Heather Wilson, Air Force secretary, says service is ‘too small’ to execute its mission
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Congress Tuesday the service she oversees is “too small for what the nation is asking us to do.”
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee to defend the FY2020 budget request, Ms. Wilson said the Air Force’s 312 operational squadrons are more than 70 short of what’s needed. The Trump administration has requested $165.6 billion dollars, a 6 percent increase from last year’s request.
House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a budget proposal that allows for up to $69 billion in special war funding, which could bring the total for defense to $733 billion next year below the $750 billion President Trump calls for in his 2020 budget request.
The secretary’s plea to the committee was met with skepticism from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington state Democrat, who said the budget request is “a hell of a lot of money, certainly a lot more than a lot of our adversaries spend.”
Mrs. Wilson defended her force’s budget request and said, “we fully recognize that there are trade-offs that are made and that the country may not be able to afford the Air Force that we need in order to execute the National Defense Strategy at moderate levels of risk.”
“That gap between the strategy that we have, what’s necessary to execute that strategy, and what we really have, represents risk and that risk is that we will not be able to accomplish the objectives that the combatant commanders have set out in their plans.” she said.
Ms. Wilson, who is resigning from her post next month to serve as president of the University of Texas at El Paso, warned the committee that the existing capabilities of the Air Force are not adequate to counter growing threats from China and Russia.
“It is not unreasonable given the threats that we face that we need to build a larger and more capable Air Force,” Ms. Wilson said.