AF fiscal budget reflects rebalanced priorities

By Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle: Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

WASHINGTON — Air Force officials announced that its portion of the president’s fiscal 2010 budget reflects a balanced strategy to prevail in today’s joint fight and sustain air, space and cyberspace dominance.

The two overarching principles guiding next year’s budget are rebalancing the Air Force’s capabilities and financing the service’s “All In” commitment to joint warfighting, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

“We’ve focused on our people and proven technologies, and put heavy emphasis on supporting combatant commanders in a way that complements the joint team,” the general said.

The Air Force’s total budget is $160.5 billion. Of that, the budget over which the Air Force has management discretion in fiscal 2010 — including allowances for people, readiness, infrastructure and modernization — is $115.6 billion. An additional $16 billion requested for overseas contingency operations supports ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Another $28.9 billion submitted in the request but not managed by the Air Force includes funding for medical personnel, special operations personnel and national intelligence requirements.

“Our balanced approach is in line with the Department of Defense’s emphasis on prevailing in today’s operations while investing in new capabilities, force structure, skills and technologies that meet tomorrow’s needs,” said Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley.

Donley emphasized that the funding decisions are consistent with the five priorities Air Force leaders adopted in October 2008. Those priorities are:

• Reinvigorate the Air Force nuclear enterprise.

• Develop and care for airmen and their families.

• Partner with the joint and coalition team to win today’s fight.

• Modernize air and space inventories, organizations and training and

• Recapture acquisition excellence

The right mix of people

The fiscal 2010 budget protects funds that help the Air Force recruit, train, educate, sustain and retain the right number and mix of people, according to service officials. This includes selective re-enlistment bonuses and quality of service enhancements that are among the Air Force’s most useful tools for developing and retaining airmen with key skills.

The “huge news” affecting all airmen is “despite an uncertain economy,” airmen can expect to see pay and benefits increases across the board, said Maj. Gen. Larry O. Spencer, deputy assistant secretary for budget. Increases of 2.9 percent in basic military pay, 2 percent in civilian pay, 5.6 percent in housing allowance and 5 percent in subsistence allowance are on the books.

Air Force officials also will invest $313 million in quality of service projects that specifically benefit airmen, such as military construction, family housing, child development centers, dormitories and a new Basic Military Training facility.

Personnel funding in fiscal 2010 will play an active role in shaping the force, as the Air Force directs approximately $641 million toward recruiting and retaining critical wartime skills such as explosive ordnance disposal, medical, intelligence, contracting and special operations.

In terms of force structure, the budget also heralds the unprecedented undertaking of converting contractor positions to about 4,200 civil service jobs.

“The cost reduction from the contractor conversion will be significant, and if Congress approves the budget, there will be a lot of civilian hiring in 2010 and beyond,” Spencer said, especially in areas of emphasis such as acquisition.

Reflecting on the budget’s emphasis on personnel programs, Schwartz observed that “beyond the platforms we operate or the technologies we employ, airmen are the true strength of America’s Air Force. Peak combat capability begins and ends with talented, healthy, motivated, trained and well-equipped airmen.”

The right mix of resources

The fiscal 2010 budget also provides an opportunity to balance traditional Air Force investment in capabilities useful across the spectrum of conflict with much-needed capabilities that have special relevance at the ends of the spectrum.

“This budget really tells a story of balance between today’s fight and tomorrow’s needs,” Spencer said. “We’re investing in combatant command support, including fifth generation planes, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, space assets and preferred munitions such as AIM 9X, AIM-120 and Joint Direct Attack Munitions.”

The chief of staff noted that the budget pays special attention to ensuring that there is a sufficient support “tail” behind the Air Force’s significant combat “tooth.”

“The budget not only supports the joint fight, but funds the communications, munitions, build-up, logistics, maintenance and weapons sustainment so that we can contribute to the overall defense plan of delivering global vigilance, reach and power in support of national objectives,” Schwartz said.

Among the major force modernization initiatives built into the budget, the Air Force plans to accelerate the retirement of about 250 legacy fighter aircraft. This will enable a rebalancing of funds to upgrade F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, procure preferred munitions and enhance critical enablers. Additionally, the retirements enable the Air Force to realign approximately 4,000 military positions to support manpower needs in key focus areas such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and the nuclear enterprise.

The budget proposes to enhance the lethality of combat forces with the purchase of 10 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters in fiscal 2010.

“These fifth-generation strike aircraft will deliver complementary capability to the air superiority provided by 183 F-22 Raptors funded in previous fiscal years and four additional F-22s pending in the fiscal 2009 overseas contingency operations supplemental request,” Spencer said.

Air mobility and personnel recovery requirements are supported in the budget with $400 million for the development of the KC-X tanker, $1.4 billion for M/H/C-130Js and $90 million to acquire HH-60M helicopters.

All told, more than $1 billion will go to modernizing the fighter, bomber and mobility fleet with software, radar and other modifications.

“These critical upgrades will make our current force more lethal and effective,” Spencer said.