Image copyright US Air Force
By Jon Harper
Copyright Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — Air Force leaders detailed future force cuts and defended the service’s religious accommodation practices after coming under attack from conservative lawmakers at a congressional budget hearing Friday.
When presenting the fiscal 2015 budget request and the Future Years Defense Program last week, the Air Force announced that it wants to eliminate the entire A-10 close air support fleet and the U-2 spy plane fleet, and significantly reduce the number of F-15 and F-16 fighters, and MQ-1 drones, because of budget constraints imposed by Congress. Pentagon leaders want to use the resulting savings to invest in modernization and readiness.
The budget request must be approved by Congress. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III said a congressional decision to protect these programs would necessitate cuts in higher-priority programs, and lead to imbalances in the force. As an example, Welsh said that saving the A-10 would force the service to cut back on the number of F-35, F-16 and F-15 fighters.
James and Welsh told members of the House Armed Services Committee that the following additional platform reductions would be necessary if further budget cuts imposed by sequestration are allowed to go into effect in fiscal 2016: