Sequestration takes effect at midnight on March 1, but no 11th-hour negotiations among congressional leaders to head it off a second time are even scheduled. The Pentagon, facing up to the possibility of no deal, has been hoarding cash since mid-January, repeatedly warning that it can’t absorb the sequestration cuts without profound effects on the military, especially on readiness. Though war-bound units will have priority, the Air Force will have to lay off or furlough tens of thousands of civilians, and some flying units may be idled for months at a time. Returning those people to proficiency will be a long and difficult process, and in the meantime, the Air Force will indeed be hollow. Sequestration is just part of a “perfect storm” of fiscal crises affecting the service, though, as the never-ending budget continuing resolution and debt ceiling battles also take their toll. Click here to continue to On the Brink of Sequestration, our coverage of sequestration’s effects.
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.