Members of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on Tuesday pushed senior Air Force leaders to speed up JSTARS recapitalization efforts, which have repeatedly been pushed back. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the biggest hurdle so far was the debate about how to meet the requirement. “We’re past that now,” he said, adding the recapitalization effort is funded through initial operational capability, which is now expected in 2024. However, Welsh said the Air Force would like to “pull it back to 2023 for IOC, which means we should be delivering airplanes in ’21 or ’22 at the latest.” Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) questioned why the Air Force asked for “half as much money” in the Fiscal 2017 budget request and then let the program slip. “As I understand it, this is a non-developmental program. You take an in-use airplane and you put an in-use sensor on it, and people say, “Why does that take 12 years?” asked Crenshaw. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James reiterated the service’s commitment to the program. “It’s an important part of our future. We are going to get going with it. I would love to speed it up if at all possible, and we will be looking to see if we can do that. It’s a little more challenging though than taking an existing platform and putting existing radars on it … because it requires the integration of these things in new ways,” said James. Welsh said it doesn’t make sense to “throw more money at the problem now,” because the service would just be “guessing” until it finishes the risk reduction and technology maturation phase in Fiscal 2018.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.