Two senior Air Force leaders warned last week of the impacts sequestration and a continuing resolution will have on the service’s acquisitions and programs.
Lt. Gens. Michael Moeller, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs, and Charles Davis, the military deputy, office of assistant secretary of the Air Force acquisitions, testified to the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 28 on Capitol Hill.
“In this fiscal crisis environment, we believe the choice to preserve readiness will drive us to make tough decisions,” Moeller said.
Some of those decisions include slowing the pace of modernization, struggling to sustain capabilities and looking to programs or force structure to make up the difference, he said.
Davis explained how these fiscal hardships have already impacted modernizing an aging fleet.
“We have significant modernization that we have to undertake now to be able to replace key items in our inventory that will reach service life,” he said.
The service’s top three modernization priorities make up approximately 15 percent of the modernization program: the new long-range bomber, the KC-46 refueling tanker and F-35 Lightning II, he said.
“If we’re going to maintain the mission you’ve given the United States Air Force, then those have to be modernized,” Davis said.
Davis also added how a reduction in budget may seem small, but adds up quickly on a squadron of aircraft in the long-term.
“If you take 10 percent out of the F-35 program, you lose a couple of airplanes this year, then you lose a couple the next year,” he said.
A committee member asked Davis how the ability to determine where the Air Force can cut their budget would impact the service.
“If that’s the case, and we’ve done this in many cases in the past, you have to take a very surgical cut,” Davis stated. But, he explained, if this is done once or twice, the capability the program was originally designed for will be compromised.
“My number one concern from a strategic planning and programming perspective is the unprecedented levels of uncertainty,” Moeller said. “We know we’re going to have must-pay bills to repair the degradation in readiness (sequestration and a continuing resolution have and will cause).”
Making his closing remarks to the committee, Moeller summed up the current fiscal situation by quoting a civilian coworker.
He said, “This future budget planning is like painting a color-by-numbers picture, while blindfolded, in the back of a C-130 while flying through a thunderstorm.”