Nothing is Safe From Sequester

Not even the Air Force’s top three acquisition programs will be protected if sequester returns in Fiscal 2016, said industry experts during a wide-ranging panel discussion at AFA’s Air & Space Conference last week. James McAleese, founder of contracting consulting firm McAleese and Associates, said USAF spends about $24 billion annually on research, development, test, and evaluation, which far outstrips the other services. While much of the Long-Range Strike Bomber program, one of the top three priorities, remains shrouded in secrecy, McAleese said the program is one of the few slated for an increase in RDT&E dollars, rising to around $3.3 billion by 2019 by most recent estimates. If sequester returns however, the Air Force’s other two programs will be stressed—namely production of the F-35A strike fighter and the KC-46 tanker. The LRS-B is largely “walled off” because it’s primarily still in development, he said. A return of sequester in 2016 would effectively “flatline” the Department of Defense’s modernization efforts, as 60 percent of a 2016 sequester cut would target modernization accounts, some $115 billion, with only 35 percent from operations and maintenance.