Weapons Cuts Coming

Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz knows that the Air Force must make its “best argument” when it comes to determining “what the right mix is, from fighters to our big airplanes to satellites,” as it faces a tough fiscal environment, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Schwartz, it would appear, is ready to make cuts. He told the WSJ in an interview last week, after he and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley met with President-elect Obama transition team members, “I can foresee there’s going to be additional pressure and, frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” The Air Force faces critical decisions early on with the new Administration, including whether to curtail production lines for the F-22 fighter and the C-17 airlifter. It also must culminate acquisitions on its stalled KC-X aerial refueling aircraft program and an equally stalled combat search and rescue replacement aircraft program, whose very existence was just questioned by the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer. And, it has undertaken a major makeover of its nuclear enterprise that includes setting up a new major command. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who fired the service’s two previous top leaders, ostensibly over two high-profile nuclear weapons missteps, and who is no fan of the F-22, preferring to hold the buy at 183 aircraft, has just been named to stay in his post under the Obama Administration. Any bets on the F-22 outcome