Government watchdog says Air Force readiness has declined for decades

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A government watchdog report says Air Force readiness has declined steadily for decades and work is needed to rebuild and modernize.

The Government Accountability Office is a nonpartisan, independent agency.

The Air Force Readiness report "Actions Needed to Rebuild Readiness and Prepare for the Future" says that Air Force readiness has declined "steadily" since the 1990s.

It says the Air Force is working to rebuild readiness and modernize the fleet. The report addressed four areas of readiness, including shortages of pilots and maintenance professionals, ensuring aircraft are ready for missions, training, and managing the small F-22 fleet.

The report says "Looking to the future, the Air Force will have to balance the rebuilding of its existing force with its desire to grow and modernize. Even with growth, the Air Force would be dependent on the force of today for decades to come and will need to stay focused on rebuilding the readiness of existing forces."

In terms of personnel, the GAO says that pilot and aircraft maintainer shortages are the key challenge to rebuilding readiness. From 2006 to 2017, there was only one year where the Air Force had the number of pilots authorized.

In October testimony before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson stated "The restoration of the force, the restoration of the readiness of the force to win any fight, any time, has to be job one for all of us."

She also shared that they had made gains in maintainers in the active force.

"In 2016, the Air Force was 4,000 maintainers short. Today, we are 400 maintainers short and by December in the active duty service, we will be back to having closed the gap." Wilson said.

The GAO is recommending the service reevaluate fighter pilot squadron requirements to make sure it has the pilots necessary.

You can read the entire GAO report on Air Force readiness here.