Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III met with House members to discuss the 2016 fiscal budget request for the U.S. Air Force on Feb. 27.
In order to support its global responsibilities, James insists the Air Force needs $10 billion above what sequestration-level funding provides, according to the Department of Defense.
James testified: “The average age of our Air Force [airmen] is about 27 years old but there are many [aircraft] fleets that are substantially older than that. More than half of our combat air forces … are not sufficiently ready for a high-end fight.”
This statistic is worrisome because the U.S. Air Force is responsible for performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; it carries out strike missions in Iraq and Syria to support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Additionally, the Air Force provides two-thirds of the support to maintain the United States’ nuclear arsenal, James said, citing the Department of Defense.
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“I fear we’re either going to break or we absolutely will not be able to do the defense strategic guidance that has been laid out for us,” James said.
James insists the additional $10 billion will prepare the Air Force to be ready for anything.
“Our proposal will fully fund flying hours to the maximum executable level, will invest properly in weapons system sustainment, and ensure that our combat exercises … remain strong,” she said.
Both James and Welsh argue that downsizing is not an option and that sequestration poses a major threat to the Air Force’s ability to successfully function.
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“We have to stop this downsizing; enough is enough. We need to upsize … modestly, active Guard and reserve to a total end strength of 492,000,” James said.
Welsh emphasized that the Air Force cannot risk falling behind. “Air Forces that fall behind the technology curve fail,” he said.
“Joint forces without the full breadth of air, space and cyber capabilities that modern airpower brings will lose,” the U.S. Air Force reports.