MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, and Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, testified before a Senate Arms Services hearing this week. Together, they outlined force structure changes that will increase reliance on the readiness of the Air National Guard. Reminiscent of our Minuteman roots, this strategic shift places increased responsibility on units such as the 129th Rescue Wing to remain trained and ready to respond at a moment's notice.
This shift was necessitated by the fiscal realities driven by the Budget Control Act, more commonly known as sequestration, which reduces Defense spending by several hundred billion dollars over the next decade. By FY15, the Air Force will decrease its active duty end strength by 17 percent while the Air National Guard will grow by 3 percent. In order to retain the best talent and capability within the Total Force, Palace Chase policy has been revised to permit active duty Airmen, including rated officers, to transfer into the Air National Guard rather than leave the service.
Readiness is so important to us as Airmen that it remains the first consideration in almost everything that we do to prepare for combat, contingencies and homeland emergencies. AFSC skills level training enabling 5 and 7-level upgrades is the principle focus on Saturdays of each drill weekend. Individual readiness is also a key factor in decisions affecting retention and advancement opportunities. The primary purpose of the full-time force is to train drill status guardsmen; and the greatest responsibility of commanders and supervisors is to ensure the readiness of their organization. Ultimately, readiness is an individual responsibility that cannot be delegated or ignored. Readiness is why we exist and there is no better example of that than our last rescue mission in the East Pacific.
The U.S. Coast Guard District 11 Rescue Coordination Center requested the 129th Rescue Wing to conduct the lifesaving rescue of a one-year-old infant who was ill aboard a 36-foot sailboat located 900 miles off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on April 3rd. An MC-130P aircraft launched within 5 hours and deployed a four-man Guardian Angel team just before sunset to render medical aid and facilitate rescue of the young girl and her family. This complex, over-water mission simply would not have been possible without the individual readiness of all participants, the proficiency of the aircrew, the mission capability of our aircraft, the availability of supplies, the operational status of our communications systems and the currency of our administrative databases.
Readiness is a total team effort, and the 129th Rescue Wing's many successes are attributed to the readiness of our entire team. As such, measuring the effectiveness of our training and readiness programs remains a focus of my commander's inspection program. Accordingly, each of you will be asked to participate in a brief survey this weekend. Please share your thoughts, ideas and feedback on readiness and the effectiveness of our training programs so that we can continue to perform our critical mission and make more effective use of limited resources in this fiscally-constrained budget environment. Thanks for all you do!