Index

STATEMENT OF: GENERAL JOHN P. JUMPER

COMMANDER, UNITED STATES AIR FORCES IN EUROPE

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee—thank you for this opportunity to discuss our experiences in Kosovo with you.

On March 24, 1999 at 1900 Greenwich Mean Time, a B-52 from RAF Fairford fired its payload of cruise missiles in the opening salvo of Operation Allied Force and set the stage for over 38,000 sorties that followed. I viewed the first night and following 77 days of the air campaign as Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). In this capacity, I was a force provider for the USAF contribution. I also witnessed the air war from a NATO perspective—as Commander of Allied Air Forces Central Region.

By its conclusion, Allied Force employed a greater percentage of the U.S. Air Force than either Vietnam or Desert Storm—this considerable force provided tremendous capabilities for NATO. Ultimately, NATO achieved its objectives: Milosevic’s forces left Kosovo and were replaced by an international peacekeeping force. In a testament to our readiness, we achieved our objectives without losing a single Airman in combat.

In my statement, I will review our readiness for the air campaign prior to 24 March, examine our readiness during the campaign and how we adapted to a changing, expanding air war, and assess our post-Kosovo readiness to conduct future operations.

 

I: PRELUDE TO OPERATION ALLIED FORCE

We built the air campaign on a solid foundation of NATO interoperability that was refined over 50 years. Through vigorous exercises and training, NATO partners developed the interoperable systems and common procedures, standards, and terminology needed to form a cohesive alliance. As the Kosovo crisis flared in the spring of 1998, NATO’s long-term investment in interoperability paid off in allied readiness. As early as May, allied planners began building an air campaign plan for Kosovo that would go through more than 40 different iterations over the next 10 months.

In the fall of 1998, a showdown with Milosevic appeared likely, so we positioned forces for possible airstrikes. We abandoned our Cold War practice of deploying with spares and supplies to last a full 30 days; instead we deployed with just enough materiel to initiate operations. We also devised an efficient sustainment plan that used sea, truck, and rail transportation whenever possible. In all, we reduced our initial deployment size by approximately three-quarters—as a result, we were in place and ready to fight much sooner. Ultimately, air strikes were averted by the Holbrooke agreements, and our forces resumed their previous posture. Nevertheless, this valuable logistical lesson served us well later on.

In January 1999, Serb forces massacred 45 Kosovar Albanians at Racak, galvanizing the concerns of the international community. While diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis continued, the final stages of planning for an air campaign began in earnest. The Air Force began to prepare the necessary forces in the weeks that followed. Theater supply depots and well-established transportation networks ensured the availability and timely resupply of munitions and war reserve materiel. By all of our readiness reporting measures, USAFE personnel and equipment were well prepared. One reason USAFE was ready is that the Air Force had given its overseas commands higher priority for aircraft spare parts. Our readiness was achieved partly at the expense of stateside units.

In February, several USAFE units began to deploy to forward operating locations while others prepared to fight from home station. By March 24th, 211 USAFE and non-USAFE fighters, bombers, tankers, and support aircraft were positioned at nine bases and ready to go. Our people stood ready too. The Air Force had over 2,600 personnel deployed to augment thousands of USAFE personnel tapped to support the operation from home station. Because we had been preparing for months, we were ready to execute the plan when the final order was given.

 

 

 

II. ADAPTING TO A CHANGING CAMPAIGN—HURDLES, INNOVATIONS, AND LESSONS LEARNED

NATO’s initial guidance was based upon the hope its objectives could be achieved by bombing a limited set of targets over a few days. However, Alliance members soon recognized the campaign might take longer and that NATO needed to be prepared. At the same time, we faced the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Berlin Airlift.

Initially, NATO’s phased air campaign focused on a limited list of roughly 50 fixed targets. NATO’s military objectives expanded to include simultaneous attacks against Milosevic’s fielded forces in Kosovo and against an expanded list of fixed strategic targets. Furthermore, this two-pronged attack evolved into a 24-hour-a-day operation, which required a tremendous surge in forces. Over the course of the campaign, the USAF commitment to the NATO force more than doubled.

More than 13,500 Air Force personnel were deployed in theater by the conclusion of the air campaign. Nearly all of USAFE’s 26,000 military and 5,500 civilian personnel were fully engaged with Kosovo, whether they were deployed or at home station. Spread across 22 bases, the final number of Air Force theater-based and deployed aircraft committed to the operation reached 526. Even this figure does not tell the whole story. Six B-2s operated from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and U.S. Transportation Command’s air mobility resources deployed and sustained the theater force.

The USAF provided a critical contribution in this highly complex, changing operation, but we were also joined by air components from the other services and air forces from 13 other NATO Allies. Integrating this joint and combined team was not always easy, but its diversity and breadth was a tremendous asset as we demonstrated our resolve in the face of Milosevic’s repression.

 

NATO Interoperability. Allied unity was our greatest weapon—we simply could not have conducted this operation without the framework of NATO. Our allies and other non-NATO partners provided us critical access to airspace, airfields, and transportation infrastructure. NATO interoperability allowed us to successfully integrate widely varying assets and capabilities into a deadly combat force.

Interoperability was an overwhelming success throughout the conflict, but it was not problem-free. With the great flight distances from many bases to Yugoslav airspace, air refueling was a critically needed capability. By the end of the conflict, we had assembled a force of nearly 200 NATO tanker aircraft to provide the lifeblood of the air campaign. However, pilots from several allies lacked adequate training for in-flight refueling, which diminished their participation.

In another shortfall, our secure communications capabilities were insufficient and many of our transmissions were made "in the clear." As a result, sensitive information sometimes fell into enemy hands. Some aircraft also lacked jam-resistant radios and were unable to communicate with other airborne elements in the face of Serbian electronic warfare measures. In addition, several allied aircraft types were not equipped with the necessary Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) equipment that would have distinguished them from enemy aircraft. This hampered the ability of battle managers to maintain an accurate, complete picture of air operations.

 

Air superiority. NATO forces commanded the skies over Yugoslavia. Once again, we demonstrated that air superiority remains the essential precondition for effective modern military operations. We attained air superiority despite a determined, well-equipped foe. The loss of only two aircraft in over 38,000 sorties demonstrates the degree of free reign NATO airmen exercised over Yugoslavia. Typically, if a Yugoslav aircraft took off, NATO shot it down—allied aircrews destroyed 6 Yugoslav aircraft in air-to-air combat and 77 more on the ground. After the first night, Yugoslav fighters did not pose a major threat.

Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) posed the only credible threat—Yugoslav SAM operators fired over 700 radar guided SA-3 and SA-6 missiles at allied airmen. Our F-16CJ Wild Weasel pilots and joint U.S. Navy-Air Force EA-6B electronic jamming crews showed tremendous courage when attacking Serbian sites head-on, day after day. Our preliminary assessment is that we damaged or destroyed 40 percent of the sites. The difficulty in striking these missile sites was magnified by two Yugoslav actions. First, they frequently moved their missile batteries to stymie our attempts to bomb them. Second, they kept their tracking radars dormant and activated them only briefly when allied aircraft were nearby. Our tactics and equipment assume an aggressive enemy will engage us—we had to improvise new procedures to rapidly strike these elusive targets after identification. Our most successful innovation came in rapid targeting.

 

Rapid Targeting. Not only did we have to find and target surface-to-air missile sites that did not radiate, NATO air forces were tasked to go after Milosevic’s fielded forces in Kosovo and other time-critical targets. Because there had been an early declaration that ground forces would not be used, fielded forces in Kosovo were free from the normal preparation activity we had seen in Desert Storm. Instead of preparing for a potential ground attack by digging into defensive positions and stockpiling supplies, activities that provide lucrative targets for airpower, enemy ground forces were free to simply hide from our airplanes.

The situation on the ground in Kosovo required significant modification to our tactics, techniques and procedures—we took full advantage of all available skills and technology to get inside the heads of enemy ground commanders and SAM operators. We invented new processes to integrate both air and space-borne Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance (ISR) platforms for collection along with advanced technology and procedures for analysis.

Our new processes took advantage of our ISR resources to identify "pop up" targets of opportunity. These assets then transmitted the data for analysis to the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at Vicenza, Italy—the nerve center for NATO air operations—and to stateside locations. Planners at the CAOC rapidly translated the data into targeting information and relayed the target to strike aircraft for destruction. Throughout the campaign, we continually refined this process until we could process targeting information between our sensors and strike aircraft in a matter of hours.

Planners were aided by one of the most successful innovations of the air campaign. For the first time, we used the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in a targeting role. Before Allied Force, the Predator could transmit targeting imagery to its operator on the ground as part of the intelligence collection network. During the air campaign, we reviewed Predator video in real-time and immediately provided pilots with the location of mobile Serb targets. Toward the end of the war, we equipped the Predator with a laser so that it could place a beam on a target—this identified it so a loitering strike aircraft could destroy it. We were able to successfully employ the Predator with laser only once before Allied Force ended, but in doing so, we developed a capability with great potential for rapid targeting.

While rapid targeting worked, the process was not perfect. Aircrews faced a confusing barrage of verbal targeting instructions in the cockpit. Present aircraft are not capable of displaying target imagery or of receiving target coordinates digitally while in flight. Nevertheless, we achieved measurable success against mobile targets and Milosevic’s fielded forces. These achievements benefited from the many precision weapons at our disposal.

 

Precision Weapons. Allied Force was without question the most precise bombing campaign in history. Out of more than 9,400 designated target aim points, over 70 percent were struck by precision munitions. We have invested in our Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) capability steadily over the years, and the payoff came in the ability to precisely strike more targets, in worse weather, and with less collateral damage than in previous air campaigns.

Despite flying only 49 sorties, the B-2 was a star performer. The B-2 with Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) was our only manned aircraft that could strike targets with precision in any weather. Its tremendous all-weather capability was crucial because only 21 of the 78 days had favorable weather. Furthermore, the B-2 and JDAM demonstrated their impressive flexibility when we devised a procedure to retarget them in flight. This innovation proved crucial when addressing target changes during a 17-hour enroute time.

Allied Force saw the battle for public opinion rival the battle for the skies in importance, and Milosevic’s propaganda machine attempted to exploit each instance of collateral damage. NATO’s combined precision capability allowed the alliance to limit instances of collateral damage to approximately 20 out of 23,000 bombs and missiles dropped. While each incident was highly regrettable, this is a remarkable record.

Precision munitions enabled NATO airpower to set the standard for minimizing collateral damage for airpower in the future, but not every NATO member possessed a precision capability. Those countries lacking precision weapons were not able to attack targets obscured by weather or affected by collateral damage concerns.

 

Other Platforms and Capabilities. Our B-1 and venerable B-52 bombers delivered both precision and non-precision munitions, and they joined NATO’s other strike aircraft in a fully integrated combat effort. Each demonstrated their survivability in high-threat areas as they were put to effective use against Milosevic’s ground forces in Kosovo.

One capability that proved critical for aircrew survival was Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR). Dramatic rescues of an F-117 and an F-16 pilot behind Serbian lines denied Milosevic a valuable propaganda coup—our heroic crews retrieved both pilots in hours. The crews behind these daring rescues were Air Force special operations personnel. However, CSAR was a secondary mission that detracted from their ability to accomplish their primary special operations missions. We relied heavily upon the special operations community before CSAR-dedicated HH-60 and HC-130 resources could arrive from the U.S. We acutely felt the lack of a permanent theater capability during Allied Force—the demand for these assets remains among the highest in service.

Other assets and capabilities were similarly stretched. Air Force ISR and Command and Control (C2) platforms such as the U-2, RC-135 Rivet Joint, E-3 AWACS, and E-8 JSTARS aircraft performed many critical tasks for the warfighter. However, these assets are in continuous demand worldwide, and their crews and airframes were stretched to the limit during Allied Force. Another capability in high demand was Electronic Warfare (EW). EA-6Bs flown by U.S. Marine Corps and joint Navy-Air Force crews had to be pulled from U.S. Central Command and Pacific Command to support Allied Force. The heavy use of these high-demand, low-density platforms raised the question of whether we have sufficient numbers to provide commanders the capabilities they need.

 

Logistics. The joint logistics community ensured a smooth flow of equipment, supplies, and personnel for commanders. To augment our in-theater munitions stockpiles, we requested U.S. Navy Afloat Preposition Ships. While our overall munitions supply remained adequate throughout the air war, we had to draw additional munitions from the U.S. and from the Pacific and Central Commands to meet expanding demands. We also experienced JDAM shortages since they had just entered production, and we depleted much of the Air Force inventory of Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles.

 

Our theater war readiness materiel stocks and Europe’s highly developed ground transportation network allowed expeditious delivery of other supplies to the warfighter. We relied heavily upon commercial contract air carriers, road, rail, and sea transportation as well as airlift to transport people, equipment, and supplies. Both air and sealift modes were used to provide timely transport of materiel from other theaters. With each mode of transport, improved in-transit visibility systems and procedures gave us greater ability to track supplies and equipment from the warehouse to the warfighter than ever before.

Supply and parts problems had no noticeable impact on the campaign—ready availability of aircraft parts made maintenance much easier. We did discover that we had insufficient maintenance personnel for round-the-clock operations, so we brought in 2,200 additional aircraft mechanics from other commands. USAFE established five Centralized Intermediate Repair Facilities in theater to provide rapid and flexible repair of aircraft. Combat logistics teams from Air Force Materiel Command also helped us quickly repair battle-damaged aircraft. While several aircraft involved in the Kosovo campaign experienced their first combat operations, most of our fleet served in Desert Storm and had aged 8 years in the interim. Despite an aging, heavily tasked fleet, the overall maintenance record for USAF aircraft was outstanding.

 

Expeditionary Deployment. The Air Force fleet employed in Allied Force operated from bases spanning from Missouri to Turkey. With USAFE’s main operating bases fully engaged in the war effort, aircraft deployed and operated from a variety of other locations ranging from international airports to undeveloped bases. Site surveys were critical in identifying suitable operating locations, and our teams visited 27 locations in 11 different countries.

When deploying to widely varied locations throughout Europe, we demonstrated the responsiveness and flexibility of airpower. Based upon our October 1998 rehearsal for the air campaign, our units deployed with only enough supplies to begin operations and used all means available to provide the follow-on sustainment flow. This allowed us to get our forces in place and ready to fight quickly. To further reduce transportation requirements, we used contractors to buy what we could on site so that we did not have to spend valuable lift resources to meet all our deployment and sustainment needs.

Not only did we conduct a major combat operation, we conducted the largest humanitarian relief operation in Europe in 50 years. In preparing for this effort at Tirana, Albania, we demonstrated how we could rapidly deploy and operate from an undeveloped base. Within hours of arrival, we unloaded the first relief supplies for thousands of Kosovar refugees. Our Air Force contingent at Tirana coordinated international relief efforts in Albania in the days before NATO took over. They also had to accommodate the deployment of U.S. Army Apache helicopters for Task Force Hawk.

The C-17 was the star of the Task Force Hawk deployment effort—it required only 12 C-17s operating from Ramstein, Germany, to move most of the Army forces. With help from our C-130s, we flew 737 sorties to move more than 7,700 passengers and nearly 23,000 short tons of cargo for the Apache contingent. The flow of Task Force Hawk to Tirana was not impacted by humanitarian relief operations there. Humanitarian relief efforts were conducted on a different part of the airfield, and aid was transported primarily by our C-130 fleet and by surface transportation means.

 

Personnel. The tremendous logistical effort and the planning and execution of Allied Force were accomplished by our staffs—we could not have done it without them. During the course of the campaign, we became acutely aware that the size of management headquarters staffs needs attention. In the last decade, the USAFE management headquarters staff has been cut by over 30 percent. Previously, USAFE staffs built the required basing, logistics, communications, intelligence, and host nation agreements over a span of years while focusing on meeting the Warsaw Pact threat from well-developed airfields. Today, our forces must be prepared to deploy anywhere from Norway to South Africa and operate from airfields ranging from major airports to bare bases.

Allied Force illustrates the shift in how and where we operate and demonstrates how the demands placed upon our staffs have risen dramatically. Once the decision was made to reinforce the air campaign, new bases had to be quickly established. Lt Gen Michael Short, the Air Force Forces Commander, lacked the staff to do this—my headquarters staff deployed 181 people to assist him. At the same time, the responsibilities of my management headquarters staff expanded quickly as the crisis unfolded. My augmented staff secured basing from other nations, coordinated aircraft overflight agreements, obtained adequate aircraft fuel supplies, arranged transportation requirements, and established communications networks—all in short order.

The management headquarters staff coordinated our expansion from 9 bases in 5 countries to 22 bases in 11 countries in the theater as the Air Force contribution more than doubled. This Herculean task required 333 augmentees at USAFE headquarters. Still, the augmentation was not sufficient and many management headquarters functions were suspended until Operation Allied Force concluded.

 

Campaign Assessment. Despite the formidable hurdles we encountered during the course of the conflict, NATO airpower adapted and overcame them. In the end, we accomplished our military objectives and set the conditions to achieve NATO’s political objectives in Kosovo and the broader Balkan region. The valuable lessons we learned will help us be even more prepared in the future.

 

 

 

III: POST-KOSOVO—PREPARING FOR NEXT CONTINGENCY

Expectedly for an operation of this size, the combat readiness of many Air Force units was down at the conclusion of Allied Force. Hardest hit were high demand, low density aircraft such as our ISR platforms, as well as our F-15E and F-16CJ fighters. At the conflict’s end, we had a training backlog for our aircraft mechanics and aircrews, and we also needed to accomplish much deferred maintenance. In USAFE, the aircrew training backlog was so large that many crews were sent to Stateside and Pacific commands to complete their training requirements. At Aviano Air Base, Italy, the main fighter base for Allied Force, the runway was closed soon after the conflict for one month of overdue repairs.

To swiftly recover our combat readiness, the Air Force implemented a reconstitution plan. The plan’s objective is to enable the Air Force to continue to meet our on-going taskings, including enforcement of the two Iraqi no-fly zones—Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch—while simultaneously providing a process to restore our people, aircraft, and equipment to full combat capability. The reconstitution plan is in its third month and is proceeding well. Most fighter units have made significant improvements. The heavily tasked ISR and rescue communities have not progressed as well and continue to be heavily tasked. Also hard hit were medical and civil engineering units whose specialty is operating from new bases. Nonetheless, the Air Force is expected to return to full strength again by March 1, 2000, barring any new contingencies.

 

Aerospace Expeditionary Forces. Even at full strength, we do not expect the need for our forces to subside. Since the end of Desert Storm, there has been a stream of contingency deployments. This has been a strain on our people and equipment. The Air Force previously lacked a tempo management tool to provide predictability and stability in our Airmen’s lives and to allow units to maintain the proper training programs. Therefore, in order to maintain the long-term readiness in today’s strategic environment, the Air Force established the Expeditionary Aerospace Force concept and organized its forces into a new expeditionary framework on 1 October 1999.

Under this framework, the Air Force has packaged its forces into 10 Aerospace Expeditionary Forces, called AEFs, and two Aerospace Expeditionary wings, or AEWs. AEFs will address ongoing deployments such as Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch, while AEWs will stand ready for "pop-up" crises. Over a 15-month cycle, each of the 10 AEFs will be scheduled for a 90-day contingency rotation followed by a 12-month period when units should not be tasked for contingency support. This pattern will allow units to build long-term training programs, plan off-duty education, and to be able to plan personal and family activities around a more stable and predictable deployment schedule. This new element of predictability will also allow us to take full advantage of burden-sharing with the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve.

With this expeditionary framework, our primary goal is to provide rapid and responsive aerospace forces across the spectrum of conflict—from humanitarian relief to a major theater war. From our remaining bases overseas and from the United States, we must be ready to rapidly deploy anywhere on the globe. For this, our forces need to be as light and lean as possible. Our expeditionary construct will ensure our readiness for the next crisis—we don’t know where it is coming from, but our experience tells us it is coming.

 

Potential Trouble Spots. In an uncertain international environment, AEWs will help the Air Force respond to the next crisis. During the past decade, USAFE alone has participated in over 60 contingency operations, averaging one every 60 days. From peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations to the application of combat power, a significant number of Air Force operations involve USAFE. In Europe, the Balkans will command our attention as long as Milosevic reigns in Serbia and incites instability in neighboring countries. Other potential trouble spots exist along NATO’s eastern and southern periphery.

In Africa, we also face significant challenges. Civil wars in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo and the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea all demand our focus. Economic collapse, ethnic conflicts, disease, and natural disasters elsewhere have resulted in large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the continent. The United Nations counts approximately 4 million IDPs throughout Africa. Our concerns in Africa are rooted in experience and we know involvement on this troubled continent may be required at any time.

 

The Future of Airpower. With the diversity of possible crises on the horizon, tomorrow’s readiness cannot be taken for granted. The speed of technological advances, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the changing nature of potential threats dictate that we take steps today to maintain aerospace superiority tomorrow.

As Kosovo so clearly demonstrated, NATO will continue to be the principal guarantor of European security for the foreseeable future. Allied Force was a tremendous success for NATO interoperability—by and large, we got it right. Now we can take several steps to solve the vast majority of the problems we encountered. Most require relatively inexpensive, low tech fixes. Improvements to our secure communications capability and jam-resistant radios will smooth the flow of information and prevent sensitive data from falling into enemy hands. Better training will ensure more aircrews are qualified for air refueling. Finally, each NATO member needs to acquire a precision weapons capability to remain on the same playing field as its other partners.

If we do not command the air, improved interoperability will be wasted. Air superiority will remain the essential element in any future military operation, but our ability to secure air superiority in the future is at risk. Today, Russia and other nations produce aircraft that rival the F-15—our 1970s-vintage air superiority fighter. The risk is compounded by a new generation of SAMs, which threaten our current conventional aircraft. These modern fighters and SAMs are readily available worldwide. Unlike the Serbs, future adversaries may possess these platforms and systems. Securing air superiority in the future will require the next generation fighter, the F-22, which Secretary Cohen has aptly called the "cornerstone of our nation’s airpower in the 21st Century." Without the F-22, we cannot guarantee that we will own the sky—if we do not own the sky, success in any military operation is in jeopardy.

To command the air, we must also develop the processes and acquire the technology needed to destroy, not just suppress, enemy air defenses. These steps will remove the SAM threat when an enemy takes a page from Serbian air defenders and does not engage us. We made major advances in rapid targeting in order to find and destroy SAMs as well as tanks and artillery pieces—we now need to take these capabilities to the next step.

We must fully develop the technology and tactics to rapidly strike targets. To do this, we need equipment that will provide real-time imagery and target location directly to our fighter and bomber crews. This will allow us to reduce the barriers between the "sensor" and the "shooter" in the targeting cycle—what we call "attacking the seams." To make airpower as effective as possible against mobile targets, we must have complete integration between all available air and space sensors at our nation’s disposal. Their targeting data also must quickly reach those commanding aerospace forces in the Air Operations Center (AOC). Ultimately, our goal is to reduce the time from target identification to target destruction from hours and days to minutes.

To avoid collateral damage in the future, the Air Force requires a continued investment in precision weapons and the bombers and fighters required to deliver them. We also need to work with other services to keep our aging ISR and EW systems effective, and to relieve the continuous pressure on them, we will seek additional aircraft and personnel. A fully developed CSAR capability must also be assembled within the European theater to locate and rescue anyone caught behind enemy lines—not only to protect our people but to deny an enemy the propaganda victory capture would bring.

While they never faced combat, our staffs were severely strained during Allied Force. Past staff reductions made conducting a successful air war difficult. We must be ready to cope with the next crisis when it comes but our ability to perform the necessary planning will be hampered by the newly-legislated requirement to reduce staffs an additional 15 percent.

I have discussed the events leading up to Operation Allied Force, how our airpower adapted to this rapidly changing campaign, and what challenges airpower will face in the dawn of this new millennium. As we address these issues together, we need to do so with the accomplishments of our service men and women squarely before us. There are no words to do justice to their level of sacrifice and dedication. I can only hope that the successes I have outlined here serve as a testament to their innovation and leadership. You should also know that our Airmen stand ready not only because they are a highly trained fighting force but also because they receive unwavering support from their families. These Airmen and their families represent our country and your home states—we are in every way a team. Let there be no doubt, our team remains ready.

Allow me to close by thanking the members and their staffs for supporting Pay Table Reform, the 4.8% pay raise for our Airmen and their families, and the return to a fair and equitable retirement system. Your support for this important legislation demonstrates to our people that their decision to serve their nation is not taken for granted. They will know their sacrifices and those of their families are understood and appreciated by Congress and the people they swore to serve. Thank you.