The Air Force would lose more than 200,000 flying hours for the remainder of Fiscal 2013 if budget sequestration is implemented on March 1, resulting in a devastating loss of readiness, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12. Service leaders will do everything in their power to protect flying operations in Afghanistan as well as nuclear deterrence and initial flight training, said Welsh. However, “roughly two-thirds of our Active Duty combat air force units will curtail home station training, beginning in March, and we’ll drop below acceptable readiness levels by mid-May,” he said during the SASC hearing on sequestration’s impact on the US military. “Most will be completely non-mission capable by July,” he noted. Under the sequester, the Air Force would be forced to postpone depot maintenance work in this fiscal year on about 150 aircraft and 85 engines—a move that would create “a backlog that could take years for us to recover” from, said Welsh. And, roughly 180,000 Air Force civilians will face an involuntary 22-day furlough, “depriving our Air Force of over 31.5 million man-hours of productivity and specialized expertise this year,” he added. (Welsh’s prepared testimony)
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.