KEITH'S CONGRESSIONAL CORNER 

“Air and space power are vital to our nation’s security. Any objective evaluation of today’s US Air Force reaches stark conclusions. First, the Air Force is too small for the missions demanded of it and it is unlikely that the need for air and space power will diminish significantly in the coming decade. Second, adversaries are modernizing and innovating faster than we are, putting at risk America’s technological advantage in air and space. Future budgets must focus on continued readiness recovery and modernization so that we can defend the homeland, own the high ground, and project power in conjunction with allies.” – US Air Force
 

Despite the constant drumbeat from Air Force leaders, Congress enters the last quarter of this calendar year with unfinished work left on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget and the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). FY 2018 began October 1st, and with both congressional chambers in session, there are just three legislative weeks before the clock runs out on the current Continuing Resolution (CR) appropriations on Dec. 8th.
 
CRs continue to complicate issues for the world’s predominant Air Force by degrading our force while increasing costs to the taxpayers. As we wrote last month, CRs lock in funding at the previous year’s level, while the Air Force has grown and their requirements increased. CRs delay the start of new acquisition programs, services, and training that are critical to the warfighters. They waste dollars by preventing the termination of obsolete programs. 30 CRs over the last decade have exacerbated planning and readiness challenges.
 
Senior leaders throughout Washington have warned of haphazard appropriations funding. AFA’s president, Larry Spencer, published a recent op-ed on the continuing resolution appropriations funding [See below]. Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee, recently stated, “Every day we live under a continuing resolution (CR) is a day we do damage to our military.” It is time for Congress to pass a defense budget.
 
Readiness continues to erode through partial year funding by CRs. The pilot shortage and maintainer shortages will worsen under another CR. To address the pilot shortage, the Air Force started a task force, is expanding pilot positions, bringing back retired Air Force pilots to fill staff jobs [See below], and reducing additional duties to focus on the mission. In addition, to address their shortfall of 1,555 pilots, they increased Aviation Incentive Pay (flight pay) and the Aviation Bonus.
 
Budgeting inaction is stretching the Air Force regarding munitions. They are expending more than are being produced. Since 2015, they used 38,000 Joint Direct Attack Munitions while procuring only 35,000. [See below]
 
Our nation’s warfighters deserve stable and predictable funding. They need a defense budget now. Otherwise, Air Force growth stalls, readiness worsens, costs increase, and the risk increases for bringing everyone back home safely.


AIR FORCE HIGHLIGHTS

Congress, Give The Air Force A 70th Birthday Present — A Budget!
breakingdefense.com | 28 Sep 2017 | by Larry Spencer, President, Air Force Association
 
No American military service has fought longer than the Air Force. They pretty much have been at war since Kosovo. They are beginning to grind down. Breaking D readers are familiar with many of their problems — too few pilots, really old planes and too little time in the air. The head of the Air Force Association, retired Gen. Larry Spencer, offers this pungent view of just how badly Congress has let down the US military and what it should give the Air Force for its 70th birthday. Read on! The Editor.
 
The Air Force is too small for its growing missions and too big for its budget at a time when Congress fails to accomplish one of its fundamental duties. The US Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8, directs Congress “To raise and support Armies.”
 
Congress has failed to support our military with a budget for nine consecutive years. Worse, Congress and our presidents have only passed full appropriations four times in the last 42 years!
Read more.

Air Force: Pilots recalled under Trump order will serve as instructors, staff
airforcetimes.com | 23 Oct 2017 | by Stephen Losey
 
The Air Force expects fewer than 200 retired pilots will return to active duty and serve as instructor pilots and in rated staff positions under an executive order issued by President Trump.

The Pentagon originally said after the order was signed Friday that as many as 1,000 retired pilots could be brought back for up to three years. But in a gaggle with reporters Monday at the Pentagon, Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, the head of a task force dedicated to fixing the Air Force’s pilot shortfall, said it likely won’t be that many.
 
Koscheski also said there are no plans now to have those recalled pilots fly other aircraft, such as fighters, bombers, tankers or mobility aircraft, though he could not rule out that changing at some point if the pilot shortfall continues and worsens.
Read more.

Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
Both the House of Representatives and Senate passed their versions of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act and have named conferees to finalize the legislation. Since the legislation has become law the past 54 years in a row, it is a sure bet that this authorization bill will also become law. The question is when.
 
We are closely watching several items that could affect the Air Force. The final topline spending is in dispute--the House authorized $621.5 billion in the base defense budget while the Senate authorized $632 billion. The House supports a 2.1 percent pay raise while the House prefers a 2.4 percent increase. The House authorized the procurement of 87 F-35 fighters while the Senate supports 94. One of the most contentious issues is the House’s proposal to create a separate Space Corps under the Air Force secretary. The Senate’s NDAA version barred the establishment of a separate military service. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson also opposed a separate Space Corps.
 
Speeding Up Acquisition a Bunch
airforcemag.com | Nov 2017 | by John A. Tirpak, Editorial Director, Air Force Magazine
 
​The Air Force is trying to spread the culture of its Rapid Capabilities Office, which means more acceptance of risk at all levels, but it will take some time to prove to the acquisition corps that individuals won’t be punished for reasonably trying new things and not succeeding, said USAF’s top uniformed acquisition chief Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast Tuesday.
Read more.

     Speeding up the Combat Rescue Helicopter Program
     The Air Force is hoping to accelerate the
Combat Rescue Helicopter program, Bunch said...”
 
     Seeking Creative Financing for B-52 Re-Engining
     The Air Force is already doing “risk reduction and maturation” work on a B-52 re-engining, Bunch said, and is looking at creative financing options...”
 
     T-X Award May Slip to Spring
     Although “we were shooting for the end of the year” to award the T-X [Trainer Aircraft] contract, Bunch said the contract will likely slip to the spring of 2018.
 
     Presidential Aircraft Recap
     An aerial refueling capability has been deleted from the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, or Air Force One... The USAF has already contracted to buy two previously-owned 747-8s for the mission.
 
     Ramping Up Munitions Production
     Bunch noted that the Air Force is making strides in ramping up production of the precision-guided munitions that are being so heavily used in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

     F-22 Production
     Although the Air Force has responded to a congressional request to investigate the costs of re-starting elements of F-22 production, Bunch said the service has no plans to do so, and is not entertaining a plan to upgrade the 60 or so F-22 trainer aircraft to all-up combat capability.
Read more.
 
Air Force Delays Contract for T-X Replacement Until Spring
dodbuzz.com | 17 Oct 2017 | by Oriana Pawlyk
 
The Air Force’s T-X trainer contract is unlikely to be awarded before the end of the year because of ongoing reviews of the program, the service’s top acquisition chief said Tuesday [at an Air Force Association Breakfast].
Read more.
 
Air Force Wants Steadier Production of Precision Bombs
dodbuzz.com | 17 Oct 2017 | by Oriana Pawlyk
 
The U.S. Air Force wants more, albeit steadier, production of precision-guided bombs.
The service is racing to buy more
Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, as well as GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs, as the Pentagon grapples with a growing bomb shortage driven in part by the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Read more.


CSIS: "Bringing the Air Force into its Centennial with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson"
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a recent event with Secretary Wilson, and the secretary outlined 5 Air Force priorities:
     - Readiness restoration
     - Cost-effective modernization
     - Development of exceptional leaders
     - International coalition building
     - Driving the Air Force's scientific and technical innovation
 
The secretary stated that Space is a priority area, and she dedicates one-third of her time to the domain. Major challenges concerning space include:
 
     Common Operation Picture: The secretary stressed the imperative for real-time space situational awareness to track space debris and aggressive actions.
 
     Integration: The secretary highlighted the need to fully integrate space into the joint operations center.
 
     Elevation of Space: The Air Force has elevated space. Most recently they created a Deputy Chief of Staff for space on the Air Staff (A-11).
 
     Establishing Norms: The U.S. should develop international norms for space operations.
 
Fiscal Year 2018 Budget
This past week, the House passed its budget plan. Defense spending would increase to $621.5 billion for the department's base budget and $75 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. The Senate’s Budget Committee would increase the Pentagon's budget to $695 billion over 10 years. Congress would have to agree to lift its current Budget Control Act spending caps, however. 

QUOTES TO NOTE
 

"What I worry about is that people in both parties try to use military spending as a football. Republicans say they'll increase defense spending only if you cut other spending. Democrats say they'll increase defense spending only if you increase other spending…We need to evaluate defense spending on its merits, look at the threats around the world like Iran. Look at the increasing accident rates unfortunately that we're seeing in our military and do the right thing by them and leave those other issues for other debates."

- Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

 

No enemy in the field has done more to harm the combat readiness of our military than sequestration."

- Gen James Mattis, Secretary of Defense

 

Every day under a continuing resolution (CR) is yet one more day in which our military’s readiness recovery is delayed. Only our adversaries benefit from this situation.”

- Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

 

"Our readiness level for high-end fights are not what they need to be…Low readiness in a crisis doesn't mean we won't go. We will go. What it means is fewer will come back."

- Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference

 

"Air and space superiority are not America's birthright…We earned it the hard way, and we are not going to give it up without a fight."

- Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference

 

“Sequestration would break this Service…It would mean a $15 billion cut to the United States Air Force…We have stretched our Service too hard and too far…We are too small…And we are burning out our people…”

- Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

 

"We are in a crisis…We're 1,500 pilots short, and if we don't find a way to turn this around, our ability to defend the nation is compromised."

- General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff, US Air Force

KEY DATES TO WATCH
 
2017
 
 
Oct 1  Fiscal Year 2018 Began
Nov 3 Mitchell Space Breakfast with Lt Gen John Thompson, Commander, Space and Missile Systems Center
Nov 15  AFA Breakfast, Capitol Hill Edition with Gen Darren McDew, Commander, US TRANSCOM
Nov 17  Mitchell Space Breakfast with Brig Gen Bradley Saltzman, Air Staff Future Programs
Nov 20 Mitchell Hour with Gen Mike Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command
Dec 8 Fiscal Year 2018 Continuing Resolution (CR) Expires
   
2018  
   
Feb 5 Fiscal Year 2019 President’s Budget Release
Feb 21-23 AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, FL
 

If you have questions, please contact:

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


'82 Best in Blue'

GRL@afa.org

 
 
 

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