Joint Chiefs: Sequester Will Hit Needed Capabilities

A return to sequestration would decimate military capabilities needed for combat today warned the Joint Chiefs during their first appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee since the 114th Congress began. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the service already is 200,000 airmen smaller than the force that fought the Gulf War, and is heading from 54 fighter squadrons to 49, among other mission cuts. “We don’t have a bench to go to,” he said, noting that force structure can no longer pay modernization bills. Budget Control Act funding levels would come out of capability that is currently being used in combat, he said, including divesture of the KC-10 and U-2 fleet, the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40, portions of the E-3 AWACS fleet, and others. Some 50 percent of ISR mission capacity in USAF also could potentially be affected under a BCA budget. With a $21 billion delta between Fiscal 2012 levels and BCA levels, USAF would not be able to meet the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance going forward, Welsh said, meaning the service’s capacity to conduct multiple simultaneous operations involving air refueling or ISR would be severely affected. (Welsh prepared testimony)