As Airmen, our mission is to ensure the Air Force can always provide America with Global Vigilance, Global Reach, and Global Power. However, 25 years of continuous combat operations have taken a tremendous toll on Airmen, their readiness and the equipment they operate. Coupled with budget instability and lower-than-planned topline funding, the United States Air Force is now one of the smallest, oldest, and least ready in history.
Today, demand for Air Force capabilities continues to grow. Airmen are engaged defending U.S. interests around the globe, with over 20,000 Airmen deployed worldwide and another 80,000 permanently stationed overseas. However, the current fight in which the Coalition has uncontested air superiority, has limited our ability to focus on training our force for other contested operational scenarios. Decreased operational readiness coupled with our potential adversaries’ rapidly advancing capabilities has made future success in contested scenarios uncertain.
The Air Force developed a 30 Year Strategic Plan to make our forces more agile to effectively respond to future global conflicts. The plan provides for increased capability and specifically addresses the key areas of nuclear deterrence, space operations, fighter capacity, readiness and modernization. However, budget uncertainty has complicated our ability to execute this long-term plan. The Air Force is facing a modernization bow wave in critical nuclear and space programs over the next ten years that, under current funding levels, we simply cannot afford.
The Air Force’s FY2017 budget request is submitted at Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) topline funding levels and is designed to preserve Combatant Commander’s most urgent requirements in support of the defense strategy. The Secretary of the Air Force’s priorities of taking care of people, striking the right balance between today’s readiness and future modernization, and making every dollar count, continue to serve as the foundation for this year’s budget submission. The FY2017 budget restores some capacity in the short-term, funds readiness to executable levels, and makes additional investments in nuclear, space, cyber, command and control (C2), and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
However, even at BBA levels, we deferred procurement of five F-35A aircraft, delayed modifications to 4th generation aircraft for airspace compliance and survivability, and held end strength at 317,000 despite critical capability gaps. We also delayed incremental replacement of the C-130H Hercules and took risk in facility and information technology infrastructure.
Our Airmen, both military and civilian, take great pride in their service and it’s remarkable what they accomplish every day. We stand ready to deliver combat capability around the world at a moment’s notice. However, to remain the world’s preeminent air, space and cyberspace power, we need long-term budget stability, flexibility, and permanent relief from the Budget Control Act. These three elements are paramount to our mission success. Our FY2017 budget request continues our path to remain the world’s greatest Air Force–now and in the future.