Air Force leaders deliver budget guidance to force

(U.S. Air Force graphic, photo/Scott Ash)

(U.S. Air Force graphic, photo/Scott Ash)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --  Air Force leaders delivered guidance to the force recently, telling them to begin planning for the uncertain budget environment ahead, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said Jan. 11 in a press briefing.

"Even though we're not presuming this worst case will occur, prudent planning for the third and fourth quarters is required," Donley said.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued guidance to the services to begin planning to help mitigate budget risks, to ensure planning measures are reversible and recoverable, and to the extent feasible, minimize any harmful effects on readiness.

"I've asked the military services and the other components to immediately begin implementing prudent measures that will help mitigate our budget risk," said Panetta Jan. 10. "For now, I've made clear that these actions must be reversible to the extent feasible and must minimize harmful effects on readiness. But we really have no choice but to prepare for the worst."

Impacts to the Air Force include curtailing non-readiness or mission-essential flying and travel; curtailing or stopping minor purchases such as furniture and information technology refresh; deferring non-emergency facility sustainment, restoration and modernization; and implementing a civilian hiring freeze as well as release of non-mission critical temporary employees.

"To be clear, these near-term actions cannot fully mitigate the impacts of sequestration should that occur," Donley said. "If we do not have resolution by March, sequestration will have immediate and negative impacts on Air Force readiness, specifically flying hours and maintenance."

Once implementation plans for these near-term actions have been finalized, the details will be shared.

Regardless of the outcome, Air Force leaders said the priority is to avoid the hollow military of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

A hollow military looks good on paper, Donley said, "but has more units and equipment than it can support (and) lacks the resources to adequately man, train and maintain them, or to keep up with advancing technologies."