Acting Air Force Undersecretary Jamie Morin said Thursday numerous Air Force programs would immediately feel the bite if budget sequestration takes effect on March 1. Among the hits: the Air Force might have to re-negotiate the KC-46 tanker program, potentially costing the service more than $1 billion—a “significant” percentage of the sequester all by itself, he said during a meeting with reporters. He predicted that the Air Force would have to cut at least two F-35As from the next production lot. Further, the service would have to wait on the two SBIRS satellites that it expected to buy this year, and the ongoing C-5 re-engining project would be in peril, he said. The magnitude of the program effects is so large there’s “no way” at this point even to guess what all the program termination fees and related costs would be, but it would be a big number, said Morin. The Air Force has been “trying to protect” the software effort on the F-35 to keep program momentum, but would have to reduce it, he said. The service will “continue to fight to keep [the F-35] on track,” but all major programs “will face disruption,” which typically means a big “increased cost to the taxpayer,” said Morin during the Feb. 7 roundtable.
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.