Restoring Readiness

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the bipartisan budget agreement unveiled Tuesday evening by the Chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees will allow the Air Force to restore some funds that would have been taken away under the sequester. The two-year deal includes $520.5 billion in defense discretionary spending in Fiscal 2014, as well as $63 billion in “sequester relief” over the two years. If the deal passes, restored monies would be plowed back into readiness, said Welsh after a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. “Anything is better than where we are right now,” without a figure to “anchor” USAF planning, he said. Specifically, the deal would allow USAF to put money back into flying hours, weapon system sustainment, Red Flags, and weapon school classes, which Welsh said the Air Force can’t “continue to cancel.” The agreement “won’t change the long-term impact of sequestration,” but it will mitigate the effect on readiness “a little bit.” The deal also would buy time for USAF to “figure out how we make reasonable…reductions” to force structure and endstrength “in the first couple of years,” so readiness can be “balanced” by 2017, he added. Even so, putting readiness back to the “levels that we need” will take a decade, he said. “It’s a long-term recovery, from where we are now. And this will help tremendously in the first couple of years, (to) not break it more.”