The shadow of sequestration in 2013 and ongoing fiscal uncertainty will affect critical programs and objectives for years to come, Air Force officials said yesterday at a Pentagon briefing on the service’s fiscal year 2014 budget request.
While Air Force officials have scrambled to minimize impacts on readiness and people, the bow-wave of reductions, deferments, and cancellations will challenge the strategic choices made in the budget request, said Maj. Gen. Edward L. Bolton Jr., deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for budget.
The fiscal 2014 budget request is strategy-based, fiscally informed, and sets a course toward full-spectrum readiness of the force to execute the defense strategic guidance, he added.
Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Defense Department is required to reduce expenditures by $487 billion over the next 10 years, with a reduction of $259 billion over the next five.
“Given today’s fiscally constrained environment, the Air Force must pursue the best combination of choices available to balance force reductions and manage warfighting risks, resources and the bow-wave of impacts from [fiscal] 2013,” Bolton said. “Taking these actions allows us to keep faith with our 687,634 total force airmen and continue to excel in our role to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.”
The general said the Air Force’s fiscal 2014 budget request supports military end strength of 503,400. This includes active component end strength of 327,600, a decrease of 1,860 airmen; Reserve component end strength of 70,400, a decrease of 480; and Air National Guard end strength of 105,400, a decrease of 300 relative to the Air Force’s fiscal 2013 levels.
“This budget reallocates manpower to our highest priorities and sustains, with less-than-desirable risk, our cornerstone programs across the broad Air Force portfolio of mission sets,” Bolton said.
The operations and maintenance portion of the budget request supports 79 major installations — 72 active duty, two Air National Guard and five Air Force Reserve — as well as flying operations, space operations, cyber operations, intelligence, logistics, nuclear deterrence, search and rescue and special operations activities.
The procurement portfolio, officials said, delivers both immediate and future capabilities through investment across four specific appropriations: aircraft, missile, ammunition and other procurement.
A new, multiyear C-130 procurement initiative leverages resources across services, funding six C-130J aircraft, one HC-130, four MC-130s and five AC-130s in fiscal year 2014, Bolton said. The request also would fund procurement of 12 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, 19 F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter jets and three CV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in addition to various upgrades and modifications to the existing fleet.
The Air Force’s space and missile objectives include procuring a fixed-price block buy of advanced extremely high frequency satellite vehicles and space-based infrared systems in addition to space situational awareness systems and global positioning systems.
“To ensure future viability of our nation’s nuclear deterrence operations, we’ve requested funding for a long-range, penetrating bomber, as well as Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, [and other] modernization projects,” Bolton said.
In addition to funding for KC-46A multirole tanker aircraft, resource allocations in the budget request would foster F-35 joint strike fighter system development, the general said.
The Air Force request for its military construction appropriation, Bolton said, funds projects supporting operational needs, infrastructure modernization, combatant commander priorities and quality-of-life initiatives for airmen and joint personnel. The construction request restores funding to historic levels when compared to last year, he added. Air Force officials are seeking $1.3 million for active, Guard and Reserve military construction programs, an $880 million increase from fiscal 2013, he said.
“We do maintain the capability to support the strategy,” Bolton said. “We did accurately balance the active duty, Guard and Reserve. We do support airmen and their families.
But the capabilities are at risk as a result of the bow wave between [fiscal 2013 and 2014,]” he added.
“Bottom line: … to completely reconstitute the Air Force is going to take some time,” Bolton said.