panel on the Guard and Reserve at Air and Spaces Forces Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, director of the Air National Guard stressed the need to be ready today and stronger tomorrow and that begins with operationalizing the National Defense Strategy.
The 2022 NDS through its priorities sets out how the Department of Defense will contribute to protecting the American people, expanding America’s prosperity, and realizing and defending democratic values.
1. Defending the homeland, paced to the growing multi-domain threat posed by the People’s Republic of China
2. Deterring strategic attacks against the United States, allies, and partners
3. Deterring aggression while being prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary, prioritizing the PRC challenge in the Indo-Pacific, then the Russia challenge in Europe
4. Building a resilient Joint Force and defense ecosystem
“I need every Air National Guard Airmen to see themselves in the National Defense Strategy, no matter if you are a drill status Guardsmen or a full-time member … you must get out there and do these things,” Loh said.
This begins with a strong, healthy recapitalization plan, “One in every two or one out of every three new fighters off the line should be coming to the Guard and reserve,” Loh said.
Loh explained the need to level the fighter fleet. Currently, the ANG operates about 27% of the entire fighter fleet, but just under 7% of the F-35 fleet. Fleet leveling will preserve both active and Guard capability while lowering Total Force operating costs. Concurrent recapitalization will help remedy the existing under-investment in the Air Guard, but Loh explained the Total Force must adjust the force mix of active and Guard components to fully leverage the ANG for strategic competition.
The reserve component brings value to the Total Force by maintaining a ready capability at a lower cost. Fellow panel member, Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, president of the Adjutants General Association of the United States, explained that an adjustment from 63/27 to a 50/50 fighter ratio between and active and reserve component would save $2.36 billion over the fiscal year defense plan.
The panel, titled “Secret Weapons: Guard and Reserve” along with Loh and Bohac, featured Lt. Gen. John Healy, chief of the Air Force Reserve, and highlighted the unique capabilities the reserve component brings to the fight.
The ANG has provided continuous support over the last three decades, providing an indispensable and cost-effective force who is ready at a moment’s notice. Beginning in 2020, the National Guard has been mobilized at the highest levels since WWII, providing 30% of the nation's operational airpower and support to every combatant commander around the globe.
“The secret is no secret, we need to be fully interoperable, on par with our active-duty counterparts, and we need to make sure we get that recapitalization, and we are there concurrently with them,” Loh said. That doesn’t always happen and it’s still not happening today.”
“We need to leverage the best of each of the components, to build the largest and strongest total Air Force,” Loh added.
The reserve components provide capability at a lower cost point for America. As we look to the future, this aspect of our value proposition is particularly important.