Defense

December 16, 2013

Air Force envisions smaller force to preserve readiness

Discussing upcoming budgetary variables during a Pentagon news conference Dec. 13, the Air Force’s top civilian leader for the past six months addressed the inevitability of a smaller force.

Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning, who is returning next week to his position as undersecretary of the Air Force following today’s Senate confirmation of Deborah Lee James to assume the service’s top civilian position, recounted traveling to more than 40 bases to meet with thousands of airmen during his six-month tenure.

“[Airmen] see better than any of us the impact that readiness is having, because they’re not training, they’re not flying, they’re not able to maintain some things,” Fanning said. “They worry about what their future is going to be in the Air Force.”

Feedback from individual and group meetings with airmen, Fanning said, showed that uniformed and civilian Air Force members believe that budget issues are keeping them from being able to contribute to the mission the way they want to.

“Even during the furlough,” he said, “some civilians certainly complained about the impact it had on their pocketbook, but far more than that, civilians are telling me, ‘I can’t do what I need to do and want to do for the Air Force in 32 hours a week.’”

But, Fanning said, the national debt burden is a long-term national security issue, and Air Force officials are committed to being a part of the solution as the defense budget takes shape.

“I believe the American people have a right as we come out of two long wars to feel they can spend less, invest less in national security forces,” he said.

He cited examples of spending reductions following historical conflicts such as World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War.

“We’ve usually not started [reducing spending] until the conflict is over, … and we’re still at war, … and we’ve always had some type of ramp to ease into those cuts,” he said.

However, he explained, sequestration spending cuts don’t allow for such flexibility.

“It’s not just the dollar cuts. … It’s the mechanics of sequestration, the immediacy of those cuts,” Fanning said. “It’s forcing us to make choices that we wouldn’t make otherwise and it’s forcing us to draw down in a more destructive way than necessary.”

Disproportionate pressure also remains on investment and readiness, because resizing the force takes time even when it’s possible, Fanning said. And congressional reticence to consider another round of base realignments and closures has proven costly and time-consuming in reducing the personnel force, creating an increasingly oversized infrastructure, he added.

With only operations and maintenance and investment accounts remaining for quick assessment, a profound impact to readiness could ensue.

“The Air Force was already in a 20-year readiness decline, something we were just starting to address when sequestration hit,” said Fanning, adding that the service’s size and structure doesn’t lend itself to a tiered readiness model.

“When the flag goes up,” he said, “the Air Force is expected to get to the crisis rapidly – speed is a key advantage of Air Force power.”

The number of Air Force squadrons equals the combatant commanders’ requirements, he said, but with little or no time to bring forces up to full readiness.

“If it takes months to generate combat air power, the president loses deterrence, diplomatic influence and contingency options on which the nation has come to depend,” he said.

Fanning characterized budget compromises currently in debate on Capitol Hill as encouraging though lower than service officials would like. The additional funds over the next two years will help cover readiness shortfalls, stability and planning, he said.

“Even with this relief, we will need to resize the Air Force to one that is smaller than it is today in order to protect investments we need for the future and to shape an Air Force that we can keep ready [and] we can’t do these cuts individually, ad hoc, in isolation,” Fanning said. “If something’s restored to the budget we present to the Hill, something else will need to go.”

Still, Fanning pledged a continued commitment to helping airmen get past the “distractions” of budget and political uncertainty.

“We will make the decisions that we can, as quickly as we can, as transparently as we can … to get the Air Force back to that ‘new normal,’” he said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines January 28, 2015

News: Panel will propose new military retirement system - The long-awaited report on military compensation set to drop Thursday will propose fundamental changes to military retirement and health care benefits, according to several people familiar with the report. Source: DOD to request $585 billion for fiscal 2016 - The Department of Defense is preparing to submit a...
 
 

News Briefs January 28, 2015

Defense contractor to pay $2 million to settle claims A Northern California defense contractor will pay the federal government $2 million to settle claims about its manufacturing of parts for remote-controlled aircraft. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento says Sacramento-based Composite Engineering Inc. agreed to pay the money to end allegations that it artificially inflated...
 
 
Navy photograph

USS Roosevelt marks 200,000 trap

Navy photograph An F/A-18F Super Hornet flown by Capt. Daniel Grieco, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), and Capt. Benjamin Hewlett, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, complet...
 

 
Navy photograph by PO1 William Larned

USS California returns from maiden deployment

Navy photograph by PO1 William Larned The Virginia-class attack submarine USS California (SSN 781) returns from its maiden deployment to its homeport at Naval Submarine Base New London. Under the command of Cmdr. Shawn Huey, Ca...
 
 
Army photograph

Army proves new watercraft capabilities

Army photograph Marine Corps assets are loaded onto the USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak (T-AK 3005), from an U.S. Army Landing Craft Utility, or LCU, USAV Port Hudson during port operations, at White Beach Naval Base, Jan. 22, 2015. Sold...
 
 

Orbital stockholders approve merger with ATK’s aerospace, defense groups

Orbital Sciences Corporation announced Jan. 27 that at a special meeting, the company’s stockholders voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposed merger with the Aerospace and Defense Groups of Alliant Techsystems Inc., pursuant to the definitive transaction agreement dated April 28, 2014. Approximately 99 percent of the votes cast at the special meeting voted in favor...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>