As across-the-board budget cuts near, the U.S. Air Force is preparing to make delays and revisions to its major acquisition programs including the Joint Strike Fighter, the tanker and the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS).
In all, the service is predicting a $12.4 billion cut from sequestration, the across-the-board budget cuts due to take effect March 1, along with a $1.8 billion shortfall in war accounts, according to Air Force briefing charts.
And while the service has already discussed the enormous hit to its operation and maintenance accounts, service slides are now also showing the impact to investment accounts. That includes a delay and a reduction in the quantity ofJoint Strike Fighters, a contract restructure of ’s KC-46A program and a delay of the , along with increased cost.
Delays are also anticipated in the purchase of SBIRS GEO 5 and 6, and the AC-130.
The Air Force, like the other military services, anticipates mass furloughs ofcivilians. Those furloughs would delay program tests, thereby increasing program costs and extending schedules, the charts note.
On the maintenance side, cutbacks would impact more than 30 weapons systems — everything from the Air Force’s fleet ofcargo aircraft to the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System — and 85 engines would be pulled from service. Reductions in flying hours and depot maintenance could prompt violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act.
Cuts also would reduce surveillance by space, missile warning and ground radar sites from 24 hr. to 8 hr. of operations. And it would impact military communications by cutting sustainment of the Defense Satellite Communications System by 75%.
Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Armed Services tactical air and land force subcommittee, called the proposal “highly troubling news.”
The proposal sets the stage for hearings next week in the House and Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee on sequestration. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale will testify along with the chiefs of staff for each of the services.
The Air Force provides a list of ways lawmakers could limit the damage. In addition to undoing sequestration, that includes making sure that if Congress must fund the government using fiscal 2012 funding for the rest of fiscal 2013, that it adjust the continuing resolution along the lines of the fiscal 2013 budget request. The Air Force also seeks a waiver to transfer money between programs, be able to start new programs and adjust quantities.