The Air Force is proposing to dramatically scale back cuts to the Air National Guard that were included its original fiscal 2013 budget request, cutting its original reduction to personnel by 40%, according to a draft slide from the service.
The Air Force is not commenting publicly on its draft proposal for an Air Guard end strength of 105,300, which could also curb by 60% its planned reduction to aircraft.
Fiscal 2013 started on October 1st, but the government is operating on a continuing resolution of 2012 spending levels that expires at the end of March.
“No decisions have been made,” stressed Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek, who said the proposal has not been submitted to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. “We don’t have anything we’re speaking about publicly.”
Still, the proposal is making its way through Capitol Hill, where reaction to it is mixed. And any decision involving the National Guard generates input from all 50 states, given the Guard’s dual role in supporting the active duty military and serving state governors.
While the Council of Governors is supportive of “constructive Air Force movement” on the force structure reductions, it remains upset about the process.
“We cannot accept what we understand to be a ‘Take it or leave it’ proposal without discussion, disclosure of underlying fiscal and operational data without time to consider its merits,” write the council’s co-chairs, Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) and Gov. Christine Gregoire (D-Wash.), in a Nov. 15 letter to Air Force leadership.
“Governors are open to working with you to reach an agreement on a budget proposal we can all support for FY 2013 and FY 2014,” they write. “By statute and Executive Order, the Council of Governors is the forum for this dialogue to take place between governors and theand we stand ready to work with you as expeditiously as possible.”
Gen. Harry Wyatt, the director of the Air National Guard, brought in the military leaders of the 54 state guard bureaus, known as adjutants general, to discuss the proposal on Nov. 2.
Aides on Capitol Hill, who see the Air Force proposal as a legitimate compromise, point out that the governors are not rejecting the substance of the proposal. Now the proposal becomes a matter of which remaining aircraft and personnel will be cut, they say.
Another question is how the Air Force will pay to restore force structure. A defense lobbyist says the service is likely to raid flight hours, training and operation and sustainment accounts. “You go hollow for the year,” he says.
In addition to concerns about the Air Force force structure reductions is another fight over a proposal in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill. The bill asks the Air Force to hold off on any reductions to force structure until they are reviewed by a commission. A Senate aide contends that the commission will help build support for final decisions, while the defense lobbyist says the military would prefer to settle the matter in-house.
SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had predicted the defense policy bill would be on the Senate floor for debate just after the Thanksgiving recess. But the Senate wrapped up its business Nov. 15 without an agreement to do so.