Readiness Nosedive

The Air Force has made some progress in reversing a long decline in readiness that has afflicted the service for 10 years, and the service’s Fiscal 2013 budget proposal seemed like it would finally arrest the decline, said service Acting Undersecretary Jamie Morin on Thursday at a Pentagon press briefing. However, budget sequestration will dash that progress and put the Air Force—possibly permanently—behind the eight ball, he said during the Feb. 7 event. With the deep spending cuts, “the rug is being pulled out from under us,” he said. Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer said the sequester would force a 90-percent reduction in maintenance actions at facilities in 34 states. Deferred real property maintenance and aircraft depot service would create a “massive bow wave” of maintenance demands in Fiscal 2014, and a continuing sequester could mean that the Air Force might never recover, he said. A long-term grounding of airplanes also would spell increased cost, since lack of flying would mean parts that get regularly lubricated and flexed from flight would face problems from disuse. “If you sit an airplane down and don’t fly it, it starts to break,” observed Spencer. Other readiness effects include canceled exercises and fewer “enhanced presence operations” overseas, said Morin.