Black Thursday

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Thursday announced specific programmatic changes resulting from the Obama Administration’s new strategic defense guidance and the reduction of some $487 billion from the Pentagon’s budget over the next 10 years. Among them, the Air Force will:

  • Eliminate six of its 60 tactical air squadrons, as well as one training squadron.
  • Terminate the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft program.
  • Divest the fleet of 38 C-27Js; support ground forces with C-130s instead.
  • Retire 27 C-5A aircraft, the last remaining C-5As in the inventory, leaving a strategic airlift fleet of 52 C-5Ms and 222 C-17s.
  • Phase out 65 of the oldest C-130s, resulting in a fleet of 318 C-130s.
  • Make balanced reductions in the Air National Guard, consistent with reductions in the active duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve.

Panetta said—despite these reductions—the Air Force will be one “that dominates air and space and provides rapid mobility, global strike, and persistent [intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance].”

At the same time, the Pentagon will:

  • Fund the Air Force’s next-generation bomber and sustain the current bomber fleet.
  • Move ahead with the Air Force’s KC-46A tanker.
  • Slow F-35 procurement to complete more testing and allow for developmental changes before buying jets in significant quantities. DOD remains committed to all three F-35 variants.
  • Develop a submarine-based conventional prompt global strike option.

The President will also propose that Congress authorize a new round of BRAC, said Panetta.

(Pentagon budget priorities document and budget fact sheet)