The Worst Case May Become the Likely Case

It doesn’t look like the Defense Department is going to be getting any clarity on its Fiscal 2014 budget soon, so the Air Force is being forced to plan for the worst-case situation, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18, Welsh said the Air Force will have to cut its end strength by roughly 4 percent—some 25,000 Total Force airmen—if budget sequestration continues unchanged. In addition, the Air Force is looking at divesting entire fleets of aircraft, with single-mission variants being the most vulnerable, he said. Welsh said the Air Force would “probably have to cut up to 550 aircraft,” saying it’s not possible to reach the necessary savings “by cutting a few aircraft from each fleet.” The Air Force will continue to prioritize global, long-range capabilities as well as multirole platforms capable of operating in highly contested environments, he said. “Other platforms will be at risk,” he said. The Air Force aims “to protect readiness to the maximum extent possible,” said Welsh. “We also plan to prioritize full-spectrum training, because if we’re not ready for all possible scenarios, we’ll be forced to accept what I believe is unnecessary risk, which means we may not get there in time.” (Welsh’s prepared remarks)