KEITH'S CONGRESSIONAL CORNER

“In the past, by failing to pass a budget on time or eliminate the threat of sequestration, Congress sidelined itself from its active constitutional oversight role. It has blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative, and placed troops at greater risk.” 

 

“Congress as a whole has met the present challenge
with lassitude, not leadership.”

 

- Gen. Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense

 

 

After 5 months and 23 days, 5 continuing resolutions (CR), and 2 government shutdowns in the new fiscal year (FY), Congress finally funded the federal government by passing a $1.3 trillion "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018" omnibus spending bill.

 

So, what’s in the 2,232-page bill? The Defense Department received a significant increase. However, the Air Force’s portion of the funding must have remained in the copying machine, because its appropriation placed third in spending compared to the Army and Navy. Although space spending rose by eight percent, 18 KC-46 tankers were funded, some A-10s got new wings, and research on next generation technologies increased, the Air Force received a woeful number of 56 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

 

To recapitalize the aging legacy fighter force sufficiently--and to save taxpayers money in the long run--the Air Force needs to procure at least 80 to 100 aircraft per year. Otherwise, the earliest F-35s will need to be replaced by the time the assembly line is finished with their last deliveries.

 

Although late, the $80 billion defense funding increase in this year’s appropriations bill will start to arrest the decline in readiness that has hurt the Air Force over the past several years. It will take more than one year to get healthy, though, making FY 2019’s budget very important. Many do not expect big defense budgets thereafter.

 

Meanwhile, Congress is conducting hearings on the president’s FY 2019 budget request of $686 billion for the Department of Defense, including $617 billion in base funding and $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

 

Although the next year’s budget should be easier to pass because Congress has already agreed to increased spending limits for both defense and non-defense accounts, legislation is unlikely to be completed before Congress adjourns this Fall for their November elections. Oddsmakers in Vegas should be posturing for a tenth straight year of starting the new FY year with a CR.

 

I know the continued benefits from both the Exchange and Commissary are important to our members. Last month I met with the Director/CEO of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) as a member on the Exchange Retiree Advisory Council and was invited by the Defense Department to meet with the Acting Director/CEO of the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA). Both meetings included the exchange of several ideas, and rest assured many folks are working hard to ensure continued benefits to our members and their families at both the Exchange and Commissary.

 

In another move that will affect our nation’s veterans, last week, the president announced a change at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). White House physician Admiral Ronny Jackson will be nominated to replace Dr. David Shulkin as Secretary of the VA. AFA Government Relations will cover this issue closely.

  

As a reminder, for those advocating or educating on behalf of our Air Force, please see AFA's Legislative Issues - 2018.


AIR FORCE HIGHLIGHTS
 
Air Force secretary defends clampdown on public engagements
DefenseNews.com | 20 Mar 2018 | by Valerie Insinna
 
The service on March 1 temporarily halted media embeds, base visits and interviews until public affairs staff and Air Force officials who regularly speak with the press complete the retraining, Defense News learned earlier this month.
 
The decision unleashed a 
public relations nightmare for the service, with some members of Congress and former Air Force officials stepping forward to voice concerns the short-term freeze could have longer-term implications for the service’s willingness to engage transparently with the public. Read more.
 
Exclusive interview: Air Force leaders says total dominance not a ‘birthright’
MyDaytonDailyNews.com | 15 Mar 2018 | by Barrie Barber
 
In an exclusive interview with this news outlet, Undersecretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan, the No. 2 civilian leader, addressed a wide scope of issues — from bigger budgets and emerging threats to rebuilding the nation’s nuclear arsenal and boosting capabilities in space.
 
“We’re ready now, but it’s important to understand ready for what,” he told this media outlet at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson.

A newly rolled out national defense strategy says, “China is the pacing threat that we need to worry about,” he said. “Russia is still a very dangerous country and we do have to be prepared for that because we have friends and allies that we have extended our assurances to that we will help protect them and that’s Europe and NATO as over in the Far East.”
Read more.
 
Air Force in Crisis, Part III: Dear Boss, It’s All About the Culture
WarOnTheRocks.com | 15 Mar 2018 | by Maj Mike Benitez, USAF
 
* Editor’s Note: In last month’s AFA Legislative Update, we published
Part I and Part II *
 
People wrongly assume that pilots who want to fly have achieved the pinnacle of their desires — flying high performance aircraft — and should be happy. But happiness is not about jets, rank, or money. It’s about the culture of service.

Today’s Air Force lacks a foundation to anchor its diverse forces, which were once united by a shared mission. For the past several years, the service has been taking on an infinite number of missions, but without any effort to build a team of teams to support them. In the process, the Air Force severely devalued flying and the fighter pilots who do it. A previously command-driven military organization started to act like a corporation, with management replacing leadership and the culture losing sight of the service’s true raison d’être: its warfighting forces. The erosion of the Air Force’s combat culture is the real reason fighter pilots are leaving.
Read more.

QUOTES TO NOTE


"The reality is that the Air Force is the best in the world at Space."
- The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, at AFA's Breakfast

“There is no war in space, just as there is no war in cyberspace. There is only war, and war can extend into any domain.”
- Gen. John Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command
 
“I think that someday we'll have a space corps or 'Space Force' in this country. But I don't think the time is right for that right now.”
- Gen. John Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command
 
“Today, the Air Force Space Corps is made up of 2,000 individuals who are called space operators. They have a specific identification code. There are 2,000 of them, that’s all there ever will be. You can’t build a corps out of that. There are another 3,000 who do space acquisition who are not identified as space warriors, who should be because they have the skills there, they’re distributed between the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the [Air Force Space Corps] and Missile Systems Center.”
-  Doug Loverro, former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Space Policy
 
* Editor’s Note: In comparison, the smallest service, the US Marine Corps, has 186,000 active duty troops *


KEY DATES TO WATCH
     
2018    
Feb 12 FY 2019 President's Budget Released  
Mar 23 5th FY 2018 CR Expired; FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Passed  
Apr 11 AFA Breakfast Series with Gen. Robin Rand, Sheraton Pentagon City  
May 24 AFA Breakfast Series with Gen. John Raymond, location TBD  
Sep 17-19 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Gaylord National Hotel, National Harbor  
     
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
Senior Director, Government Relations
Air Force Association (AFA)


GRL@afa.org

 
 
 

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