Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright told members of Congress at Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Feb. 7, that issues such as adequate base housing, reliable child care and other quality of life factors are “inextricably linked” to the service’s readiness.
“Recruiting the best Airmen possible, training and retaining the Airmen of today, and ensuring our Airmen and their families are taken care of directly impacts readiness,” said Wright during a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs hearing.
Making investments to ensure lethality, restore readiness, properly fund and train personnel and deliver cost-effective, adaptive infrastructure is essential to preserving the Air Force’s power projection advantage, he continued.
In one of the first hearings of the 2019 budget cycle, Wright was joined by his colleagues from the Army, Marine Corps and Navy to discuss the quality of life and needs for enlisted personnel across the sprawling United States military.
As he has done in other instances, Wright emphasized the importance of a work environment that provides strong opportunities for continuing training, is free from sexual harassment and is focused on maintaining the resilience of the Total Force.
“It is imperative we take care of the entire Air Force family,” he said. “We must continue to improve child care availability and affordability, and eliminate barriers to military spouse employment. These issues are important because we don’t only retain Airmen — we retain families.
“Finally, we must continue to invest in our infrastructure,” he continued. “Our installations are unique; they are vital to supporting joint operations worldwide. More than just pavement, runways and buildings, they include airspace, ranges, locations and surge capacity with significant strategic value. Decades of challenging fiscal conditions and competing priorities have necessitated managed risk in infrastructure.”
Wright’s messages on Capitol Hill were acknowledged.
“This hearing is a great opportunity to identify areas where we can do more to help those who protect us and defend this nation,” said Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz during the hearing opening. “It is vital we pay heed to their well-being and guarantee their optimal readiness.”
It’s also imperative to remember the incredible sacrifices a servicemember’s family makes during deployments, she said.
In response to the committee’s questions, Wright explained the progress the Air Force has achieved in preventing sexual assault. He also highlighted the need for improving privatized housing and increasing child care availability. In turn, Wright, the Air Force’s highest-ranking enlisted Airman, urged the subcommittee’s members to work with other members of Congress to improve and expand opportunities for military spouses.