Come Up with a Plan

Senate defense authorizers, who already are on record adding $1.75 billion to the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2010 budget request for the purchase of seven additional F-22s, want the Air Force Secretary to deliver a plan by next March on how the service will execute the air sovereignty alert mission over the next two decades. They called for this in the newly released Senate Armed Services Committee report that accompanies the Senate’s version of the Fiscal 2010 defense policy bill. The committee members said they are concerned about the viability of the ASA mission since the planned retirement of legacy F-15s and F-16s will leave the Air National Guard, which carries the brunt of the mission, “short of the required number of aircraft” next decade. They want the report to give full consideration to factors such as stationing those additional F-22s at strategic ANG locations and transitioning earlier model F-22s and F-35s to the Air Guard “at the first possible opportunity.” Interestingly, they cited Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, ANG director, as saying in a “recent” letter that basing F-22s and eventually F-35s at ANG locations while simultaneously making them available to support worldwide contingency operations is “the most responsible approach to satisfying all of our nation’s needs.” In a similar move, House authorizers last month also had added language to their version of the defense bill that mandates a report by next March on filling the looming ASA gap. (SASC report; caution, large file)