Air Force Will Cut 10,000 Personnel

The Air Force intends to come down in size by 10,000 Total Force personnel between Fiscal 2013 and Fiscal 2017, said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz Friday. “Importantly,” he said, “those reductions are tied to force structure going away....

The Budget Axe Drops

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Thursday outlined the programmatic changes resulting from the Obama Administration's new strategic defense guidance and the planned reduction of some $487 billion from the Pentagon's budget over the next 10 years. Among them, the Air Force will:
  • Eliminate six of its 60 tactical air squadrons, as well as one training squadron.
  • Terminate the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft program.
  • Divest the fleet of 38 C-27Js; support ground forces with C-130s instead.
  • Retire 27 C-5A aircraft, leaving a strategic airlift fleet of 52 C-5Ms and 222 C-17s.
  • Phase out 65 of the oldest C-130s, resulting in a fleet of 318 C-130s.
  • Make balanced reductions in the Air National Guard, consistent with reductions in the active duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve.

At the same time, the Air Force will:

  • Fund its next-generation bomber and sustain the current bomber fleet.
  • Move ahead with the KC-46A tanker.
  • Sustain 65 MQ-1/9 remotely piloted aircraft combat air patrols, with a surge capacity of 85. As part of this, MQ-1s will remain in service longer; MQ-9 procurement will slow.
Panetta said the Air Force will remain one "that dominates air and space and provides rapid mobility, global strike, and persistent [intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance]." (Pentagon budget priorities document and budget fact sheet) (Panetta-Dempsey transcript) (Carter-Winnefeld transcript)

Beyond the Air Force

In addition to sweeping cuts affecting the Air Force, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Thursday outlined plans to:

  • Reduce the size of the Army to 490,000, a cut of some 80,000 from the post-9/11 peak.
  • Trim the Marine Corps' end strength to 182,000 from a peak of 202,000.
  • Slow F-35 procurement to complete more testing and allow for developmental changes before buying jets in significant quantities. DOD remains committed to all three F-35 variants.
  • Delay by two years development of the Navy's future ballistic missile submarine.
  • Develop a submarine-based conventional prompt global strike option.
  • Make "marginal" reductions in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, but no reductions in the Marine Corps Reserve.
  • Recommend increases in health care fees, co-pays, and deductibles for military retirees.
The President will also propose that Congress authorize a new round of BRAC, said Panetta. (Pentagon budget priorities document and budget fact sheet) (Panetta-Dempsey transcript) (Carter-Winnefeld transcript)

The Tough Calls

The Pentagon will request $525 billion in its base budget for Fiscal 2013, along with an additional $88.4 billion to cover overseas contingency operations like the war in Afghanistan, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Thursday. This compares to the enacted totals of $531 billion and $115 billion, respectively, for Fiscal 2012, he noted. The reductions are a first step in cutting Pentagon spending by $259 billion over the next five years and by $487 billion over the next 10 years, as the 2011 Budget Control Act mandates. "I believe we have developed a complete package, aligned to achieve our strategic aims," said Panetta of the budget plan, which the Obama Administration's new defense strategy guided in preparation. Assembling the budget, with the programmatic cutbacks it reflects (see above), was a difficult undertaking, but an "important opportunity to shape the force we need for the future," said Panetta. "The merits of our choices should be viewed in the context of an evolving security environment and a longer term plan for the joint force," noted Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who briefed reporters with Panetta. (Pentagon budget priorities document and budget fact sheet) (Panetta-Dempsey transcript) (Carter-Winnefeld transcript)

Priced Out of a Mission

The Air Force's Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft, one of several Global Hawk variants in the fleet, on Thursday became a victim of the Pentagon's budget axe. Senior defense officials simultaneously said the service's venerable U-2 will stay in the fleet for longer. The Block 30 variant of the combat-proven, remotely piloted Global Hawk did not deliver on its promise of being an affordable replacement for the manned U-2 for high-altitude intelligence gathering, they said in justifying its cancellation. "The Block 30 priced itself out of" its mission, said Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter. "So we will continue to use the U-2. That's a disappointment to us." The Air Force had anticipated phasing out its U-2s starting in mid decade once the Block 30 fleet of 31 planned airframes was ready to perform the same type of intelligence collection. In a release, Global Hawk manufacturer Northrop Grumman said it was "disappointed" with the decision and would work with defense officials "to assess alternatives to program termination." Flying High, from the forthcoming February issue of Air Force Magazine, discusses the relationship between the U-2 and Global Hawk. (Pentagon budget document) (Carter-Winnefeld transcript)

Bogus Theory

The originally perceived need for a smaller sized airlifter to provide direct support to Army units in difficult environments such as Afghanistan didn't materialize in practice. So states the Pentagon budget priorities document released Thursday outlining the programmatic cuts that will be reflected in the Defense Department's forthcoming Fiscal 2013 budget proposal—including the decision to divest the Air National Guard's new C-27J transport fleet. Pentagon planners "thought the C-130 might not be able to operate effectively" in those tough environments, reads the document. "However, in practice, we did not experience the anticipated airfield constraints for C-130 operations in Afghanistan and expect these constraints to be marginal in future scenarios." Since the Air Force has an "ample inventory of C-130s and the current cost to own and operate them is lower, we no longer need—nor can we afford—a niche capability like the C-27J," states the document. C-27Js deployed last summer for the first time to Afghanistan. The Air Guard already has more than 20 C-27s in its inventory. The Air Force planned to procure 38 in total.

Combat Rescue Helicopter Update

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Leadership Change at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

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Once-Classified Recon Satellites Go on Display

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