“We have already delayed major modernization efforts, cut manpower and reduced training,” Gen. Larry Spencer, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, recently told congress. “The capability gap that separates us from other air forces is narrowing. That gap will close even faster under (the Budget Control Act) levels of funding.”
Spencer voiced his concerns during a series of hearings form Mar. 25-26 in front of both the House and Senate Armed Forces Committees, according to an Air Force press release. Top brass from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps echoed Spencer’s message that readiness levels will suffer if the military has to continue pinching pennies.
At this moment, Air Force combat readiness levels are at less than 50 percent. Spencer told congress that this is due to the severe cuts endured during the 2013 sequestration. The affected combat forces include fighter and bomber squadrons, as well as the infrastructure needed to support them.
When sequestration first hit in 2013 … the readiness levels of those central to combat operations plummeted
The 2016 President’s Budget aims to strike a balance between training and modernization, yet it is just barely enough to make ends meet, Spencer said. ““We will have to make some difficult choices to balance capacity, capability and readiness, all of which have already been cut to the bone.”
Even at this level, it will take years to recover lost readiness.
Air Force spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe said, “The possibility of a larger overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget was discussed and all service leaders agreed the inflexibility of OCO funds and the unpredictability of a year-to-year budget made it a less-desirable solution than funding the base budget.”
Without a reliable flow of cash, Spencer said, it will be difficult for the Air Force to pay for new weapons systems such as the F-35.
For many years, a major critique of the F-35 program is that the aircraft costs too much. Many in congress prefer that the military continue to use less expensive, yet reliable aircraft like the A-10.