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Search Tags: readiness
After eight months on the job, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James tells Federal Drive with Tom Temin that even though the service is in good shape, it still faces uncertainty around its budget, overseas operations and readiness.
The Air Force can't afford the programs it thinks it will need over the next decade. The service's top officer says it's time to reexamine priorities, with a realistic view of the funding it will get from Congress.
Robert Work, the new deputy defense secretary, told members of the House Armed Services Committee that the Defense Department will experience a two-year trough in readiness as it resets its force,
The Army says it is now replacing funds in its readiness accounts that were depleted when cuts under sequestration first kicked in a year ago. But last year's readiness problems are likely to repeat in 2016 and beyond if Congress allows the automatic Defense cuts in current law to persist.
The Air Force says it won't fully recover from its readiness shortfalls for another decade.
Air Force officials say their service already was facing readiness issues because of the high operational tempo of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But sequestration worsened the problems, and continuing the budget caps will set back a readiness recovery.
Air Force leaders intend to surpass their share of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's edict to reduce DoD headquarters spending by 20 percent and complete the task several years ahead of schedule. The personnel cuts are part of the service's plan to shrink its size in order to catch up with decades of deferred spending on readiness and modernization.
The Pentagon says its spending plan acknowledges defense spending is on a downward trajectory, and reduces force structure in order to balance other priorities such as readiness. If sequestration stays in place, the calculus will change, Defense officials say.
Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said while the budget agreement adds money back to DoD's overall spending capacity in 2014 and 2015, the deal still doesn't plug holes in the Pentagon's research funding. Kendall estimated R&D funding will drop by as much as 20 percent compared to the department's initial requests.
Top Air Force officials say lower budgets will force them to propose cuts Congress won't like. But if lawmakers insist on protecting politically-favored programs, money will have to come from somewhere else.