Safe … and Out?:

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley outlined the boundaries of what capabilities and programs are off limits to wholesale budget cuts in his keynote address Monday. Those that USAF will “safeguard” include the F-35, the KC-46 tanker, the nuclear TRIAD, the new bomber , intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, the existing fleet of remotely piloted aircraft, USAF’s constellation of satellites—including ISR as well as timing and navigation—and USAF’s contribution to special operations forces. Donley pitched for protection of “forward presence” as a key element in guaranteeing regional stability and pledged to maintain readiness proportionate to the size of the force. Donley didn’t mention the new T-X trainer or the new common vertical support lift program helicopter as protected programs, however. These, as well as “Presidential support” aircraft, though “essential to core USAF capabilities” he placed in a category of modernization “challenges.”