Air Force Leaders: Continuing Resolution Worse Than Sequestration

By Allyson Versprille

By Allyson Versprille
Air Force leaders warned Aug. 24 that a continuing resolution in fiscal year 2016 would reduce readiness and funding for the military even more so than a sequestration-level budget.
"A full-year CR would provide for our Air Force — really for our military — even less money than the sequestration-level budget would provide," Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said during a press briefing at the Pentagon. "All around, that would be a bad deal. … We need to get the full-up appropriation and the full-up authorization passed at roughly the president's budget level." The administration's 2016 request seeks $534 billion for the Defense Department.
Congress has a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a new budget. Some lawmakers have proposed keeping sequestration levels in place, and making up Defense Department budget shortfalls through overseas contingency operations funding. Other members have suggested that a continuing resolution would be more expedient. 
Planned increases in aircraft procurement and personnel levels could be affected by a continuing resolution, the Air Force leaders warned.
"We have quantity increases scheduled in ‘16 in aircraft procurements like the KC-46, the F-35, the C-130 multiyear program and a few other things,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff. “Those would go away under a year-long CR. The quantity increases would not be allowable.”
The service already has trouble today fielding enough functioning aircraft, Welsh said, stressing that modernization is an imperative for the service.
"We have four fleets of airplanes that are over 50 years old," he said. "The idea that we would run Formula One or a NASCAR race with a car built in 1962 is ridiculous, but we're going to war with airplanes built in 1962."
James said personnel increases that have been requested in the Air Force's fiscal year 2016 budget would not be possible under a continuing resolution.
"Under a full-year CR … we would not be able to increase our end strength," she said. While the service would try to avoid reducing personnel numbers, James did not completely rule out this possibility. "We would be significantly down in terms of our dollars of where we need to be, and so everything would have to be looked at."
Additionally, if the Pentagon is forced to operate under a continuing resolution, as many as 50 new-start programs would suffer, James said. "If we don't get a budget, it's going to affect lots and lots of programs. Under a CR there are no new starts."
However, the service's next-generation long range strike bomber would most likely not be affected under such legislation, she said. It has already been funded to a certain extent, meaning it would not be considered a new-start program, she noted.
James estimated that the bomber contract would be awarded "soon," although she did not provide a specific timeframe. "We will do it when we're ready. The key thing is to make sure that we are doing it correctly."
Welsh said the bomber is intended to replace the aging B-52 and B-1 platforms.
"The B-52 and the B-1 will time out eventually," he said. "We would start to field the new bomber in the mid-20's and it would probably continue for 25 years or so."

Topics: Aviation, Defense Department, DOD Budget

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