Air Force leaders outline plans before Senate committee

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz testified March 4 before the Senate Armed Services Committee to outline specifics about their $119.6 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2011.

"The last two decades of sustained operations have strained our weapons systems," Secretary Donley said in his opening statement.

"We will modernize where we can," said General Schwartz, "but where modernization no longer is cost effective, we will pursue recapitalization."

He cited the KC-X as an example and noted the importance of the request for proposal for "our top acquisition effort." Bidding opened Feb. 24 for the contract to build the new tanker for the Air Force. Air Force leaders hope to be flying the next-generation refueling aircraft KC-X by 2017.

Several senators asked about recently announced delays to the joint strike fighter program.

Secretary Donley said the impact is still being assessed. However, the 13-month delay to the development test program, coupled with on-going restructuring efforts to bring the program in-line with the independent cost assessment, will make it difficult for Air Force officials to meet their planned FY 2013 initial operational capability date, he said.

Secretary Donley said the IOC decision and timeframe would be made by the commander of Air Combat Command. SASC hearings later this month will focus on the joint strike fighter program.

The secretary and chief of staff also answered questions about the initiative to repeal the current "Don't Ask Don't Tell" law.

General Schwartz said the Air Force would professionally implement a change to law or policy, but emphasized the need for a "pragmatic approach" to studying the topic.

The secretary endorsed the president's and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' proposal to change the current law, and both Secretary Donley and General Schwartz agreed with Secretary Gates' decision to conduct a full examination of the policy.

Secretary Donley, who was the acting secretary of the Air Force in 1993 when the current law was enacted, noted the value of the study.

"I think Secretary Gates' approach this year has put us in a much better situation than we were in 1993. It's appropriate for DOD to have the time necessary to fully understand all the implications of this potential change."

General Schwartz also stressed the importance of the study underway stating, "A full review puts us in a strong position to reach sound judgment."

The general said he wants to use the review process to reach out to all levels of the Air Force to get their views on the topic, noting it is important to hear from Airmen and their families before a change is enacted.