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Sequestration threatens America’s airpower advantage

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force senior leaders testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Airland March 19, and said with the return of sequestration-level funding, America’s airpower advantage is increasingly at risk.

“We are the greatest Air Force in the world and remain so,” said Dr. William LaPlante, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition. “But, to be honest, many of us are growing concerned that we are losing our margin. The enemies, and potential adversaries, have been watching us very carefully. They understand where our seams are. They understand how to apply asymmetries against us and it’s very concerning.”

The written testimony stated a return to sequestration-level funding would result in a less ready, less capable, less viable Air Force that is unable to fully execute the defense strategy.

“Less than half of our combat career squadrons are sufficiently ready for a high-end fight,” said Lt. Gen. Tod D. Wolters, the deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements for Headquarters Air Force. “There is no excess. There is no bench. Everything is committed. America needs a force ready for a full spectrum of operations.”

Wolters cited all efforts by the Air Force within the last year, from humanitarian aid to support in the Middle East, “All of that has showed just how unpredictable world conditions can be.”

With an unforeseen future, the Air Force will need to win in complex battlespaces such as: rapidly changing technological breakthroughs, geopolitical instability, a wide range of operating environments, and an increasingly important and vulnerable global commons, the service leaders explained.

“Our Air Force remains the most globally engaged Air Force on the planet and we continue to do our best to deliver global vigilance, global reach and global power for America every day,” said Lt. Gen. James M. “Mike” Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs for Headquarters Air Force. “However, after more than 24 years of sustained combat operations, and years of constrained budgets, it has become more and more difficult to achieve our mission.”

In order to defeat advancing threats, the Air Force must continue investments in top recapitalization and key modernization programs, and gain and maintain full-spectrum readiness, senior leaders stated in their written testimony.

“With the three years of reduced budgets we had planned in 2012, to the base line of where we are at now, we have lost $25 to $30 billion worth of buying power,” Holmes said. “Because of that, it leaves a hole in our ability to modernize the forces we have and our ability to maintain our readiness and our ability to plan for the future.”

The senior leaders testified the Air Force’s sister services and allies expect it to provide critical warfighting and enabling capabilities. They remain focused on getting what is needed to provide the ability to deliver combat air power for America when and where it is needed.

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