James: Sequester Will Cost Lives

Cuts to Air Force readiness accounts over the last decade have degraded safety, and continuing with sequestration could cost an increasing number of lives, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the House Armed Services Committee Friday. Answering a question from Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas) about the effects of ongoing sequester, James said, “the thing I worry about most is preparedness and readiness.” While “thank goodness, there haven’t been that many crashes” due to inadequate training, “there have been some,” James admitted. “As the money gets tighter, we may see more crashes and more fatalities,” stemming from readiness funding shortfalls, she said. The problem hasn’t been very noticeable because “we are a victim of our own success” in pulling off operations without adequate preparation in some cases, James noted. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told Gallego that sequester’s effects have been masked because “nothing fell out of the sky” during last year’s flying standdowns. But he couldn’t say if the service’s luck will hold “for (fiscal year) ’15 and beyond.” (See also Is Sequester to Blame)