If sequestration returns, the services will not have the resources and ability to defend the United States against present and future threats, all four service chiefs agreed during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday. When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein during his first Congressional hearing in the top spot whether he agrees “Congress is going to shoot down more planes than any enemy that we can think of in the near term [if the budget caps do return],” Goldfein responded: “Potentially.” But budget stability was clearly a more immediate concern as lawmakers are still trying to reach a deal on Fiscal 2017 funding. Goldfein said the service is not designing a Future Years Defense Program based on sequestration-level funding. He warned lawmakers a long-term continuing resolution would reduce the service’s requested budget by $1.3 billion and, in turn, reduce the number of KC-46s it can procure from 15 to 12 in 2017, reduce the number of munitions it can buy below the expected need, affect at least 60 acquisition projects, and impact 50 construction projects, including new mission bed downs. In his prepared remarks, Goldfein noted increasing the Air Force’s end strength to 321,000 Active Duty airmen remains the service’s top priority in the current budget request. (Read Goldfein’s prepared testimony.) (See also: Readiness Shortfalls.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.