Air Force Wants to Keep Almost Everything

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley just made and interesting speech at the Air Force Association’s annual conference just outside DC that, in a time of tight budgets where every line item must be looked at for a cut, he’ll work hard to protect almost everything the service does.

Here’s a quick rundown of the tech-related elements of his speech:

  • First, he’s committed to maintaining an “overseas presences which ensure regional stability, enables sustained engagement with key security partners, and supports the rapid response, global mobility and communications on which our joint force depends.”
  • Next up, is protecting the advances in ISR and UAVs that have been borne out of the last decade of war including the development of “sensors, operating concepts, infrastructure and force development.”
  • Here’s the biggie, a while back we wrote a post about what alternatives the Air Force has if the F-35 program suffers further delays. Donley’s answer, nothing. “simply put, there is no alternative to the F-35 program. It must succeed.” He went on to say that the service must be allowed to fight hard to develop a new long range bomber and it’s  associated family of systems.
  • He then mentioned the KC-46 tanker…he’s gotta be allowed to buy it. As we all know, a contract went out for it last year ’nuff said.
  • Space. The Air Force must buy new satellites an upgrade its space situational awareness capabilities as well as its resilience in the face of an increasing number of threats in space.
  • Maintaining the Air Force’s ICBMs and long range nuclear bombers. “As the U.S. nuclear arsenal gets smaller and the number and diversity of nuclear-armed powers increases, the flexibility inherent in our nuclear triad becomes even more important. We must maintain the nuclear triad.”
  • Air Force special operations forces must be maintained.
  • Increasing the service’s cyber fighting ability. “To protect America in the 21st Century we must further develop and sustain freedom of action in the cyber domain.”

So, the secretary said he was going to keep the Air Force’s missions intact and that any cuts must be done with “a balanced force” in mind (he said balance about a dozen times). Make of this what you will. The list may give an indicator of what’s being eyed for cuts by Pentagon officials and lawmakers. I’ve got another briefing to run to.

  • jamesb

    WTF doesn’t those assets go where they belong?

    To the Army’s 160 Special Ops group?

    That’s the recuring problem …Isn’t it?
    The Air Force just keeps trucking along gobbling up the Army stuff and spitting out all the SLOW movers….

    Will Panetta put his foot down?

    • William C.

      Those assets also do CSAR for downed airmen and have a lot of specialized equipment in this regard. While I’m sure the 160th SOAR also gets tasked with some CSAR, their focus is different.

      • blight

        They could just make another Aviation Regiment for CSAR. Doesn’t have to “merge” into the Night Stalkers.

  • Mastro

    “He then mentioned the Kc-46 tanker…he’s gotta be allowed to buy it. As we all know, a contract went out for it last year ’nuff said.”

    I hope so- I really really hope so.

  • SJE

    When the politicians look at “entitlement reform” they need to include the USAF.

  • Roland

    The F-35 need to have 2 engine with 2 nozzles for long range BVR combat and to double the speed, and to be competitive against PAK-FA and J-20. We also need more modified 1000 to 5000 F-22. F-23.F-35 with 2 engines, and GD F-111 with F-22 design on tail and wings to meet the possible future threat against rogue and communist nations like Iran, North Korea, possible conflict with China, Russia and its allies.Russia currently have 1000 units of its Pak-Fa on the market.

    • chaos0xomega

      Did you make this stuff up? These numbers and ideas are ridiculous…

      • Mastro

        nah- 5000 F-22’s- magical Obama $ will make it happen-

        “The F-35 need to have 2 engine with 2 nozzles for long range BVR combat and to double the speed”

        Isn’t that the F22?

    • blight

      “F-35 need to have 2 engine with 2 nozzles”: As someone said before, F-22?
      —-“long range BVR combat and to double the speed”: The -A is tested to 1.5, versus the 1.2 at sea level and 2+ “clean” configuration of the F-16C “at altitude”. What makes you think JSF can’t do BVR?
      “more modified 1000 to 5000 F-22. F-23”: We couldn’t afford 200, so we can afford 5000 F-22’s? And F-23s too, to boot? With that logic, we could tell Lockheed to reopen F-117 production to bolster our stealth fighter inventory so we could have “thousands of stealth fighters”.
      “GD F-111 with F-22 design on tail and wings”: How does attaching new tail and new wings improve the F-111?

      Carthage must be destroyed: Bring back the F-23!

    • Praetorian

      Fact : Russia has only 48 SU-35S on order & only 60 PAK-FA’s on paper. Just because Russia says they want 200 PAK-FA’s does not mean its going to happen.
      India is the kicker if they dont buy the amout they say, Russia will have a hard time funding the project.

  • Lance

    Well the Navy and USAF need more to keep functional they are not just a war time force but a deterrent and need the planes they have to all be ready in moment notice. Cut Army’s r&d and save more money for the USAF and Navy.

    • Joe Schmoe

      You mean let’s cut the R&D for the people actually doing the bulk of the fighting and dying today and instead put it towards an organization that with several hundred billion dollars can’t get a fighter out the door after decades…

      Great idea.

      • blight

        It was a great idea after WW2. We’ve got the bomb!

        Oh, wait…we couldn’t take out warlords without boots on the ground (and shooting up Aidids buddies with helicopter gunships took out too many civilians). Reagan couldn’t do much about Hezbollah or Israel with Marine “peacekeepers” bottled up (until they were attacked by Hezbollah, after American forces launched attacks). We couldn’t stop the Bosnians, Serbs and Croats from fighting over the diseased corpse of Yugoslavia, we couldn’t stop anything in Kosovo without NATO boots, and we certainly could not take the fight to Al Qaida in Afghanistan without special forces guys pointing out targets and delivering cash to our new bestest buddies. Without ground troops, the war resembles the dragged out protracted affairs of Pakistan or Libya.

  • STemplar

    What actual cuts? Obama’s own plan he announced today counts on $1 trillion in savings from savings in operations in Iraq and Stan. No one in DC has ever or is considering real cuts, all this had been budget smoke. Both sides want to be able to say even defense and has played a part in Austerity America while never really requiring anything be actually cut. This is why both sides have been throwing around numbers in the hundreds of billions and not worrying about it because both were playing budget games.

  • MX Chief

    A macro perspective on government technology expenditures needs to be mentioned here. National security and national foreign policy are extremely important in all times and probably more so in times of financial crises. Likewise, during times of peace or reduced conflict a demonstrable military capability is needed to thwart or deter potential adversaries and insurgencies. However, when it comes to purely theoritical or quantum scientific ventures and, in particular, those ventures into the absolute unknown, unverifiable or undefinable, why is government funding involved at all? If these etherial and nubious scientific studies are so critical to our current situation in the world, surely some private investment entity would be interested in them…current government spending ought to be focused on national security and national recovery. Without those essential elements of common civic interest, science at any other level is moot or irrelevant.

  • DanS

    Nothing ensures regional stability like barracking large numbers of foreign troops in your country. That’s never created animosity before has it?

  • chaos0xomega

    If the AF wants to save some money it should start cutting all those scientist, engineering, and REFM positions that aren’t doing anything to increase its warfighting capability or deployability, etc. Don’t give me that ‘supporting the total force’ bullcrap either, we don’t need 10+ agencies on every base to act as guidance counselors, personnel resources, etc. For the most part they can be consolidated into a handful of categories (legal, religious, health/medical, and personnel/morale). We don’t need the ridiculous quantity of engineers and scientists we have in uniform, a handful are understandable to act as project managers, etc. but thats what civilian contractors are for. And for christs sake fix financial services, my guess is that there is a huge black hole that all the money is disappearing into because they have no idea how to do their own jobs.

    • blight

      Consolidating multiple positions as “Joint” positions wouldn’t be a bad idea. That, or making those jobs go to civilian DoD employees. VA employees might consider deploying overseas, since the best time to help soldiers transition back to civilian life is before they are suddenly dropped back into Americana.

      Cutting scientist positions and the like is a possibility, as would reflagging them as DARPA positions, or under an appropriate research agency. It saves the government nothing, but simply shuffles positions around.

    • blight

      Consolidating “10+ agencies” would be a mission for the VA. I’ve always wondered what their overseas presence was, if any. I mean, once you serve, you are technically a “veteran”. However, it could bring a potential disconnect to have VA civilian employees as your legal and religious help (but I doubt it). It’s worth a shot to reallocate employees to the VA, but when the VA’s budget isn’t upped enough to compensate, then those positions are affected.

      I don’t think we should inherently trust contractors to have the government’s interests ahead of their own. However, the services should cede some positions not integral to warfighting to DoD, and let DoD civilian employees shoulder a greater burden. However, we’ve learned from Iraq that State Department employees don’t like rotating into Baghdad, and pretty much have to be forced into it. There are some things you can do with military employees that you can’t with civilians.

  • Fiberx

    As for the internal structure and financial habits of the AF I cannot speak, but in general it seems to me to be most effective to invest in AF and Naval capabilities in this age.

    Having top tier air, space and sea assets acts as a potent force multiplier. Providing the boots with airborne/spaceborne intel and weapons systems in support of their activities magnifies ground force capabilities exponentially.

    Aside from that, we >need< to scale back our physical footprint around the world while maintaining our ability quickly and accurately project our power.

    • blight

      “scale back our physical footprint”

      Which just happens to affect which of the services more than the Air Force? Just about all of them.

      We’ll always have issues about “quickly” projecting hard military power. Even the SBCT and its ilk didn’t answer the question.

      Here and I thought the CIA working more closely with the military was the “potent force multiplier” in GWOT.

  • jsallison

    Is it just me or are senior Air Force types reminiscent of children? It’s real easy to manage priorities when you can magically make EVERYthing priority one. No alternatives to the F35? Sounds like incompetent management to me.

    I’m half tempted to believe that acquisitions should be removed from all the branches and have their own independent entity. Possibly, but not necessarily under the DoD umbrella.

    Blindingly obvious change to the process: Here’s our requirements, show us a prototype, on your dime, and if we like it, you get a production contract. (And all the flag/field grades who love to inject feature creep into the design and production phases get fired. Save it for the A,B,C,etc models kids.)

    • blight

      Didn’t the Nazis try prioritizing everything as “Priority Number One”?

      Advanced tank program? Priority One!
      Atlantic Wall! Priority One!
      Defending Norway? Priority One!
      Invading Britain! Priority One!
      Building Vengeance Weapons? Priority One!
      Invading Russia? Priority One!
      And the sadistic death programs, also, priority one.

      • TLAM Strike

        Everything except U-Boats… and The Bomb…

        • blight

          They at least had the foresight to not try to build up a massive surface navy simultaneously. But that was a decision made back when they were comparatively saner.

  • Nick

    Isnt the X-2 on this path, I could be wrong.

  • Leonidas

    I would like everything too but alas reality must prevail… prioritize and then act….
    1 - Reduce by at least 2/3 our European footprint, the Euros will have to step up.
    2 - Give up on the F-35, recapitlize into the NGB, F-22, LAAR, KC-46 and replace with a feasible concept like a NG Grippen, Silent Eagle, International Roadmap F/A-18, etc…
    3 - Expand the C-27 to 75 aircraft and retire the oldest C-130’s as required.
    4 - Retire 20% of the oldest KC-135, retire the B-1, and update the KC-10’s and C-5’s.
    5 - Buy the EH-101 to replace the Pavehawks.
    5 - Reform the Line Officer Career with a Line and Staff track. End unnecessary PME and focus on cutting internal costs (excessive officer accessions, excessive and wasteful quick assignment changes, flatten the hierarchy, etc…)

    Lots of suggestions that will never happen but from my 12+ year career, the USAF stumbles because it is incredibly conservative and unable to imagine being either the force of the Cold War or the force of Gulf War I. Times have changed and we need to be a little bit smaller, more tactical with a good strategic capability and quick to adapt.


    The US Air Force has been neglected for 30 years and unless almost everything on the wish list is fulfilled except for the foreign bases, the US won’t really have much of an air force because the US fleet simply has too many flight hours.

  • Sanem

    lol, within two years the US will be bankrupt and capitalism will join communism as a failed experiment

    all hail our Chinese overlords!

    • blight

      Not for long. MSNBC has released an article about how labor costs in China have begun to rise, so that slave labor wages are no longer possible without even greater cuts in quality.

      We’ll find a new slave state, or start to bring /some/ jobs back to the United States. Mildly reassuring for us, and the CEOs will call it a “win”…as if we should be grateful that after the years of backstabbing are over that we should be grateful for their trickle-down.

      • Chimp

        Labour costs in China have been rising rapidly for the last decade. 15% to 20% annual pay rises are the *norm* for factory workers in Southern China. Salaries now run around $US300 a month, with limited working hours (around 42 per week) medical, housing and fairly generous holiday provisions on top of that. When you factor in the cost of living, it’s not bad. Workers for the really large manufacturers (Foxconn, Honda and so on) do a lot better than $US300 a month, too.

        The factory owners have been squeezed at both ends for a long time. Overseas customers want prices to go down on an annual basis. At the same time, the factors of production (labour, materials) are going up in price rather rapidly.

        It’s a really good process, as it has promoted a much more efficient approach to manufacturing. Quality is actually up, and significantly so, due to increased automation and a greater investment in workers (training and retention).

        I don’t see it bringing to many jobs to the US, however. Slave wage industries are moving into the hinterland or to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. There’s always somewhere.

        • blight

          I don’t believe it will be Laos, since Laos is still running on rudimentary infrastructure. I’m willing to believe Vietnam though.

          Who knows, if the situation stabilizes in Africa, China may just outsource their work there.