Air Force chief warns that new trainer, critical hires could be put on hold if Congress doesn’t pass a budget
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson is warning that should Congress follow its recent path of least resistance and pass yet another continuing resolution rather than a full-on budget, the service will suffer critical readiness issues.
For starters, Wilson says the service’s quest for a new trainer, along with new pilot and cyber security personnel acquisition, will have to be placed on hold:
The T-X is the Air Force’s next big contract, with the long competition for the right to produce 350 next-generation trainer aircraft finally expected to conclude before the end of the year. Boeing-Saab, Lockheed Martin-KAI, and Leonardo are the final three competitors for the T-X design.
Asked if the service could still name a winner for T-X while delaying an actual contract, Wilson indicated that wouldn’t be happening, saying, “Well, what’s the point? We don’t have the money to be able to do it, so you end up delaying a lot of new starts.”
Another concern for Wilson is the impact a CR would have on the service’s attempts to plus- up pilot numbers and increase the number of cyber experts in the service.
“You probably have a hard freeze, if not a chill, on hiring,” Wilson said. “We’re trying to hire people in cyber, in training. We’re trying to increase the number of pilots we’re putting through pilot training. … This becomes very quickly an extremely difficult problem.”
Source: Defense News
Why it’s on our radar: All the service chiefs have told Congress at various times over the past several years that long-term budgeting for weapons, personnel, and other priorities is nearly impossible to do without budget from Congress, that short-term continuing resolutions are not adequate funding mechanisms because of the budgetary uncertainty associated with them. Service chiefs need hard-and-fast budgets so they have the information and numbers necessary to plan funding priorities.
The Air Force is approaching a critical pilot shortage. It needs a new trainer. And in this day and age, cyber security experts are no longer a luxury but a military necessity, and since cyber security is left principally to the Air Force, it becomes a huge readiness problem when the service lacks the appropriate number of personnel.
Nevertheless, Congress continues to place politics above military readiness, which is what all of these continuing resolutions are really about. The inability to properly budget for, and fund, the military will manifest itself in a dangerous, unexpected way at some point in the future. Said Wilson: “I worry that there are a lot of demands on every member of Congress that don’t relate to the security of the country, and it only matters when things go wrong and then it’s too late.”