Ike Skelton, Chairman
For Immediate Release: May 19, 2009
Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the U.S. Air Force Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request:
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Air Force budget posture hearing for Fiscal Year 2010. Appearing before us today is the Honorable Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force; and General Norman A. Schwartz, USAF, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Gentlemen, the committee thanks you, and all those you lead – active duty, guard, and reserve – and your civilian employees
“Today, the Air Force is exceptionally busy: there are over 27,000 airmen deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, while others are flying an average of 265 sorties a day in those two wars. There are another 7,000 deployed supporting contingencies elsewhere around the world and 24 hours a day airmen stand watch in 450 nuclear tipped missile silos.
“That’s a lot of work, and I am glad to see that the requested budget for Fiscal Year 2010 recognizes how busy you are with an increase of $4.2 billion over last year. The request for a 2.9 percent pay raise and increases in family programs in areas such as child care, spousal support, lodging and education are all solid indicators that your people are a high priority – something I strongly support.
“I am especially pleased to note that you have rethought the decision to decrease your end strength and you may even end this year above your authorized level. That’s not a bad problem to have.
“Still, I have some concerns about the Air Force’s readiness. With the Air Force in continuous combat since 1990, high utilization rates of aging assets has contributed to on-going detrimental effects on equipment, such as engine and structural fatigue, deterioration, corrosion and increased rates of component failures.
“This budget contains a request for $1.1 billion in military construction, which is $100 million more than enacted last year. However, this level of funding is significantly below historical Air Force appropriations and I’m not sure it meets the need. You’ve got multiple simulators sitting idle awaiting supporting facilities, for example, and aviation assets located at sites without available supporting facilities
“I understand that you have proposed to retire 254 fighter aircraft in coming year. 249 of these planes are proposed to be retired on an accelerated schedule. We’re going to have to look at this very closely to understand what the risks this plan might entail and whether the reinvested savings will net us an overall increase in the Air Force’s ability to meet national security requirements.
“In terms of airlift, I was surprised to see the changes in the Joint Cargo Aircraft plan. We appear to be seeing a reduction of 40 aircraft requested and now what was a joint Army-Air Force program has become purely Air Force. This is contrary to what the Department told us in the Quadrennial Roles and Missions report in January, so I’d like to hear more about the analytical basis is for these decisions.
“And now let me turn to the ranking member, John McHugh of New York, for his opening remarks.”
HASC (House Armed Services Committee)