DeM Banter: I was waiting for someone to bring this up…of course it was the Flight Engineer… “Hey eng…do we have any Airpower?” Pilot/Eng….”maybe when Washington gets us a budget.”
June 17, 2013
Sequestration is crippling the Air Force’s ability to defend the nation.
Imagine an enemy that could neutralize 13 U.S. Air Force squadrons.What force could pull off such a feat? Not China, not Russia, certainly not al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
Only the U.S. House of Representatives, and its weapon is sequestration.
The problem traces back to 2011, when lawmakers approved a plan for across-the-board budget cuts that would kick in if a special panel couldn’t reach compromises during a debt limit showdown. The cuts were intended to be so unacceptable they would force members of Congress to do their jobs, make tough choices, and work with one another.
In other words, sequestration was designed to be harmful and stupid.
But harmful and stupid turned out to be the best Congress could do. Now that sequestration has become the law of the land, we hear different descriptions of its effects. Depending on the day of the week, some congressional leaders now tell us sequestration is a good thing, or that it makes only a minimal difference.
As an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who recently retired from the Air National Guard, let me tell you about some of these “minimal” differences — just in my own branch of the military.
*13 Air Force combat squadrons were grounded in April. If I were, say, a Syrian dictator worried about the U.S. imposing a no-fly zone, I would find this encouraging.
*The Air Force has canceled the next class at the Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. An Iranian or Syrian fighter pilot would hardly stand a chance in a dogfight with a graduate of the Weapons School. Potential enemy pilots must see the suspension of the Air Force’s “Top Gun” school as great news. Air Combat Command says scheduling of further classes next year depends on money issues.
*The loss of funded flying hours means less proficiency for aircrews and a narrower margin of safety. Perishable skills don’t come back overnight, even if the funding does. During my career as a flight engineer on the C-130 Hercules and the C-5 Galaxy, I felt that even a two- or three-week break in flying dulled my edge.
*Sequestration—along with Congress’ perennial refusal to create reliable budgets—threatens the Air Force’s ability to modernize aircraft and other equipment to keep its technological advantage. If the service must scramble merely to pay for current operations, it will have less to invest on future technology. The Air Force still flies bombers that rolled off the assembly line during the Kennedy administration.
A recent editorial in Air Force Magazine summed up these effects succinctly: “Under sequestration, readiness is no longer assured.”
Members of the House, perhaps in belated recognition of the harm they have done, have passed a new defense bill, H.R. 1960. According to the Armed Services Committee’s bill summary, the measure funds the military at pre-sequester levels.
But the summary also says the bill fits within a House-passed budget that identifies cuts in non-defense programs to stay within the overall limits of sequester. If that provision makes the bill unacceptable in the Senate, then H.R. 1960 accomplishes nothing.
Committee member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in a statement that the bill “points out the necessity of removing sequestration.” True enough, but politically improbable in the current hyper-partisan environment. Sadly, the unnecessary and self-inflicted wounds of sequestration seem likely to remain with us.
During my career as a military flier, we had a saying about avoiding accidents and other self-inflicted problems: “Don’t do the enemy’s job for him.”
If only Congress could follow that same advice.
Tom Young is an Air National Guard veteran and the author of The Warriors to be released in July.