Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I want to join Senator Inhofe in welcoming Secretary Wilson and General Goldfein to the Committee this morning to testify on the plans and programs of the Department of the Air Force in our review of the Fiscal Year 2020 President’s budget request.   

We are grateful to all the men and women of the Air Force for their professional service, and to their families, for their continued support. 

In preparing this budget request, the Air Force faced difficult decisions in balancing the need to modernize and keep the technological advantage over near peer competitors, and the need to support ongoing operations and sustain today’s readiness.  This budget request proposes funding increases to address readiness concerns, munitions shortfalls, preparing for the future fight, and modernization of our strategic deterrent capability. 

While each of these issues is important, I am concerned that the Air Force may not have taken as thorough a review of what programs could be cut, delayed or made more efficient in order to pay for the proposed increases.  I am interested in the witnesses’ view on what efforts could be taken to offset current and future costs. 

In the near term, the Air Force has money in the Disaster Emergency Relief Supplemental that they need by May 1st.  If the Air Force does not receive the $1.2 billion funds by this date, they will be forced to stop all new work at Tyndall, which will in turn delay the return of full base operations.  If these funds are delayed past that date, other dire consequences may result, such as halting recovery operations at Offutt Air Force base, stopping maintenance on some aircraft and grounding others.  I hope we can focus on the potential consequences and move the Disaster Emergency Relief Supplemental forward. 

In addition, because significant levels of funding are being transferred to build the wall on the southern border, the amount of reprogramming authority will be limited.  I remain concerned that the Air Force and other services may run short of headroom in reprogramming authority, which could lead to other delays and other shortage areas as we approach the end of the fiscal year.

One of the major issues that will be considered in this year’s NDAA is the Air Force proposal to buy more F-15 aircraft.  For years, the Air Force has adamantly opposed buying any more 4th generation aircraft.  I believe the Committee needs to understand this reversal.  Any Air Force proposal deserves our careful consideration, but we must consider it against the recent history of abrupt Air Force changes of direction on such programs as A-10, U-2, Global Hawk, Compass Call, C-27 airlift aircraft, and JSTARS.  

Another area of change is the light attack aircraft experimentation program.  For the past several years, the Air Force has been conducting experiments with small trainer aircraft that have been modified to include a modest ground attack capability.  Some expected these experiments would result in a program that would produce one or two wings of aircraft for the Air Force. 

In the FY20 budget request, the Air Force has changed the nature and timing of that effort.  The budget request would defer funding for any light attack aircraft until FY22, at which point the Air Force would buy roughly 24 aircraft.  The aim of this revised program would be to encourage coalition partners to contribute to the air campaign effort with such aircraft and to provide training support for our partners who wanted to participate in such a program.  I ask that the witnesses explain this change in focus and clarify the role of the proposed light attack aircraft. 

In last year’s budget request, the Air Force proposed to truncate the program to modernize the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS program, and replace it with a combination of other systems, including unmanned systems and overhead sensors.  The Committee supported the Air Force proposal, and the plan was ultimately adopted in the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.  I understand that the Air Force has continued this program in the FY20 budget and I look forward to receiving an update on progress. 

I am also interested in hearing updates of your continuing effort to improve the state of Air Force personnel, including progress on improving the shortfalls within the remotely piloted aircraft operator community, and how the Air Force has addressed shortfalls within the larger pilot community and maintenance personnel.

The one major issue I have not mentioned is the proposal for a Space Force.  I omitted discussion of the Space Force this morning because Chairman Inhofe intends to convene a hearing next Thursday dedicated solely to this issue, with Acting Secretary Shanahan, Chairman Dunford, Secretary Wilson, and General Hyten as witnesses.  With that in mind, I plan to use this hearing to focus on other issues affecting the Air Force and reserve space force questions until next week. 

Secretary Wilson, General Goldfein, thank you again for appearing before our committee and I look forward to your testimony.