Air Force Secretary
Air Force Secretary, Chief
of Staff, Testify on Air Force Posture
By Terri Moon Cronk, American
Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. – (AFPS)
– April 10, 2014 – The fiscal and security challenges triggered by budgetary
constraints are posing problems for Air Force strategy, the service’s secretary
told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Deborah Lee James said tomorrow’s Air Force requires
investing in the right technologies and platforms to be prepared to operate in a
volatile and unpredictable world, “in which we cannot take for granted that we
will continue to command the skies and the space.”
The Fiscal year 2015 budget request calls for fully funding
flying hours and other high-priority readiness issues, she said, adding that Air
Force readiness has “taken a hit over time,” and today is not where it should be.
“If our proposal is approved, we will see gradual improvements in full-spectrum
readiness over time,” she told Senators.. “This will put us on the right path,
particularly to … operate in a contested environment.”
At the same time, James said, the service must invest now so
it isn’t beaten by potential adversaries 10 to 15 years from now, and that every
dollar is critical. “We've got to keep acquisition programs on budget and on
schedule, [with] no more terrible cost overruns like we've seen in the past,”
With the department in the midst of reducing service
headquarters by 20 percent over the next five years, James said the Air Force
would make those cuts in one year. “And we're looking to do better than 20
percent,” she said, adding, “I do have to join with Secretary of Defense [Chuck]
Hagel and ask that you consider another round of [Base Realignment and Closure]
If there is a return to sequestration-level budgeting in
fiscal year 2016, the Air Force would have to retire about 80 more aircraft,
including the KC-10 tanker fleet in addition to what is now proposed, she said.
James said her vision of the Air Force 10 years from now is a
smaller but very capable force. “It will be a good value for the taxpayers and
it will be recognized as such,” she added. “Most importantly, we will be powered
by the best airmen on the planet who live our core values of integrity, service
and excellence, and cultivate a culture of dignity and respect for all.”
Testifying at the same hearing, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.
Mark A. Welsh III called the Air Force the finest in the world and said it must
remain that way. “We built this budget to ensure that Air Force combat power
remains unequaled, but that does not mean it will remain unaffected,” he said.
“Every major decision reflected in our [fiscal year] '15 budget proposal hurts.
Each of them reduces capability that our combatant commanders would love to have
and believe they need.”
Additional “easy cuts” do not exist, Welsh said. “And we
simply can't ignore the fact that the law as currently written returns us to
sequestered funding levels in [fiscal] '16. To prepare for that, the Air Force
must cut people and force structure now to create a balanced force that we can
afford to train and operate in '16 and beyond,” he said.
Air Force budget planning began by making two significant
assumptions, Welsh noted. “First … the Air Force must be capable of winning a
full-spectrum fight against a well-armed, well-trained enemy. Second, ‘ready
today’ versus ‘modern tomorrow’ cannot be an either-or decision. We must be both,”
“We also knew the overwhelming majority of reductions in our
budget would have to come from readiness, force structure and modernization,”
Welsh added. “The funding levels we can reasonably expect over the next 10 years
dictate that for America to have a capable, credible and viable Air Force in the
mid-2020s, we must get smaller, now,” he said. “We must modernize parts of our
force, but we can't modernize as much as we planned, and we must maintain the
proper balance across our five mission areas.”
Using standard DOD planning scenarios, results from an
operational perspective showed “cutting the A-10 fleet was clearly the
lowest-risk option,” Welsh said. “Even if an additional $4 billion became
available, I believe the combatant commanders would all tell you that they'd
rather have us fund more [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] and
airborne command-and-control capability than retain the A-10 fleet,” he added.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkAFPS) :
Deborah Lee James
Gen. Mark A. Welsh III
Special Report: FY 2015 Defense Budget Proposal