No Two-Tier Budget

The Air Force won’t be submitting a double budget proposal for Fiscal 2016 to Congress next month: one that anticipates sequester reductions and one that doesn’t. There will be a single set of numbers, said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James on Thursday. The President’s budget, as it’s known in Washington, D.C., will likely be “above the sequestration level,” said James during a “State of the Air Force” press briefing at the Pentagon. The numbers are “much closer to what we think we need than what we might be forced to live under” with sequester, she said. Though she couldn’t divulge details ahead of the public rollout, she said there would be “new force structure changes” included in the spending plan that would have “some similarities” to those the service requested last year for Fiscal 2015. In that proposal, the Air Force asked for permission to retire the A-10 and U-2 and was turned down. James thanked Congress for adding money in Fiscal 2015 to operate those weapon systems, but for long-term fiscal health, reductions are needed, she said. There will be a “note” to Congress that if sequester is re-imposed, “here would be the choices” of what the Air Force would have to cut, she said. The choices will be no less painful than last year; it would be “bad for everyone,” she said. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, also at the briefing, said Active Duty personnel cannot be cut further and must stay pegged at no fewer than 315,000. Rather than a service that’s “too big to fail,” the Air Force is at risk of becoming “too small to succeed,” he said. (James-Welsh transcript)