The Best Bad Option

The greatest shortfall the Air Force is grappling with is its ISR and its fighter fleet, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told members of the House Armed Services Committee Friday. “Those are the two things that we can’t meet the demand on more frequently than anything else,” he said. That is why USAF is being careful about divesting its fighter fleet “too much,” and is focusing on single mission aircraft like the A-10 and U-2. “We are going to go to seven (fighter) squadrons below our requirement with this budget,” Welsh said, referring to the Fiscal 2015 President’s Budget. Any more reductions in fighter aircraft makes it less likely the Air Force can meet “standing war plans for our combatant commanders,” he added. Air Force leaders also considered divesting the entire B-1 and F-16 fleets, as well as some F-15Es, but determined that “would require a much higher number” of aircraft to reach the same savings, said Welsh. “We used the standard DOD planning scenarios and the result showed that cutting the A-10 fleet was the lowest risk . . . option,” he said. “No one, especially me, is happy about recommending divestiture of this great old friend [the A-10]. It’s the right decision from a military perspective.”