Weapons School is Another Sequester Casualty

The Air Force is shuttering its weapons school at Nellis AFB, Nev., for the time being due to budget sequester-related cuts, revealed Gen. Michael Hostage, head of Air Combat Command, on Thursday during a talk in Washington, D.C. “That is going to affect the Air Force for years,” he told the audience at the Atlantic Council event. That’s because the availability of certified “patch wearers” will have wider effects on readiness as time goes on. Hostage said he is truncating the weapons school’s current class and will graduate it without the final capstone exercise as a result of the cutbacks. In addition to the weapons school closing, ACC this week implemented “tiered readiness” over a large portion of the combat air forces. As the sequester bills pile on top of the bills for paying overseas contingency operations out of ACC’s base operations budget, the steady toll on readiness is going to build, said Hostage. “This is challenging within a normal fiscal process,” he said, but the flexibility to manage the CAF is decreasing the longer the sequester goes on. “The degradation is not something immediately visible,” he said, noting that on April 9, he put nine fighter squadrons and three bomber squadrons in a low state of readiness. As time wears on, getting those units back to a higher state will be increasingly challenging as currencies begin to lapse, he said. (Atlantic Council webpage of April 11 event with link to video)