The acting under secretary of the Air Force described how the nation’s fiscal challenges are affecting the service to a group of civic and industry leaders in Arlington, Va., Jan. 15.
Dr. Jamie Morin spoke to members of industry, the Air Force, the Air Force Association and media as part of AFA’s monthly breakfast program that provides a venue for senior Air Force and Department of Defense leaders to communicate directly with the public and the press.
Despite the encouraging progress made by Congress by enacting the Defense Authorization Bill and delaying the spending cuts that would have been put in place by the budget control act, Morin said, “there’s a lot more work to be done.”
Air Force officials are bracing for the potential combined impact of operating under a continuing resolution and the looming possibility of sequestration.
“The uncertainty associated with this threat makes it even harder for the institutions of defense,” Morin said. “It greatly complicates resource planning at a time when we need to squeeze the maximum amount of combat capability out of each tax dollar that is entrusted to us.”
Morin and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer issued guidance to all major commands Jan. 14, outlining near-term actions to reduce spending rates and minimize budget execution risks.
“We put restrictions in place of civilian hiring; we directed curtailment of non-readiness and non-mission critical flight operations and travel; we also said defer, curtail and reduce any non-essential purchases,” said Morin.
“Similarly, we said we’re willing to accept a bit of pause in our facility sustainment, renovations modernization and we should focus resources only on emergency work.”
At a glance, these actions may seem substantial, but Morin emphasized that sequestration would be much harsher.
“The actions that we’ve directed so far, only take a small step towards sequestration reductions,” said Morin. “This is in no way, shape or form implementing a sequestration reduction. If sequestration is triggered and we remain under a continuing resolution for a year, the impacts are blunt, the impacts are heavy, and they are very serious.”
In light of the unknown, Morin stressed the importance of leaders working together and sticking to the defense strategy.
“The tighter the resource environment, the more critical that the Nation and the defense establishment align closer to the new strategic guidance,” he said. “Uncertainty does not give us a pass on our need to do good strategy and our need to make good resource choices in the near term, medium term and the long term.”
Though Morin said he believes the strategy aligns well with U.S. security and economic interests, as well as the global environment, there are a host of implications that come from the strategy – to include a balanced force structure, the need to improve readiness levels and a requirement to modernize the force.
“These are principles that Air Force leaders use to guide budget decisions in 2013; principles that we intend to stick by in 2014, and the future,” Morin said, highlighting the importance of preserving the Air Force’s distinctive capabilities. “We believe the current budget is right-sized to provide those goals and to meet the requirements, but it involves making tough choices.”
One of those choices was to trade size for quality, he said, adding that throughout the budget planning process leaders will remain focused on preserving key military advantage.
“We are facing a complicated, uncertain fiscal environment. There will be pressure to choose between fiscal responsibility and a strong national defense — that is, in my mind at least, a false choice,” Morin said. “We can and should recognize that the long-term health of the U.S. economy, the U.S. military and our position in the world depends on us being good stewards in defense and getting more combat capability out of each dollar.”