Air Force Undersecretary
Air Force Undersecretary:
Budget Uncertainty Worries Airmen
By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. – (AFPS)
– March 12, 2014 – Air Force personnel are worried about budgetary uncertainty,
and service leaders pledge to be transparent about priorities and programs
available as the service moves forward, Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning
said here today.
Speaking to the Defense Writers Group this morning, Fanning
told reporters he has heard from quite a few airmen about their concerns about
the force. "The main thing I promised is to continue to be transparent and to
try and make decisions to get us to whatever the new normal is as quickly as
possible," he said. "This has not been easy, because we still don't know what
that is going to be."
None of the services can really plan beyond fiscal year 2015
because of the specter of sequestration spending cuts the following year. The
Budget Control Act of 2011 is still the law of the land. While Congress passed a
law giving some relief from sequestration in fiscal 2014 and 2015, the law will
go back into full effect in fiscal 2016.
If full sequestration is triggered, the Air Force will have
to reduce the number of airmen further, and in a much steeper manner, Fanning
said. "We've made proposals on force structure and making the Air Force smaller,
but we have to see what Congress will approve," he added. "Certainly, there is a
lot of angst out there for what the future holds."
Some airmen have complained that the service appears to value
equipment more than people, the undersecretary said. "I read a lot of these
blogs too," he said. "There are a lot of airmen who understand that part of our
commitment to them is if we're going to send them into harm's way, we're going
to send them with the best equipment and the readiest that we can."
The service must balance among capacity, capability and
readiness, Fanning told the defense writers, noting that spending money on
personnel only makes sense if those personnel are ready and equipped to fight
the nation's battles. "I think [airmen] understand the decisions we are making
in terms of investing in the technology that sets the Air Force apart and gives
them the edge in a fight," he said.
Air Force leaders still are committed to giving airmen the
time to adjust to whatever decision comes forth, Fanning said. "We are still
committed to using voluntary programs to the maximum extent possible before we
will do anything in an involuntary way," he added.
The air fleet is getting older and smaller by the year, the
undersecretary said, so the service must invest in next-generation platforms.
"We've been fighting a war in two theaters where we owned the airspace in a way
that we won't in other types of conflicts that are more contested," Fanning said.
In the fiscal 2015 budget request, the service focuses
specifically on capability over capacity. "That's why you see the Air Force
aggressively trying to get rid of its older fleets and older infrastructure," he
said. As this continues, he added, the Air Force’s advantage in tactical
airpower and in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets will
"These are two areas where we will see significant
advancement," Fanning said.
The undersecretary said he also expects improvements across
the board from investments in space and cyber technology. "We cannot, in this
environment, afford to invest in all the recapitalization and all the platforms
we want to," Fanning said. But amid all the budget issues the U.S. Air Force is
still the most potent air arm in the world, he said, and it must be ready to
fight today and in the future.
"That balance between the fight today and the fight tomorrow
is a struggle that we are going to be dealing with for a long time because of
these budget numbers," Fanning said. "But we still are, by far, the best Air
Force in the world -- even in any of the scenarios we project out over 10 years.
The issue is with the budget you have, and you stack that up against the
missions you are assigned. That's the metric I use."
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)
Special Report: Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal
Special Report: 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review