F-35, Flying Hours Top Air Force’s Wish List Under Potential New Budget
The Air Force’s top uniformed acquisition leader said the service would prioritize adding funds to readiness and training accounts and fully fund its initial production lot of F-35 aircraft should $3 to $7 billion get returned to the Air Force’s budget as part of the bipartisan budget deal passed by the House Thursday.
“This is still in flux and being worked by the comptroller and Congress. There were a lot of things that we had in our budget that we had cut as a result of planning for sequestration that we would then start to buy back,” Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, Military Deputy for Air Force Acquisition, told Miltiary.com.
The bipartisan deal, now making its way through the Senate, would add roughly $22 billion back to the top line for defense spending above sequester levels for fiscal year 2014 and $9 billion back for fiscal year $2015, Pentagon officials said.
Each of the services stand to get anywhere from $3 to $7 billion in appropriated funds for fiscal year 2014, allowing them the opportunity to make new plans and reverse some of the consequences of sequestration. Davis said the Air Force is examining which accounts would receive additional funds.
“Big chunk of that starts with readiness, flying hours for squadrons and the major training activities such as the Red Flag exercises which are critically important to the Air Force. That is where we would initially start buying back if we got $3 or $4 billion back,” Davis said. “There will be other things that we had to cut to create efficiencies whether its munitions buys or fully funding the production lot for the F-35. The F-35 is 17– to 18-percent of our budget, so we’ve got a list that we are working on.”
The Air Force budget request for fiscal year 2014 asks for $3.4 billion for F-35 procurement and roughly $800 million in research, development, test and evaluation for the aircraft.
Defense spending under sequestration was capped at $475 billion – and the new bipartisan topline deal now calls for roughly $497 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2014.
The automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, specify that roughly $487 billion will be cut from defense spending over a ten year period. While the top line budget deal could reduce the sequestration cuts in 2014 and 2015, there are still questions about 2016 and beyond.
Budget uncertainties have made it difficult for service leaders to make long term acquisition plans. Completing 5-year spending plans called Program Objective Memorandums have been especially challenging as the military operates under Continuing Resolutions.
The Air Force has identified the F-35, its new long-range strike bomber program, or LRS-B and the KC-46 tanker program as its top acquisition priorities.