The Five-Pound Sack

Ask Air Force Secretary Wynne what challenges the Air Force and he will say that it’s “trying to get six pounds into a five-pound sack.” He was referring, of course, to requirements vs. budget. Wynne told Senate appropriators Wednesday afternoon that he breaks the issue into three critical components: rising personnel costs, rising operations and maintenance costs, and declining acquisition and R&D investment. He says one solution is in hand—a cut of about 50,000 personnel over the next five years. The other two will require Congressional help to (A) allow USAF to retire the oldest, most costly, and least productive aircraft in its fleets of bombers and transports; and (B) approve the service’s multi-year procurement plan for the F-22 stealth fighter. Selling A and B is proving a challenge. Congress steadfastly has prohibited retiring many aircraft. And, defense appropriations subcommittee chair Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), for one, says that he thinks the F-22 proposal is “going to be hard to sell.”