Advocacy: A Vital Component of the AFA Mission

November 28, 2023   |   By Janelle Stafford

The Air & Space Forces Association (AFA) was created in 1946 to advocate for the establishment of the Department of the Air Force as a separate branch of the military and to educate the public about the continuing need for a strong national defense. The initial mission of what was then called the Air Force Association was accomplished in 1947 when the Army Air Corps officially became the U.S. Air Force. Much has changed over the last 76 years, but the need for advocacy for the U.S. Air Force (and now the U.S. Space Force) remains as great as ever. The AFA Advocacy network operates at the local and national levels, promoting aerospace power to help steer policy and budgetary decisions and ensure that our Air Force and Space Force are the best and strongest in the world.

AFA continues to lend a strong, unified voice in promoting dominant U.S. Air and Space Forces as the foundation of a strong national defense; to honor and support our Airmen, Guardians, and their Families; and to remember and respect our enduring heritage. Not only does AFA’s active Advocacy Committee work hand-in-hand with Air and Space Force leaders, but also with AFA staff—including the Vice President for Legislative Affairs and the Board of Directors—throughout each fiscal year to advance recommendations in the two critical pieces of legislation that set the policy for and fund our nation’s military: the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Defense Appropriations bill.  

How does this process work? Each year, AFA publicly advances four or more Legislative Priorities to help focus attention on the most pressing needs. The AFA Advocacy Committee calendar is aligned with the legislative process and is chaired by National Board Member at-Large, Paul Hendricks. Committee members include AFA members who are Air Force and Space Force retirees, current and retired industry leaders, and other individuals with expertise on issues facing Air and Space Force program areas and funding needs. Examples of the issues AFA champions include modernization of systems and platforms to prepare for conflict, the establishment of a clearly defined strategic mission for the Space Force, and quality-of-life initiatives like housing and childcare for our Airmen, Guardians, and their Families.  

Ideally, both the annual Defense Appropriations and the NDAA, which provides budget authorization, are approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1 each year. This eliminates the need for a Continuing Resolution, (CR) which greatly constrains military spending and can adversely impact operations. In practice, however, this rarely occurs.

“It is an ongoing, ever-evolving process and can frequently overlap so that our committee might be working on two different funding years simultaneously,” Hendricks said. There already have been several delays in the approval process for FY‘24, meaning this effort continues while potential legislative priorities for FY’25 are being developed.

Recent Advocacy training at the Field level has better prepared AFA members and Field leaders to provide informed support for AFA’s Top Legislative Issues at the grassroots level, which is one of the strengths of AFA’s organizational structure.

“It is a coordinated approach,” Hendricks said. “Many of our Field Leaders already have existing relationships with their respective members of Congress and their staff members, both in D.C. and in their home districts. We try to build on those relationships by equipping our Field Leaders to educate members of Congress on issues that impact the Department of the Air Force and prevent it from fulfilling its vital national security mission.”

As Airmen and Guardians prepare to meet rising threats around the world—in an age when our Air Force is older, smaller, and less ready than at any point in history and the Space Force remains underfunded and understaffed—AFA’s advocacy work is not only a vital piece of our Association’s mission, but a vital piece of our national security. In the words of World War II Doolittle Raid Commander and AFA founding President Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, “A democracy has to be reminded over and over again that freedom can never be taken for granted, and that military preparedness is its only valid guarantor.”