Wanted: New Airplanes

In a jointly penned opinion piece in the Washington Times, former Air Force Secretaries F. Whitten Peters and Michael Wynne press a bipartisan case for investment in the Air Force’s force structure. They note that the failure to invest now in new aircraft would “dramatically curtail” the range of policy options available to national leadership in coming years. Peters and Wynne said the Air Force was never supposed to have an aircraft fleet with an average age exceeding a quarter century. However, in recent decades, the service has had to repeatedly defer and/or cancel modernization plans for various reasons, including the 1990s “peace dividend,” pressure to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now tightening defense budgets, they state. “Cumulatively, this 30-year procurement holiday has yielded a service whose capabilities are balanced on an increasingly precarious precipice, while global competitors have accelerated their own modernization,” they write. In 2013, they note, the Air Force plans to buy the fewest number of aircraft since the aviation section of the Army Signal Corps in 1916. “Resetting the US Air Force will require investment—and it must be both substantial and stable over the coming years,” they assert in the June 1 piece.