Asked by one Congressman what keeps him up at night, Gen. Howie Chandler, USAF vice chief of staff, replied: pressures on the budget from a weapons sustainment shortfall, the costs of maintaining the all-volunteer force, and “accelerating” costs for the high-tech weapons systems needed for the future. Earlier at the March 16 House Armed Services readiness panel hearing, he said the most immediate readiness challenge is weapons sustainment, which USAF has put at the top of its 2011 unfunded list. The service’s proposed base budget can only cover about 65 percent of its sustainment needs, and it has asked for overseas contingency operation (OCO) dollars to bring that to 82 percent. However, Chandler said, it needs another $337 million to reach 85 percent and offset a potential “bow wave” in its ability to put aircraft and engines through periodic depot maintenance.
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.