Pass a bill, top leaders tell Congress, warning another delay would 'reverse' badly needed expansions, upgrades, and readiness needed to fight the ISIS War.
Our joint force is fighting ISIS and deterring aggression globally while protecting our homeland every day. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., we’re quickly approaching the day when our defense funding authorities will expire with the end of the current çontinuing resolution, or CR. To avoid further damage to Air Force readiness levels, we need a defense appropriation by the end of April.
A continuing resolution for the last five months of this budget year would reverse our on-going efforts to restore Air Force readiness and modernize to meet rapidly evolving global threats. Four years ago, sequestration forced the Air Force to ground flying squadrons and reduce training to dangerous levels, resulting in reducing our ability to generate air, space, and cyber capabilities on the timelines and in the capacity needed by combatant commanders.
We urgently need a defense appropriation that restores and rebuilds our nation’s Air Force. Twenty-six years of sustained global combat operations, along with budgetary turbulence, have eroded our full-spectrum war-fighting capabilities. We are concerned our competitive advantage against highly-capable adversaries is increasingly at risk. We need to greatly increase our manning levels, modernize weapon systems, and invest in associated infrastructure.
The impact of uncertainties about our budget are exacerbated by the fact that our Air Force is the smallest, oldest, and busiest it has ever been. Specifically, to absorb a significant reduction in our planned budget, the CR would likely cause us to:
- Cut precious flying hours again while we’re heavily engaged in the fight against ISIS
- Defer important maintenance at our large repair facilities known as depots, hindering our ability to keep an already stressed fleet in the air
- Halt our efforts to grow active-duty Airmen above 317,000 this year, a necessity given the many tasks we carry out around the globe
- Limit critical facility repairs at worldwide operational locations to life, health, and safety only
- Limit upgrades to our key programs, such space technologies and our remotely piloted aircraft fleet – in great demand around the world.
These are only a few of the potential impacts of a year-long CR.
We are working closely with Congress and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and his team to put the Air Force on a readiness and resource recovery path. The Air Force needs to get bigger and healthier to meet the many global demands. Every day, hundreds of our aerial refuelers, fighters, bombers, transport, and surveillance aircraft fly combat missions, counter ISIS and other terrorists, deter aggression globally, and protect our homeland. Meanwhile, thousands of Airmen are processing intelligence and providing other critical support for these missions, working with joint forces world-wide. Finally, thousands more operate constellations of satellites and stand nuclear watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Your Air Force is always there.
We need a defense appropriation to help restore U.S. Air Force readiness levels and build force capacity and capabilities to counter emerging threats. We are confident we can do this together. The interests of the nation will be well served. Our men and women in uniform are counting on it.
Lisa Disbrow is the acting secretary of the United States Air Force and Gen. Dave Goldfein is the chief of staff of the Air Force.