Keith’s Congressional Corner

Congress has a great deal of unfinished work. The federal government, including the Defense Department, has been funded for more than a half year under a continuing resolution (CR). That means the Air Force has been funded at fiscal year (FY) 2016 levels and was unable to start some new programs or end some old ones. Over the next few months, Congress will need to approve spending bills for the last five months of FY 2017, the upcoming FY 2017 Defense Supplemental, and President Trump’s FY 2018 Defense Authorization and Defense Appropriations bills. Mixed in will be Budget Control Act (BCA) sequestration, tax cuts, and the debt ceiling. Defense Hawks hoping to dramatically increase defense spending will compete with those interested in raising an equal amount of non-defense/civilian agency spending. Since the national debt clock is rapidly approaching $20 trillion and with the suspension of the debt limit expiring this week, fiscal hawks remain determined to keep federal spending at lower levels--to include defense.

The Air Force needs consistent spending bills that adequately funds their ever-growing missions, enables them to grow their force, modernize their bases, and recapitalizes their aging weapon systems.

This Week’s Events:

  • Wed: Lieutenant General (Ret.) David Deptula, Dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Power Studies and the principal attack planner for the Desert Storm coalition air campaign in 1991, will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). General Deptula will participate on a panel before the SASC Airland Subcommittee regarding “All Arms Warfare in the 21st Century.” The hearing is expected to be broadcast on the committee’s website:
  • Thurs: AFA continues its breakfast series with Lt Gen Arnold "Arnie" W. Bunch, Jr., Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. He is responsible for research and development (R&D), test, production, and modernization of Air Force programs worth more than $32 billion annually.
  • Thurs: AFA’s President, General (Ret.) Larry Spencer will be interviewed on ABC’s Government Matters to discuss the Air Force’s budget, programs, and requirements. As the Air Force’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, General Spencer is expected to discuss the Air Force’s yearly budget process.


  • BRAC: Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) supporters in Congress are willing to extend their timeline from 2019 for consideration of another BRAC round. Air Force and Army leaders have recently testified that they support BRAC. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman and Ranking member and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Ranking member are also supportive of BRAC consideration. President Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have not yet taken a position on another BRAC round.
  • Cybersecurity: The Pentagon’s Defense Science Board requests that the administration address the need to aggressively deter cyberattacks.
  • Light Attack Aircraft: This Summer, the Air Force expects to hold a light attack aircraft experiment to take its first step towards the procurement of a new, low cost fighter. SASC Chairman John McCain proposed 300 of the fighters for the Air Force, and Chief of Staff General Goldfein agreed stating, "I'm not interested in something that requires a lot of research and development here. I'm looking for something that I can get at right now…I don't know how many platforms are out there. That's why we're doing the experiment."
  • Readiness: As many of you read in AFA’s Daily Reports, AFA and the Air Force recently had a terrific Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida. Acting Air Force Secretary Lisa Disbrow and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein stated that the service may have to forego its ambitious modernization effort and nuclear arsenal upgrades to improve readiness shortfalls. Ms. Disbrow discussed the need to grow the Air Force’s uniformed force and cited how the Air Force’s civilian manning decreased from 262,000 during 1991’s Operation Desert Storm to 182,000 today. The Air force has critical shortfalls in maintainers, pilots, acquisition, and contracted personnel, cyber experts, and software coders.
  • Hollow Force: Heritage Foundation published the ‘2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength’ stating, “As currently postured, the U.S. military is only marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.” In early February, the services’ vice chiefs of staff agreed and testified about having a ‘hollow force’—a term not used since the 1970s. General Wilson, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force testified, “Today we find ourselves less than 50 percent ready across our Air Force and we have pockets that are below that.”
  • Nuclear Modernization: Last week, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared before the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and testified that modernizing the nation’s arsenal of nuclear weapons is the top priority for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Paul Selva (USAF) stated that it is vital to “modernize all three legs of the triad,” and added, “There is no higher priority for the Joint Force.” Note: The Air Force maintains 2 of the 3 legs of the nuclear triad.


Since September 1, 2016, the federal government has operated under a continuing resolution (CR), and it expires April 28th. Last week, the House overwhelmingly passed its FY 2017 defense spending bill, which largely conformed to the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act passed last Fall. The bill totals $577.9 billion--$5.2 billion higher than the FY 2016 spending level--and includes $515 billion in baseline spending and $61.8 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. $117.8 billion goes to procurement--a $6.8 billion increase above President Obama’s final fiscal 2017 budget request. It included $495 million for five extra Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, $250 million for two C-130J transporters and $130 million for the Compass Call program. The House bill also included a 2.1 percent military pay raise. The OCO included an additional $750 million for National Guard equipment.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who previously chaired the Defense subcommittee, said the bill is "the first step after years of cutbacks." He added, "Today, our nation faces a dangerous and unpredictable world. At the same time, our armed forces are struggling to have our soldiers ... fully trained and ready to meet every conceivable threat.," "That important work, to address that critical situation, starts with this bill." House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) stated, “It is an essential first step to repair and rebuild our military. But, it is not enough. We must follow it up with a supplemental appropriations bill and a FY 2018 funding level that fulfills this first responsibility of the federal government, which is to defend the country.””

Uncertainty lingers as to how the federal government will be funded the last five months of this fiscal year. The President has called for the passage of the Defense Appropriations bill, however, the Senate has not yet determined when it will take up the bill as cabinet confirmations and other issues have taken precedence. If Congress passes a CR for the remainder of the year, the U.S. Air Force will take a crippling blow similar to that imposed by sequestration. With only a handful of months remaining, they will have to find $1.3 billion to pay its bills, and funding will likely come from flying hours, personnel hiring, or from their Operations and Maintenance (O&M) account jeopardizing readiness even further. While the majority of the federal government will likely be funded by a CR, Defense appropriators have worked diligently to fund the Defense Department through its own defense appropriations bill.



Later this March, the administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is expected to request an additional $30 billion in defense spending to address immediate readiness needs. Congressional defense committees are seeking some procurement funding to buy aircraft for the Air Force, and the Air Force will be seeking funding for a light attack aircraft demonstration.




President Trump is expected to release his FY 2018 budget blueprint to Congress on March 16th and the full budget later in May. His budget will strongly prioritize the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The large budget increases will be balanced by downsizing the federal government and deep spending cuts to non defense agencies. According to economists and analysts, the deep contraction of the federal work force and spending cuts have not been matched since World War II.

With his promise to rebuild the military, the president previewed a $603 billion defense budget for next fiscal year. The Chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees were earlier seeking $640 billion in next year’s defense budget--an $80 billion boost (9.5%). They stated that the President’s $54 billion increase (3.2%) over President Obama’s suggested defense budget was inadequate to jumpstart military readiness. With the higher funding, the Air Force would expect to receive at least 100 more combat aircraft.

It is still unknown how much the administration will request in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget for FY 2018. 

If you have questions, please contact:

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


Facebook          Twitter     Connect with us

space space space

© Copyright 2016, Air Force Association
1501 Lee Highway, Arlington VA 22209-1198 | Tel 703.247.5800 | Fax 703.247.5853 |

To unsubscribe or to change your preferences, please visit Unsubscribe