The Defense Department may have to terminate the F-35 strike fighter program, the Air Force’s new long-range bomber, and eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad, if the so-called congressional super committee fails to agree by Thanksgiving on at least $1.2 trillion in cuts to the federal budget deficit and the Budget Control Act’s sequester is enacted, warned Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The sequester would automatically slash the Pentagon’s budget up to $1 trillion over the next 10 years, about twice as much as the legislation already has taken from defense accounts over that span. “We would be forced to terminate most large procurement programs in order to accommodate modernization reductions that are likely to be required,” wrote Panetta in Monday’s letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). In addition, DOD may have to delay or cancel major space initiatives as well as certain remotely piloted aircraft systems, and the European missile defense system would be cancelled, stated Panetta. Such reductions represent a 20 percent decrease—roughly $390 billion over 10 years—to the Pentagon’s investment accounts. The senators, who requested that Panetta provide concrete details on the effects of the sequester, said they were “staunchly opposed to this draconian action,” in a joint response to the letter (that includes the text of Panetta’s missive).
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.