Personnel cuts weren’t—and won’t be—budget billpayers unless the Budget Control Act’s sequestration mechanism kicks in, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Friday. In a press conference at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Schwartz said “there won’t be additional personnel cuts unless there are additional [force] structure reductions.” The personnel cuts that appear in the Fiscal 2013 budget request were “tied to the force structure adjustments we made,” and USAF leaders “tried very hard to make sure the manpower reductions were not billpayers,” he said. Reducing the personnel—like maintainers and aircrew—directly connected to weapon systems thinned in numbers or retired outright will “continue to be our strategy,” said Schwartz. However, if there’s a sequestration, “we will have to revisit all those prior assumptions,” he said. He added that the Air Force is “as small as we can be for the tasks inherent” in the nation’s new defense strategic guidance. (Sequestration would impose significant additional spending cuts on the Defense Department out to Fiscal 2021 on top of the $487 billion already cut by the BCA over that span.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.