Not Just the Air Force

The debate about the future Long-Range Strike Bomber should not rest solely on “how the Air Force is going to pay for the bomber,” said retired Col. Mark Gunzinger, senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C. Instead, the issue should be how the Defense Department is going to pay for it, he said during the long-range-strike panel on Thursday at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando. While the Defense Department boasts that it is a truly joint enterprise, that jointness has not made its way into budget progamming, he said. Revisionist states are seeking to change regional balances of power by developing anti-access, area-denial capabilities and improving weapons systems that allow them to project power at greater ranges. This places a premium on US weapon systems that can operate in contested environments at greater ranges, he said. Yet, US military finds itself in the position that its force mix is out of balance with the emerging threat, such as the case of tactical fighters versus long-range bombers, said Gunzinger. Today’s fighter-to-bomber ratio is 12:1; during the Cold War, that relationship was 5-6:1, he said. That makes LRS-B so important, he said. “We need to be able to tell this story to our senior policymakers … so we can build the force structure that we need in the future,” he said.