Having to absorb its “fair share” of the $400 billion budget cut projected for the Defense Department over the next 12 years would cause the Air Force to go to a smaller force, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Philip Breedlove told lawmakers Tuesday. “A $400 billion cut would force us to constrict our force in order to maintain a ready and fit force to fight,” he said in testimony before the House Armed Service Committee’s readiness panel. “Our capacity would have to come down.” The service would not try to maintain a larger, yet “hollow” force that is not ready when called upon, said Breedlove. “We can’t afford to go there with the requirements of our [combatant commanders] today,” he said. Cuts greater than $400 billion over the same span—should that scenario ultimately play out—would force the Air Force “to go into a fundamental restructure of what it is our nation expects from our Air Force,” he explained. During an address in Arlington, Va., last week, Breedlove said the Air Force’s initial share of the $400 billion cut could be $49 billion over the next five years. (Breedlove prepared testimony)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.