ORLANDO, Fla. – The Air Force last year identified $30 billion it had found over the five-year Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) that could be freed up from current programs to fund the service’s biggest technology needs. But when the fiscal year 2021 presidential budget request was released earlier this month, only $21 billion was identified.

That extra $9 billion was rolled back into the current programs to avoid “near-term risk” for combatant commanders, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters during a Feb. 27 roundtable at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium here.

“You never get everything you ask for. So what was rolled back was, quite frankly, what the Secretary of Defense believed was too much near-term risk for combatant commanders,” Goldfein said.

Late last year, Goldfein said the Air Force freed up $30 billion by conducting a “Night Court” process that would have allowed them to pump funds into four priority areas: building out the Air Force’s digital architecture, investing in space capabilities, generating combat power and ensuring access to logistics (Defense Daily,

Nov. 6, 2019).

At the same time, combatant commanders have spent posture hearings on Capitol Hill this month describing the areas where they continue to suffer capability gaps.

Goldfein noted that the combatant commanders were not “blindsided” by the budget proposal and there is a “healthy tension” between the service’s budget proposal and the combatant commanders’ needs. He added that the department’s job is to understand the needs of each combatant commander and then lay out the situation for Congress, who ultimately provides oversight over the budget.