Budget Deal Promises Relief, But No Fixes

The two-year budget compromise approved by the House of Representatives last week is an encouraging development, the service’s top leaders told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 13. But even if the deal is unchanged by the Senate, which is expected to take up the legislation as early as Tuesday, the Air Force still needs to shed both force structure and end strength in the coming years, said Acting Secretary Eric Fanning. The bipartisan agreement, includes some $63 billion in sequester relief over the next two years, “but even with this relief we need to resize the Air Force to one that is smaller than we have today,” Fanning said. The proposed sequester relief buys some readiness back in Fiscal 2014 and 2015, but the sequester remains in place. “We still have to plan for what kind of force we can afford to keep ready in the long term,” added Fanning. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said this was the reason USAF officials announced a series of voluntary and involuntary force shaping initiatives last week. “If we are going to consider impacting people, we need to put the guidance out as soon as possible,” he said Friday, adding he wants all airmen to have at least six months to talk with family, commanders, and others about their careers and how they could be impacted. (Welsh/Fanning transcript)