Gotta Have the Cards

Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Hostage thinks it’s “fundamentally unrealistic to think we will not take another hit” on the defense budget. Speaking to a luncheon of AFA’s D.W. Steele Chapter in Arlington, Va., on April 26, Hostage said the only viable way through reduced budgets and the threat of sequester under the Budget Control Act is to slim down the force and keep what’s left highly ready. Urging that sequester be avoided—but seemingly resigned to its likelihood—Hostage said it’s impossible to maintain forces at existing levels without severe consequences. Doing “‘more with less’ is the battle cry of the hollow force,” he said. If personnel and force structure are off the table, the only items left to cut are “flying hours, [operations and maintenance], and base operating support,” and that is a prescription for hollowness, he said. During the early 1980s, noted Hostage, half the airplanes on Air Force ramps had no engines or couldn’t fly. The Soviet Union, counting jets from on high, didn’t know the condition of the aircraft, “and they didn’t call our bluff,” he observed. That approach won’t work today, he asserted.