Hoping for Compromise

Hoping for Compromise: Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley’s goal is to get “as much progress as possible” in the Fiscal 2013 budget toward money-saving force structure changes Congress doesn’t like. In a press conference at AFA’s Air & Space Conference just outside Washington, D.C., Donley said he’s heard from members of Congress that “they appreciate our strategic work” in trying to address deep budget cuts now in the works, but their assent to USAF’s overall package of changes remains elusive. “There’s no free lunch, here,” Donley said. The force structure reductions amount to $8 billion out of an overall program of $40 billion worth of USAF cuts over a five-year period. “If we can’t get the reductions there, then we’ll have to get them somewhere else,” and that will hurt readiness or modernization, Donley said. He added that “we’re still at the front end” of a long period of cuts, so “we want to get on the right track early and make as much progress as we can using strategic choices at the front.” Reducing is an “iterative process,” Donley said, and USAF’s choices “won’t be perfect” in Fiscal 13 or 14, but lawmakers are going to have to face the fact that reductions must be made. “It’s just common sense: you can’t take $487 billion out of the defense program and not affect airmen, units … workforce, communities,” Donley observed. “That level of reduction is going to be felt somewhere. …We have to face that reality.” He’s hoping for a deal by the end of the year, but ruled out a summit meeting of affected congressmen. “No one meeting is going to solve this,” he said.