WASHINGTON – The demand for Air Force capabilities is increasing, therefore the service is requesting $10 billion more than sequestration-level funding provides, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said today in Orlando, Florida.
Speaking during the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition, James discussed why the Air Force is taking its strongest stand to date against sequestration.
“There is just absolutely no question in my mind that we are the best Air Force on the planet — precisely because of who we are, what we believe and what we do,” she said.
Fully Engaged Air Force
“Today, our Air Force is fully engaged in joint operations around the world,” James said, to include participating in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the Middle East, contributing to the maintenance of a strong NATO alliance or deterring possible conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Or it might be humanitarian disasters anywhere around the world,” James added, “or the very important mission of protecting Americans right here at home.”
Regardless, she said, the demand for Air Force capabilities across all three of its warfighting domains — air, space and cyber space — continues to rise.
“So, in short, the way I put it is, everybody wants more Air Force,” James said.
Stand Against Sequestration
James explained what the Air Force is doing about a “perfect storm” of factors that are coming together as the budget forms.
“We are trying to take the strongest stand yet, that we have taken, to date, on sequestration,” she said. “We have said many, many times that sequestration, if it is implemented in [Fiscal Year] ’16, will damage our national security.”
Consequently, James said, the Air Force has submitted a proposed FY ’16 budget that contains $10 billion more than sequestration-level funding would provide.
“Now, $10 billion more represents the difference between a force that our Air Force combatant commanders require and our nation expects, as compared to an Air Force that, with $10 billion less, will not be able to meet the defense strategy — period,” James said.
The Air Force cannot meet the national defense strategy with $10 billion less in the proposed budget as currently written, James said. The additional funding being requested, she added, “recognizes just how important the Air Force is in every joint operation around the world as well as how important the Air Force is in protecting the homeland.”
Saving Taxpayers’ Dollars
The proposed increase in its budget will enable the Air Force to better support its top priorities, which include taking care of its people, striking the right balance between maintaining today’s readiness level and preparing for tomorrow’s anticipated threats, and ensuring that every taxpayer-provided dollar counts, James said.
The Air Force also requires more funding to modernize, she said, while always keeping an eye on spending taxpayer dollars in the most efficient manner.
The previous day at the Orlando event, James noted, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III discussed the Air Force’s reduced end strength, making it the smallest Air Force since its establishment in 1947.
“You also heard General Welsh talk about our aging aircraft,” she said. “The average age is about 27 years and that’s the oldest that they have ever been in our history.”
The Air Force’s readiness level is also “not where we want it to be,” James said, “especially not for what we call the high-end fight that we might, one day, have to fight.”
James said she’s aware of today’s difficult budget environment. But, she added, the Air Force is under fiscal pressure and it needs more funding to perform its missions.
“These are all serious facts,” James said. “There’s no ignoring these facts. We are the best on the planet, but we are also an Air Force under strain and something’s got to give.”