After a five-hour session Thursday, the Air Force Council reconvenes on Friday for a planned two-hour meeting to discuss potentially “deep vertical cuts” in USAF force structure and poorly-performing programs, senior service officials tell the Daily Report. On the block: retiring the entire B-1B bomber fleet, Air National Guard F-15C/Ds (and possibly the remaining active duty squadrons as well), and pre-Block 50 F-16s. Also being looked at is terminating the Global Hawk Block 40 variant and the multifunction advanced data link. Another option: consolidating some bases and putting the emptied ones in caretaker status. One senior official said, “We can’t nickel and dime these cuts; we’d go back to the days of the hollow force.” To be effective, the cuts would have to eliminate all of the logistics, training, and parts “tail” that go with a given system. He also said that if the Air Force doesn’t hit its marks in saving $32 billion over the future years defense plan, senior Pentagon officials “will take that money from us anyway and put it toward another service’s ‘tooth.'”
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.