When the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1—just 12 days from now—and soon after, many governmental financial gears will be grinding, possibly to a halt. The continuing resolution under which the government has been operating in lieu of a voted-in budget will come to an end; sequester will begin anew for Fiscal 2014, and the nation will reach its debt limit. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, answering questions from the Daily Report at a Sept. 18 press briefing at AFA’s Air and Space Conference, said he’s making several assumptions for planning purposes. First, he assumes no grand budget bargain, and that there’ll be a new CR. Second, he expects some kind of deal to extend the debt ceiling. And third, he expects Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will issue guidance about spending priorities under these exasperating circumstances. If the situation is short-lived, Welsh said, “I don’t think there will be major damage to new-start programs planned in ’14.” But if it persists, there’ll be damage to programs, slashed flying hours, readiness declines, and squadron groundings—a re-play of the last six months. Important exercises, training, and education will be canceled, flyers won’t be able to upgrade to instructor or commander, and “all the things that create the institutional expertise to do our job, which is fighting and winning the nation’s wars” will be hurt, he said. For Welsh’s pithy summary of the financial nightmare about to unfold, continue to What Happens Next
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.