Donley: Sequestration requires tightening and interdependent solutions for Air Force

The top civilian leader of the Air Force presented his service's fiscal year 2014 baseline budget request to Congress on Friday and discussed challenges the Air Force is facing in light of budget cuts.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said the $114.1 billion baseline budget request represented the best analysis of the service's needs based on the available information. Donley presented the budget request to the House Armed Services Committee and said the Air Force's priorities are aligned with the strategic guidance of the Department of Defense.

"This includes supporting combatant commanders in the current fight in Afghanistan, maintaining a strong and stable presence in the Pacific and (South) Korea, supporting nuclear and regional deterrence, counterterror and other operations," Donley said. "There is demand for air power, and your airmen are busy around the world."

Donley said that the requirements of the first half of the Budget Control Act required multiple force structure changes including retirements, aircraft transfers and changes in unit missions. The 2014 budget proposal would institute further cuts of approximately 1,800 active duty airmen, Air Force reserve air strength by nearly 500 and Air National Guard end strength by 300.

"As the fiscal constraints get tighter, we must tighten our alignment with the new strategy and strengthen our commitment to joint interdependent solutions to the nation's military challenges," Donley said. "You've heard many times that the implications of sequestration reductions are dire. They are, (and) that's why the president has put forward a balanced deficit reduction proposal that would allow Congress to repeal sequestration in FY (2013) and beyond."

Donley said the sequestration reductions and impacts to readiness are being felt throughout the service.

"This week, eight fighter and bomber units ceased flying operations, and four additional squadrons will completely stand down when they return from deployment in the next few weeks," Donley said. "And one additional bomber squadron will stand down this summer when it returns from deployment. Flying hour reductions will halt training for the rest of the year in many units, and (it) will take up to six months to restore pilot proficiency."

Donley said the service has more than 57,000 airmen stationed overseas and more than 132,000 members providing support to combatant commanders.