By Shaun Waterman
The Washington Times
Monday, January 14, 2013
The Air Force is canceling all nonessential travel, conferences and research and is cutting its budget for base maintenance in half to deal with the threat of drastic, automatic spending cuts due to begin March 1, the service’s chiefs say.
In addition, the Air Force will have to slash its flying hours by 18 percent and its aircraft maintenance by 17 percent if the spending cuts occur, Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the service’s chief of staff, state in a Jan. 7 memo.
The Washington Times has obtained a copy of the memo, which first was reported by The Associated Press.
The memo states that the immediate cuts will “introduce significant inefficiencies and delays” into the Air Force’s work but would not right away affect the service’s ability to fight, which the military calls readiness.
But if the automatic March 1 cuts, known as sequestration, are not averted by a deal in Congress, the authors warn, “actions negatively impacting core readiness will be required.”
The cuts will be designed to protect, as far as possible, the men and women actually in combat, states the memo. But that means they will disproportionately impact units that have just returned from combat and that have the greatest need for exactly the kind of repair and maintenance work being cut.
The 2011 Budget Control Act mandated automatic reductions to planned defense spending of $500 billion over the next decade if Congress cannot agree on measures to reduce the federal deficit and start to pay down the national debt.
The so-called “fiscal cliff” deal lawmakers reached over the New Year holiday delayed the reductions until March 1.
The budgetary uncertainty for Pentagon planners is made worse by the fact that the federal government has been operating under temporary spending authority for most of the last year because Congress has not been able to agree on and pass any spending bills.
Last week Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta ordered military chiefs to immediately take measures to reduce the Pentagon’s spending “burn rate.” He pointed out that the longer the spending reductions are delayed, the more quickly they will have to be implemented to meet the targets for the first fiscal year, which will be almost half over by March 1.
The Donely memo outlines in detail for the first time what this will actually mean for the Air Force.