TUCSON, Ariz. – Modernization is a central priority for the Joint Force to preserve its competitive edge, the National Guard’s most senior general recently told Air Force reserve component members.
While modernization takes time and resources, innovation and improvements to existing weapons systems and equipment can help fill the gap, he said.
“Modernization is competitive and underfunded,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson told hundreds of Guardsmen and Reservists during the 2022 Air Reserve Component Weapons and Tactics Conference at Davis Monthan Air Force Base.
“There is competition for resources and not enough funding to spend our way out of this challenge,” Hokanson said. “That’s where you come in.
“Where we cannot outspend, we can out-work, out-compete, and out-innovate.”
The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command Test Center, or AATC, hosts the annual ARC WEPTAC to identify critical capability shortfalls for ARC weapons systems, missions and training priorities.
The AATC is responsible for operational and developmental evaluations, tactics development, and evaluation for all Air Reserve Component weapons systems. Its mission is to rapidly test critical requirements to meet field-driven initiatives for all ARC weapons systems.
The CNGB said now is the time to identify capability gaps and determine how to close them.
“Your contributions will help us make the most of the budget we have — maximizing our capability, capacity and readiness per dollar,” he said. “Your perspectives from the cockpits, flight lines and frontlines of our Air National Guard and Reserve will help us maintain — and build — our competitive advantage.
“What you do here makes a difference — the difference between victory and defeat, and the difference between life and death.”
Hokanson cited the 25 Air Guard fighter squadrons, many of which employ legacy platforms, as objectives for modernization. He named the Vermont National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing — the first Guard unit to base the F-35A Lightning II — as a Guard modernization success.
He said a fully modernized and lethal U.S. military is essential to worldwide security and stability that is being challenged in other parts of the world. To wit, the 158th, with its fleet of fifth-generation fighters. They supported NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing mission in May to deter further Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.
“As a member of the Joint Chiefs, my job is to give my best military advice about defending our nation, the collective defense of our allies and partners, and protecting the free and open rules-based international order,” Hokanson said. “And right now, at this moment in history, these things are at risk.”
Many Guardsmen have spent their entire careers training for and fighting in a counterinsurgency environment. “Now the landscape is different,” Hokanson said. “The threat is different. And it will require a different approach.”
Ultimately, he said people make the difference, and he urged the WEPTAC to keep pushing limits to solve the challenges of today and the future.
“Keep asking hard questions,” he said. “Keep modernizing and innovating. Keep challenging the limitations set before you, and keep faith in what’s possible. Keep up the fight.
“You are the experts, the warriors, and the leaders,” the CNGB said. “The future is up to you.”