Air Force Budget Request Reflects Changing Needs, Official Says
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2012 The Air Force made difficult choices in its proposed fiscal 2013 budget as it transitions away from supporting large-scale ground wars to planning for the future, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for budget said yesterday.
The service has struck the right balance between planning for risks, maintaining readiness and taking care of its people, Air Force Maj. Gen. Edward L. Bolton Jr. said at a Pentagon news briefing.
“We balanced risks by making difficult choices,” he said. “We’ve protected readiness, and focused on key modernization needs. And we will continue to take care of our most important resource, our people.”
The Air Force’s proposed fiscal 2013 $154.3 billion base budget is down from the $162.5 billion enacted for the current fiscal year. Bolton said Air Force leaders followed President Barack Obama’s strategic military guidance released last month in determining what the service would need most to combat broad, future threats.
“Although the environment and our strategy has changed, our contributions will remain,” he said. The Air Force’s largest cuts would come from procurement, where the service plans to save $3 billion in what Bolton described as its new operational strategy to respond quickly wherever needed around the world.
Under the proposal, the Air Force would end programs for:
-- The RQ-4 “Block 30” Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft;
-- The avionics modernization program for C-130 transport planes;
-- The C-27J transport plane; and
-- Light aircraft known as LIMA and LAAR.
Air Force leaders want to end the Global Hawk program in favor of maintaining U-2 reconnaissance planes, which perform better at a lower operational cost, Bolton said. “The U-2 is a stronger system, so we’re going go with the stronger system,” he explained. Officials have yet to determine what to do with the 18 Global Hawks already purchased, he added.
The budget proposal also calls for reducing the number of A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft by 102. That would leave more than 140 in the fleet of “Warthogs,” which Bolton said are more aligned for fighting large-scale ground wars than with the new strategy of multiple threats.
The Air Force’s operations and maintenance budget would increase by $300 million to $44.3 billion under the plan. It would maintain programs through additional procurements in:
-- 19 F-35A joint strike fighters, down from 24 that were previously planned;
-- Upgrades to the F-22 software, enhancing the F-15C and F-15D radar, and extending the service life of F-16s;
-- Avionics modifications for the KC-10 and KC-135 tankers;
-- C-17, C-5, and C-130 transports;
-- Four CV-22 Ospreys, and recapitalization of MC-130s and AC-130s, all for special operations; and
-- A new long-range strike bomber, known as LRS-B, that began this year.
The budget proposal also would eliminate seven of 61 tactical air squadrons.
In making the budget request, Air Force leaders “carefully scrutinized” weapons systems and “made the requisite tough choices,” Bolton said.
“The Air Force must do its part to reduce spending, and we’ve made the difficult choices necessary,” he said.