Chief Master Sgt. Michael Warner, Air Force Materiel Command command chief, addressed national budget issues and items affecting today’s Airmen during a Chief’s Call Aug. 22 in the Base Theater.
Warner accompanied Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, AFMC commander, on her three-day visit to the high desert last week.
He encouraged Airmen to relate the national budget to their individual, household budget. He said that when an individual reaches a place where they are spending more than they make, there are only two solutions, cut back or make more money. In the federal government, making more money involves either fixing the economy or raising taxes.
Warner explained in simple terms, that a cap was set on the national debt limit under the Budget Control Act in 2011. When congress allowed that limit to be raised, the consequence became a threat of sequestration.
“Sequestration is an automatic 10-percent cut in every funding code in the DOD,” said Warner.
The question that followed is “why is the DOD being hit so hard?” Warner referred back to his comparison of household budgets stating that you can’t cut “the essentials” like a house payment. For the national debt, the essentials include interest payments, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. When you eliminate those items, around 40 percent of the budget is left for cuts and that includes both the Department of Defense and nondefense according to Warner.
“One of the greatest threats in our future is our fiscal reality,” said Warner. He added that his biggest concern is the possibility of future cuts to research, development, evaluation and testing.
“I never want us to fight a fight on the home field and I never want it to be a fair fight. Never do we want to send Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, into battle where they don’t have the technological edge over their enemies. The way that we do this is through our research, testing, development and evaluation and our procurement. Those are items like the F-35, F-22, KC-46 all of those things that give us the edge over our enemies.”
He went on to say that the budget cuts will affect their daily lives and supply of resources.
“If you have things in your workshop that are broken and don’t impact life, safety or mission success, they’re not going to get fixed,” said Warner.
Cuts may also affect the availability of recreational opportunities on base. He identified fitness, child care and ADF dining as “core” programs that are essential to the base. Bowling, golf and Aero Club for example, may not continue to receive the funding that they are used to.
“If you don’t want to lose it, you must use it,” said Warner. “It has to be self-sustaining.”
Another affected area is tuition assistance. “It’s important for us as Airmen to realize that tuition assistance is a benefit, not an entitlement. You’re entitled to base pay, uniform allowance, sustenance allowance and you’re going to get that.”
Warner the Air Force enlisted population uses more tuition assistance than any of the other services. If the funding runs out, Congress does not supply additional funds, it has to be procured through alternate means.
“Every May that I can remember, we ran out of money because of Airmen going to school, which is a positive thing. Then the question becomes, ‘where do we pull the money from?'”
Edwards AFB has a large civilian population that has been affected by the fiscal situation as well. Warner explained how furlough days have affected the civilian work force on base.
“One difference between their pay and what you make is that they don’t get housing allowance or a meal card.”
Another area that may be undergoing major change is the process of promoting Airmen to higher ranks.
Using a new “vectoring” process, the Air Force is looking into evaluating Airmen on their “potential for more.”
“Do the best that you can do everyday and you’re golden,” said Warner. “As an Airman, we are here to serve, not to be served.”
He added that promotions will be based on “star performance” and it will become more difficult to receive an above-average rating on an evaluation.
Warner ended his chief’s call by encouraging Airmen to be good wingmen to each other and to stay informed by reading or watching the news at least once a day.