If the Air Force completely stopped flying its aircraft for two years it would only save enough money to pay for one year of sequestration, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh explained in a recent video message to airmen. In the message, Welsh attempted to put the Air Force’s $12.5 billion per year sequester bill into context while explaining the impacts sequestration will have on the service. Welsh said that 55 percent of the Air Force’s budget is dedicated to paying its people. The remaining 45 percent goes towards “readiness, force structure, and modernization,” he said. “We have not been able to get at that first 55 percent at all” because the White House and Congress must first approve it. Therefore, “the entire bill to date, and in the foreseeable future, will be paid out of force structure, readiness, and modernization.” He thanked airmen for suggesting alternate ways to cover the costs of sequestration, and though he said some of those suggestions will be implemented, all together they still would only save a few million dollars each year, not billions. “We’re working hard to fix it, but there’s going to be tough choices that have to be made,” he said.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.