KEITH'S CONGRESSIONAL CORNER

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
- President Abraham Lincoln

 

Like the city’s cherry blossoms a couple weeks ago, Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 posture budget hearings have popped up everywhere in Washington.
 
With budget markups expected in the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) by the end of April, the committee heard testimony last week on “2019 Combat Aviation Programs.”

The US Air Force (USAF) proudly, and deservedly so, claims that the last time an American soldier on the ground was killed by enemy aircraft was April 15, 1953—65 years and counting. However, our asymmetric advantage is endangered.
 
The US faces a reemergence of great power competition for the first time in decades and at the same time, the Air Force has drawn down from having 134 fighter squadrons in the 1991 Gulf War to only 55 today. They need 70 to deter aggression, and if challenged, to win decisively.
 
Fifth-generation aircraft with stealth capability are required to survive in today’s air defenses. The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is the only active fifth-generation fighter production line amongst friendly nations.
 
The Air Force’s annual procurement of 46 F-35As is too low to recapitalize F-16 and A-10 fleets. By comparison, during peak production, Air Force F-16s were procured at a rate of 180 aircraft per year. Thankfully, congressional appropriators identified the shortfall and boosted this year’s F-35A buy from 46 to 56 in the FY 2018 omnibus spending act.
 
Failing to recapitalize aircraft sooner has created readiness and safety concerns. 47 Americans died in aircraft accidents this past year—a higher number than those killed while serving in Afghanistan under the Operation Freedom’s Sentinel mission. The Military Times
investigation found that “...accidents involving all of the military’s manned fighter, bomber, helicopter and cargo warplanes rose nearly 40 percent from fiscal years 2013 to 2017. It’s doubled for some aircraft... At least 133 service members were killed in those fiscal year 2013-2017 mishaps.” The first article below on USAF accidents stresses the safety ramifications of sufficient and stable and predictable budgets.


The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel came on in early February when Congress passed a two-year budget deal. FY 2018 provided $700 billion to DoD six months into the fiscal year, and FY 2019 is expected to provide $716 billion. The concern is what happens to the light at the end of the tunnel when this two-year spending surge ends?
 

A pressing issue facing the US is cybersecurity. Confronting this challenge head-on is AFA’s CyberPatriot program, in which 28 teams are competing this week for the title of National Champion in Baltimore as part of AFA’s CyberPatriot X National Finals Competition. These science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) warriors will be the ones protecting our networks in the future and we wish them continued success. Learn more about CyberPatriot here.
 

Another important issue for the US is space. StellarXplorers is also hosting their National Finals this week, with the top ten teams traveling to Colorado Springs, CO to compete. StellarXplorers is another AFA program built to inspire and attract high school students to pursue STEM education and careers, providing a hands-on, space design challenge involving all aspects of space systems development and operation with a spacecraft and payload focus. Learn more about StellarXplorers here.

Last Thursday, I was invited along with a small handful of associations to meet with Pentagon officials, “…to discuss the DoD's continued efforts to seek greater efficiency in the operations of our Commissaries and Exchanges.” We understand how important continued Exchange and Commissary privileges to our members, and we are closely engaged on these issues.

On Friday, AFA co-hosted the 2018 Guard and Reserve Components Caucus Breakfast on Capitol Hill with Rep. Steven Palazzo (MS-4) and Rep. Tim Walz (MN-1), caucus co-chairs. Our nation increasingly relies on the Total Force, and we made sure Congress heard some of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve’s key issues.

Another issue we have been closely following is the potential privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Along with The Military Coalition (TMC), we are advocating for fixes to the VA.

In March, I testified on behalf of AFA on the Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) and its future. Watch a video of the hearing here. ANC will close for new burials in the early 2040s unless additional land is found (unlikely) or the current inurnment eligibility is made more restrictive. See the article and the link below to provide inputs in this latest poll.


AIR FORCE HIGHLIGHTS

Air Force aviation accidents reach seven-year high as low-level mishaps soar
Air Force Times | 8 Apr 2018 | by Stephen Losey

The Air Force’s overall aviation mishap rate has hit a seven-year high, fueled by a growing number of non-fatal “Class C” mishaps, which experts say is an ominous warning sign.
 
While the major mishaps that result in deaths and cost millions in damages, known as “Class A” mishaps, are ticking downward for the Air Force, the fleet is reporting a rise in the less-severe accidents that cause more modest damage and injuries.
 
Overall Air Force mishaps rose 16 percent between 2013 and 2017, the years following the congressional budget cuts known as sequestration.
Read more.
 
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) Eligibility Survey
Following the publication of the Report to Congress on the Capacity at ANC last year 28,000+ respondents provided their opinions on the future of Arlington National Cemetery.
     - Respondents told us what ANC means to them and their families – a symbol of military service and sacrifice.
     - 93% of respondents felt that something should be done to keep ANC an active burial cemetery well into the future.
     - 52% of those respondents understood the need to expand where possible and to limit eligibility when needed.
     - Responses showed significant levels of acceptance for eligibility restrictions in order to extend the future of active burials beyond 2055.

Arlington National Cemetery will close for new burials in 23 years if current eligibility policies remain in place. Further expansions should not be expected to solve the dilemma at ANC. The next possible expansion, into the area south of the cemetery (the Southern Expansion; around 40 acres) will add about 10-15 years of life to the cemetery – closing the cemetery to new burials by the mid-2050s. This does not achieve the objective or the desire of previous survey respondents to keep ANC open for new burials well into the future.
ANC Poll.
 
Air Force inches closer to warrant officers: Could they fix the pilot crisis?
Air Force Times | 6 Apr 2018 | by Stephen Losey
 
The Air Force is closing in on a new report on whether it should reinstate warrant officer for the first time in six decades. And while nothing has been settled about whether warrant officers will return or what they will look like, the Air Force’s personnel chief [Lt Gen Gina Grosso] is already thinking ahead, contemplating whether they could include aviators — and if they could help solve the service’s long-standing pilot retention problem.
Read more.

QUOTES TO NOTE


“We meet under rather different circumstances than last year…There is agreement on the funding levels for defense for FY ’19.  We know how much we have to work with.

The challenge as we work through the details is that some of the consequences of the years of cuts and neglect are becoming more apparent. A study published this weekend by Military Times found that aviation mishaps have risen about 40 percent since the Budget Control Act took effect.

The alarming number of aviation accidents just in the past 3½ weeks reveals how deep the damage goes and magnitude of the task of repairing and rebuilding our capabilities. Meanwhile, as events in Syria remind us, the world does not slow down and wait for us to rebuild.”
- Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee
 
"What has been evident to me for some time is now becoming clear to the American people. The readiness of our military is at a crisis point."
- Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee
 
“For the life of me, I still don’t understand why in 1958 we could build a three-stage solid rocket intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] and deliver 800 in five years…Now it takes us 15 to 20 years to build 400…The current Minuteman, I’m confident, will last until 2030. That means I need the [Ground Based Strategic Deterrent] program coming online without any delays.”
- Gen. John Hyten, Commander, US Strategic Command


YOUR AIR FORCE – DID YOU KNOW?

“So the Air Force currently operates 77 satellites as of this month. Out of those, 31 are GPS. The Air Force provides GPS for the world, for about 1 billion people every day. The timing signal for the New York Stock Exchange comes from the Air Force GPS satellites. If you’ve gone to an ATM machine, that is connected to GPS satellites for the timing signal so you can’t simultaneously take money out of two ATM machines. GPS enables UberEATS, all kinds of things...it’s all done by GPS. In this [FY 2019] budget, we’ve proposed to upgrade GPS to what we call GPS III, which is more resistant to jamming.”
- The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

KEY DATES TO WATCH
     
2018    
Feb 12 FY 2019 President's Budget Released  
May 1 Mitchell Nuclear Seminar with Gen. Jack Weinstein (request invite)  
May 2 Mitchell Seminar with Dave Trachtenberg, Dep. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (request invite)  
May 19 Wounded Airman Program Cycling Challenge, Arlington, VA  
May 24 AFA Breakfast Series with Gen. John Raymond, Key Bridge Marriott  
Sep 17-19 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Gaylord National Hotel  
     
2019    
Oct 1 FY 2019 Begins  
Feb 27-Mar 1

AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, FL

 

If you have questions, please contact:

Keith Zuegel, USAF
Senior Director, Government Relations
Air Force Association (AFA)


GRL@afa.org

 
 
 

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