A New Air Force

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Undoubtedly, our Air Force is never stronger than when tested. This time, however, the threat we contend with isn't physical, but fiscal. The inelegant mechanics of sequestration are unrelenting and indiscriminate. The austere budget cuts that lie before us will gradually unveil a new Air Force; one with questionable manning, reduced inventory and a new agenda tailored for the priorities of tomorrow. Principally, the downsizing of our Air Force will influence mission readiness and the esprit de corps of our Airmen.

Readiness is critical. It's what provides our commander in chief with immediacy and global reach to meet whatever national security objectives arise. Readiness alone serves as deterrence with the promise of swift repercussions and the denial of enemy preparation. This is a promise that becomes compromised with such stark cuts to funding, and matters most when mission tempo is spiked by contingency requirements. As vital as readiness is, we also owe this country a modern Air Force that is immune to obsolescence and ready for tomorrow's threats.

Readiness is to the present what modernization is to the future. Both are imperative to our national defense strategy. As sequestration plays out, a delicate balancing act between near and long term interests will have to take place, if such a balance is even realistic. High visibility programs such as the F-35, KC-46 and Long Range Strike Bomber will need to be viewed as a necessity, rather than a luxury to preserve their capitalization.

With all of the moving parts involved in the sequestration, the utmost pressure is being put on our most indispensible asset: the Airmen. With a minimum of six months of lead time, 25,000 Airmen will respectfully be asked to depart from the service. This will incite a devastating blow to morale and an even harder concussion to the efficient sustainment of operations. Morale is not something to understate; although intangible, it's that prideful tenacity whose effects are overwhelmingly obvious on and off duty. Undeniably, sequestration's fallout will extend far beyond dollars and pennies.

In addition to force shaping, training will also be adversely impacted. Exercises where we cultivate our doctoral-level warfighters will be cancelled putting us in a posture that does nothing but detract from national readiness. Should another major conflict emerge, sending deficiently trained troops into campaign is neither a safe nor a commonsense way to do business. It's an unnecessary risk that has no place in this country.

In what manner will we cope with the upcoming fiscal climate? The same way we've been weathering any conflict for the past 66 years: flexibility. We're dedicated to meeting the needs of the nation, whatever they may be; and we'll be determined to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. Despite budgetary shortfalls, we'll refuse to shrink from duty. We'll do our best to approach sequestration and force management in the most pragmatic way possible; realizing that resources we once had are no longer available and changing our game plan accordingly.