KEITH'S CONGRESSIONAL CORNER

The Air Force’s NORAD tracking on Christmas Eve confirmed that Santa missed a few houses last month—including the House of Representatives and US Senate. So, in case you didn’t hear it enough on New Year’s Eve, it’s time to cue up the song, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ because here we go again…

 

Congress shut down the federal government at midnight on Friday, affecting thousands of federal civilians and sending home those deemed ‘non-essential.' SECAF/CSAF Letter to Airmen: Government Shutdown.

 

 

By Monday evening, Congress voted to re-open the government and passed a fourth continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government and the military through February 8th. Predictable? Yes. Harmful to the Air Force? Absolutely.

 

The last nine fiscal years have started without a congressional budget. The Air Force is unable to budget and invest for the future on short-term funding, and industry can’t invest to provide modern capabilities in lieu of long--term budget planning. As a result, contracts get delayed, warfighters do without, and taxpayers face higher costs.

 

Rep Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) summarized the budget standoff:

 

"We've got to build the military that will deal with all of those threats and right now there is political games going on in this building that is not adequately funding our military."

"...among the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats, in the House and the Senate, there is agreement that we need to do better for our military, that we need to increase military spending..."

"...the military is being held hostage to these other political issues..."

 

Earlier, Congress stalled budget negotiations because some members want a $54 billion increase in funding for our military, while some want a dollar-for-dollar match in non-defense spending increases. Since fiscal year 2013, defense discretionary spending was axed by $85 billion more than non-defense spending, so Defense needs a plus-up. As a nation at war, the military needs to ensure it can meet requirements by boosting readiness while modernizing to prevent, and if necessary win, future conflicts.

 

AFA’s members identified the importance of stable and predictable funding, and we strongly advocated on Capitol Hill against additional CRs. Under another CR, the Pentagon identified 56 new starts and 25 programs that need to be stepped up and requested funding exemptions. Absent the exceptions, DoD “experiences delays in production, development, and fielding, significant increases in cost, diminished operational capability, and reduced private sector employment.”

 

Under a CR, DoD is unable to start new programs or increase production in older programs. As a result of nine straight years of repeated CRs, the Pentagon prolongs getting systems to the warfighters by delaying programs or the ramping up of production until the second quarter of the fiscal year. Since another CR now is funding the federal government, warfighters wait…

 

The next concern is that when appropriations are finally completed for 2018, there will not be enough of the fiscal year remaining to get contracts finalized, and programs will slip another year.

 

Readiness remains a mess, according to a recent GAO Report: “Spare parts shortages are degrading readiness. From January through August 7, 2017, F-35 aircraft were unable to fly about 22 percent of the time due to parts shortages."

 

On a positive note, to be responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money, Under Secretary Matt Donovan told AFA’s Breakfast audience that the Air Force has started its ‘Zero-Based-Review’ of its programs to eliminate those that lack operational need.

 

On another positive note, DoD released its National Military Strategy (NMS), the follow-on to the administration’s National Security Strategy. Details to follow.

 

We hope you are well rested and energized to advocate as this will certainly be a long slog on behalf of our US Air Force. 


AIR FORCE HIGHLIGHTS

Congress risks national security and U.S. aviation
FederalTimes.com | 16 Jan 2018 | by Keith W. Zuegel, AFA
 
America is an aerospace nation and flying is its life’s blood. Management of this precious resource is the responsibility of our air traffic control (ATC) system, and our ATC is the envy of the free world — the safest and most capable such organization on the globe.
 
The Department of Defense relies on the Federal Aviation Administration for air defense and national security. The National Capital Region, for example, relies on ATC to search and identify air threats before summoning DoD and U.S. Customs aircraft to intercept.
 

Congress is in discussions to dismantle the ATC structure and governance, and replace it with a nonprofit corporation. Read more.

 
DoD Official: National Defense Strategy Will Rebuild Dominance, Enhance Deterrence
Defense.gov | 19 Jan 2017 | by Jim Garamone
 
The new 
National Defense Strategy announced today is aimed at restoring America’s competitive military advantage to deter Russia and China from challenging the United States, its allies or seeking to overturn the international order that has served so well since the end of World War II.
 
It is the first new National Defense Strategy in a decade. The defense strategy builds on the administration’s 
National Security Strategy that President Donald J. Trump announced December 18. Read more.
 
An Airman’s View of the New National Security Strategy
Tnsr.org | 21 Dec 2017 | by David A. Deptula, The Mitchell Institute
 
The new National Security Strategy
 is a well-written treatise that appropriately embraces a “whole of government approach” to meeting the nation’s global security needs. However, the bottom line is that the U.S. military is the backbone of our national security strategy. Thus, it is heartening to see that the Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy contains the best of Ronald Reagan’s strategy of peace through strength.
 
A combination of U.S. national security interests combined with a challenging threat environment demands that our military must be the best-trained, best-led, best-armed, and most capable armed force in the world. Failing to do this will see the United States at risk, with adversaries becoming ever-more aggressive at the cost of global stability. This is not an academic proposition. The U.S. military advantage in terms of capabilities and capacity relative to potential threats around the world has been shrinking. Competing states realize America faces major military capacity and capability challenges and are eager to advance their interest in the resulting void. This situation must be reversed.
Read more.
 
US At Risk of Losing Air Superiority
AirForceMag.com | 1 Jan 2018 | by Amy McCullough
 
Dwindling budgets have stalled US efforts to modernize its force and now the country is at risk of losing its air superiority, according to senior leaders speaking at an AFA Mitchell Institute forum on Capitol Hill.
 
​The Air Force maintains air superiority today, but will it in the future?

“Over the next decade and a half the US is at risk of losing its ability to control the air domain in combat,” said retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute, at a forum on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Adversaries have been watching what the US has done in combat over the last 27 years and have invested heavily in technology that can counter our own capabilities, even as budget pressures have “forced delays in key investments” here, said Deptula.
Read more.
 
Everything you need to know about DoD pay and benefits changes in 2018
MilitaryTimes.com | 19 Dec 2017 | by Scott Maucione
 
TRICARE, retirement and health care will all change in some important ways during 2018.
Read more.
 
TRICARE Changes.
 
Pharmacy Co-Pays for 2018.
 
Retirement Guide: BRS or legacy? We’ll help you find the right path
MilitaryTimes.com | 19 Dec 2017 | by Karen Jowers
 
Are you ready to decide whether to jump to the new Blended Retirement System?
 
More than 1.6 million service members are eligible to make that choice about their future military retirement benefit, which goes [went] into effect Jan. 1. And while the Defense Department offers mandatory training for those eligible, backed up by service-specific education programs, a recent survey found about half of those who thought they were allowed to switch to the BRS didn’t understand it.
Read more.
 
Blended Retirement System (BRS).
 
New in 2018: Three aircraft programs to watch
AirForceTimes.com | 31 Dec 2017 | by Kyle Rempfer
 
The futures of the Air Force’s JSTARS and light attack plane initiatives remain uncertain, but the next generation trainer is likely to begin production before the end of 2018.
 
Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System
The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, the Air Force’s primary provider of ground surveillance, targeting information and command and control, was previously expected to get a traditional recapitalization, meaning a new plane would be selected and equipped with a radar system. 
 
Now, though, Air Force leadership is questioning whether a large airborne node is the most efficient way to conduct command and control missions on the future battlefield. As a result, the service is considering whether to cancel the recapitalization program altogether and use existing assets in the short term until a more advanced solution is developed.
 
OA-X light attack aircraft experiment
The new OA-X light attack aircraft initiative is similarly in limbo.
 
T-X aircraft trainer
In October, Air Force Undersecretary Matt Donovan said he expects the T-X contract to be awarded in the coming year, likely around the end of March.
 
What if we lost GPS? That's one thing worrying the Air Force secretary
LA Times | 19 Dec 2017 | by Samantha Masunaga
 
Plummeting launch costs and the miniaturization of powerful technology have encouraged more countries and companies to venture into space, making it a “common domain for human endeavor,” said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. On the ground, industries have risen around the use of GPS, or Global Positioning System, the space-based navigational system pioneered by the U.S. military.
 
The U.S. Air Force operates the current GPS satellite constellation and its associated ground facilities, and is planning for the next generation of those satellites. GPS service is provided to both the military and civilians.
 
“The Air Force leaders believe that by networking together sensors and weapons, they can get a much more potent Air Force than by simply focusing on airplanes alone,” said Loren Thompson, military analyst at the Lexington Institute. “Space provides a unique vantage point from which to observe things on the surface and to communicate beyond the line of sight.”
Read more.
 
Administration Releases New National Security Strategy
NSS.
 
4-star: Air Guard pilot shortages most acute among full-time Airmen
AirForceTimes.com | 14 Dec 2017 | by Charlsy Panzino 
 
The Air National Guard is feeling the pressure of maintaining a full-time pilot force amid a national pilot shortage, according to the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
 
The Guard is about a couple hundred pilots short when it comes to its full-time positions, Gen. Joseph Lengyel said at an Air Force Association event near Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Read more.
 
Air Force Strategic Messages:
    - 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.
    - Adversaries are modernizing and innovating faster than we are, putting at risk America's technological advantage in air and space.
    - Sustained predictable and flexible budgets are critical to our readiness recovery and our ability to build a more capable and lethal force for the future.
    - Success today and into the future is about our Airmen and their readiness to do what the nation asks. Our greatest investment in readiness is also our most important - our people.
    - The Air Force requires a stable and predictable budget in order to innovate and take advantage of or respond to disruptive technologies/opportunities or to counter disruption.
 
Air Force Budgetary Messages:
Specifically, implementation of the Budget Control Act, as written, would devastate our ability to defend national interests by:
    - Driving a $15B budget cut in FY18 alone
    - Halting efforts to 'Grow the Force'
    - Reversing readiness recovery
    - Degrading infrastructure
    - Thwarting aging aircraft modernization
 
A Continuing Resolution will:
    - Delay the planned increase in military end strength designed to correct readiness shortfalls.
    - Any extended form of a Continuing Resolution longer than three months poses numerous challenges to the Air Force. The AF requires a stable and predictable budget in order to innovate and take advantage of or respond to disruptive technologies/opportunities or to counter disruption.
 
CONGRESS SHOULD APPROVE THESE RESOURCES NOW
FederalTimes.com | 14 Dec 2017 | by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee
 
“Despite the divisions of a highly partisan year, Congress has managed to reach bipartisan consensus on the depth of our military’s readiness crisis and the resources required to begin to fix it. That consensus is reflected in the five times Members from both parties and in both chambers, have voted overwhelmingly to support the defense resources contained in the bill now before us. To be clear, no one is arguing that we are appropriating too much money for the military, or that the needs of our men and women in uniform aren’t urgent, or that we aren’t running out of time to turn the readiness crisis around in the face of serious threats. Those issues are settled.”
 
Opponents of this bill argue that we should put our urgent national security needs on hold until we reach a similar consensus on a whole host of other domestic programs. That is the approach we have taken for the past six years and the results are indisputable: the number of our troops killed in training accidents is increasing, our military capabilities are eroding, our enemies have become emboldened, and America is less secure. To continue to use defense funding as a political football in the face of these undisputed consequences is irresponsible. We know what needs to be done to begin to repair our military. Congress should approve these resources now.“
Read more.
 
U.S. Must Move Faster or Risk Losing Lead in Space
Defense.gov | 2 Dec 2017 | by Jim Garamone
 
The U.S. advantage in space is eroding and the military must move faster to maintain a lead in this critical warfighting domain, defense officials said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California today.
 
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Gen. John Hyten told CBS News reporter David Martin that the United States is prepared to fight a war in space today, but not in the future.
 
Adversaries saw the U.S. advantage during the first Gulf War and have spent the decades since developing ways to overcome the huge U.S. lead in warfare, and that includes space dominance, Hyten said. The U.S. advantage today is in the mass of capabilities placed in orbit over the years, he said, but that does not mean the advantage will last decades more.
Read more.

QUOTES TO NOTE


"This is the ninth straight year with a continuing resolution. This lack of predictability and that lack of stability in the budget has not allowed us to most efficiently plan and use the resources available to us."

- General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

 

“Every day we live under a continuing resolution is a day we do damage to our military.”

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

 

“This is the ninth year out of the last 10 where we’ve started the year under a continuing resolution. So we’re still operating as if we were at last year’s levels and sequester is still the law of the land. If we had to go through sequester, we would devastate the Air Force. It would be devastating to a service that’s as stretched as it is now.

 

We need Congress to lift the defense caps and give us a budget. That’s a big priority between now and probably the middle of January, is to get a budget. And then the bigger picture of restoring the readiness of the force, this defense authorization bill increases the size of the Air Force by a little more than 4,000 people, and starts to fund some of the priorities for modernization and readiness across the board.”

- The Honorable Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

 

"Our maintenance problems are huge now…How many of these incidences that we've had in the Navy and the Air Force, where we've had disasters where Americans are being killed, were a result of maintenance? So that's got to have a top priority.”

- Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC)

 

“Now we have the problem ... that we have the CR coming up, and some of us believe that defense should be the only thing excepted from the CR. Now others jump in and say, "Well, what about this, and this?" ...They're all important. But not [as] important [as] the No. 1 thing, and our Constitution tells us this, and that is defending America.”

- Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC)

 

“From our standpoint, what the Air Force lacks is enough experienced pilots to grow the young pilots.”

- General Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau at a Mitchell Institute event at the Air Force Association

 

“It’s going to take approximately eight years to be able to get to full spectrum readiness with stable budgets. The Air Force will be unable to execute the defense strategic guidance under sequester [Budget Control Act of 2011].”

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

 

"We must expect that war, of any kind, will extend into space in any future conflict, and we have to change the way we think and prepare for that eventuality."

- The Honorable Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

 

“We need to integrate space and elevate space as part of a joint warfighting force…Anything that separates space from the joint fight is moving us in the wrong direction.”

- The Honorable Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force


KEY DATES TO WATCH

2017
   
Oct 1 Fiscal Year 2018 Began  
Dec 8 1st Fiscal Year 2018 Continuing Resolution (CR) Expired  
Dec 22 2nd Fiscal Year 2018 Continuing Resolution (CR) Expired  
     
2018    
Jan 19 3rd Fiscal Year 2018 Continuing Resolution (CR) Expired  
Jan 30 State of the Union Address  
Feb 5 Fiscal Year 2019 President’s Budget (PB) Release Expected  
Feb 8 4th Fiscal Year 2018 Continuing Resolution (CR) Expires  
Feb 9 Mitchell Hour: FY 2019 Budget Priorities with Air Force Under Secretary Matthew Donovan at AFA HQ  
Feb 21-23 Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, FL  
Sep 17-19 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Gaylord National Hotel, National Harbor  
     

If you have questions, please contact:

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


GRL@afa.org

 
 
 

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