As the remainder of Fiscal 2013 grinds on under the budget sequester, the effect on the Air Force’s training infrastructure will have just as much impact on readiness as flying hours going away, said Air Combat Command chief Gen. Michael Hostage on Thursday. “What’s killing me at the moment is I’m starting to look at closing ranges,” said Hostage during his April 11 talk at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. As ACC puts a portion of its combat fleet on a lower state of readiness, Hostage said he would keep open the Air Force’s large ranges, such as the Nellis range in Nevada and the Utah range, but would have to close smaller ranges that support bases around the country. “Skills such as dropping weapons will start to atrophy because I will own the airspace, but the grounds will shut down,” said Hostage. Contractors and civilians operate and maintain most of these smaller ranges, and when the contracts go away, the workers will have to find other opportunities, he said. “That is an instantaneous loss,” added Hostage, and it would take ACC up to two years to restart range operations. “The recovery is long term,” he said. (Atlantic Council webpage of April 11 event with link to video)
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.