The FY 15 budget request repositions the force to focus on future challenges and opportunities, while continuing to recover readiness lost during sequestration in FY 13, said Maj. Gen. Jim Martin, the Air Force director of budget, who presented the service’s budget request.
“Throughout every step of the process we worked hard to make every dollar count so we could protect the minimum capabilities for today’s warfighting efforts, while also investing in capabilities needed to defeat potential threats in the future,” Martin said.
The Air Force is requesting a topline budget of $109.3 billion in funding the Air Force controls, known as “Blue” funds. The budget request supports a total force end strength of 483,000 personnel and protects the Air Force’s top recapitalization priorities: the KC-46A Pegasus, F-35A Lightning II and the Long Range Strike Bomber.
It divests the U-2 in favor of the Global Hawk in support of the service’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission in FY 16, and divests the single-mission A-10 Thunderbolt II in favor of multirole fighters that can better survive in contested environments, Martin said.
The Air Force’s FY 15 budget request also included an additional $7 billion request in the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, to fund additional aircraft modifications, facility repairs, training range improvements and modernization items. Martin said if the Air Force receives the funding, it will also accelerate recapitalization efforts by buying two additional F-35As, 12 MQ-9 Reapers and 10 AC/MC/HC-130s.
The FY 15 budget request meets funding levels laid out in the Bipartisan Budget Act, but for FY 16 through FY 19 the president’s plan calls for an Air Force budget $34 billion above the sequestration levels.
“The Bipartisan Budget Act has provided some relief and allowed us to begin the road to readiness recovery,” Martin said. “But under sequestration, we would again have to take drastic actions resulting in an Air Force that is less ready, less capable, less viable and unable to fully execute defense strategy. That’s why we are seeking this additional funding above the sequestration level.”
If the service is forced to return to sequestration-level funding in FY16, the Air Force would retire the entire KC-10 Extender tanker and Global Hawk Block 40 fleets and buy fewer F-35As, Martin said.
“We believe strongly that sequestration-level spending will compromise our security,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “By making these tough choices today we will set ourselves on a path that we will be the most ready and modernized Air Force in the world, albeit a smaller one. But we need to remain very lethal against any of the potential adversaries that we might face.”