The chief of the Air Force Reserve said Monday that both sequestration and being forced to keep unwanted platforms such as the A-10 would result in lower manpower and readiness levels and slower acquisition than the Air Force wants.

Lt. Gen. James Jackson told the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies  that the service is already working on its fiscal year 2016 budget plans, even as Congress still works on the FY ’15 budget.

Lt. Gen. James Jackson, chief of the Air Force Reserve
Lt. Gen. James Jackson, chief of the Air Force Reserve

“As we work through right now our FY ’16 budget, we’re doing just like we did last year and the year before: we’re doing two budgets,” he said. “We’re doing the level that’s going to be sequester and we’re doing basically a budget level that’s slightly above that.”

Jackson said he hoped Congress could extend the partial sequester relief it passed in December 2013 in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, but if lawmakers couldn’t agree and full sequestration kicked back in, the Air Force –all three components–would see less force structure, less manpower and less readiness. The Air Force would also be hindered in its effort to implement recommendations from the Total Force Continuum, an office created this year to oversee integration among the active, reserve and National Guard components of the service.

Congress rejecting the Air Force’s cost-saving measures in the FY ’15 budget request would have a similar impact, Jackson said.

“We know that Congress is not likely to do everything the Air Force wants to do,” he said. “And so we’ve got some huge discussion items going on right now. One of the most highlighted ones is the A-10 divestiture and whether or not Congress is going to go ahead and let us eliminate the A-10 from the inventory. But that’s a big bill to pay if Congress does not help us with an appropriation with the manpower…and the flying hours” to support the planes, if they cannot be divested.

“We need a new tanker, we need a new bomber, we need a new fighter,” he said. “Obviously all those are happening right now…and once again back to the A-10, if we have to keep the A-10, we’re going to kick all that stuff to the right. It’s going to cause us to go ahead and do things a little later than we wanted to.”

Furthermore, any of these scenarios would also complicate efforts to rebalance the three Air Force components. Jackson said the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force recommended moving 5,800 active duty positions and into the Guard and reserve to save $500 million in the first year and $2.8 billion over the five-year Future Years Defense Program.

Jackson said he agrees with the recommendation in principle, but if Congress puts in motion any of these budget-disrupting scenarios, it would be a challenge to find the money needed to make the manpower changes, train airmen for their new jobs, take care of the administrative side of the moves, and so on.

“So we’re going to have readiness impacts: it’s going to be flying hour times, and it’s going to be WSS [weapons systems sustainment],” he said.