Maj. Gen. Al Flowers, Air Force comptroller, briefed a meeting of Washington DC industry and Air Force advocates March 26 on the fiscal year 2011 budget and its differences from FY2010.
Of note, the FY2011 budget contains $5.2 billion toward strengthening the nuclear enterprise and $999 million in family programs. Of the planned acquisition programs, 69 percent of them are in direct support of the joint team to win today’s fight. These are the top three Air Force priorities.
The Air Force baseline for FY2011 only contains a 3.3 percent growth from the previous year. On top of that, there is over $20 billion for overseas contingency operations, partly in response to the plus up for Afghanistan.
In the O&M account, there was a plus up of $3.6 billion with the key drivers being increased cost of aviation fuel, civilian pay and funding for joint basing (of which the Air Force is responsible for 6 of the 12 joint bases including the largest one in San Antonio).
Another difference in this year’s O&M account is that for the first time, the traditionally over-budgeted flying hour program funded for 1.2 million flying hours next year, reflects historical execution of this program versus funding it at 100 percent.
Despite the increase in budgeting both the O&M and number of aircraft to increase the constant combat air patrols circling over Afghanistan and Iraq to 50 CAPs this year, the plan is to increase that number to 65 thereafter. All but the manpower piece is planned for now as each CAP takes 177 people to operate the around the clock mission, despite its moniker of being an unmanned mission. Click here to read more on this mission in the Reserve.
With the shift of the F-35 from development to procurement, the Research, Test, Development and Evaluation budget shrank while the procurement line increased. In particular, this budget plans for the purchase of 23 F-35s, 48 additional MQ-9 Reapers and 15 light mobility aircraft. The light mobility aircraft primarily will be used for training budding Air Forces like those of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Once again noted in the procurement budget next year is a program that was absent this year: the Aviation Modernization Program (AMP) for C-130s, for which ROA has long advocated.
Back also, after the Secretary of Defense canceled this program over a year ago, is a modest start up to explore the concept for a new long range strike platform. ROA also has a position on a new bomber.
The budget plans for 10 C-5s to be modernized through both the AMP and Reliability Enhancement and Re-Engining Program (RERP), however all of those planned for these programs in FY2011 are B models and not assigned to the Reserve Component. Having said that, the budget does not accommodate the excess strategic airlift above that identified by the recent mobility capabilities study.
During House Armed Services Committee testimony, Rep Joe Wilson (R-SC) asked about the provisions of the FY2010 Defense Authorization bill prohibiting DoD from retiring C-5As until conducting an operational assessment of RERPed C-5As and certifications concerning the cost benefit and risk of their retirement.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Norton Scwartz, responded that the Ops Test and Evaluation on the C-5 re-engining program is complete and the report was issued this month. “We intend to offer the appropriate certifications through the Secretary’s office that indicates that [RERP] is a viable, effective program and one that should allow us, as we spoke of earlier, to begin to act on retiring legacy A model aircraft that will not be modified.”
It is ROA’s position that the proper mix between modernized C-5As and C-17s needs to be better addressed before the impending shut down of the C-17 line. Click here to read that position.
The military construction budget remained flat from this year’s to next year’s budget, again relying on the hope that Congress will provide additional funds for pet projects in their districts. The Air Force Reserve benefited greatly last year due to these adds to combat their $1 billion MILCON backlog. Read more about that by clicking here.
In the personnel account, while the Air Guard remained static, the Air Force Reserve will increase by 1,700 people to accommodate the new associate mission at Barksdale and additional manpower for the ISR mission. This increase is part of a planned increase of over 4,000 Reservists over the FYDP. Click here to read more on that.
The regular Air Force, however, is above end strength and announced yesterday another round of force shaping whereby it will incentivize people to leave or involuntarily separate them. The reason that they are over end strength, according to the Air Force, is that they are at an all time high retention rate due to the economy. Click here to read more.