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Hearing of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee - Air Force Posture


Location: Washington, DC


REP. ROTHMAN: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for introducing us to these outstanding -- (inaudible) -- ask the committee for a round of applause to acknowledge -- (interrupted by applause).


Let me begin by asking the general questions -- (inaudible).

How is the Air Force today organizing and training and equipping itself to deal with the stress that face our nation today -- (inaudible) -- in the future? How is that -- (inaudible).

SEC. WYNNE: Well, sir we do believe that we are -- (inaudible) -- but we are accomplishing the missions that have been defined. (Inaudible) -- but we are being a little distressed in a couple ways: one is we just -- (inaudible) -- ground forces. We are responding to that. We are stretched in the sense that we have airplanes that are aging, up to 25 and 27 years in -- (inaudible).

So I will tell you that we are stretched but we are proud of the airmen and our -- (inaudible).

REP. ROTHMAN: (Inaudible) -- a 9 percent increase in Air Force budget over last year. (Inaudible.) My understanding is that the -- (inaudible) -- for lack of a better term -- (inaudible) -- the Air Force and an increase in personnel -- (inaudible) -- decrease addresses the need for other types of personnel in the Air Force. Is that correct, Chief?

SEC. WYNNE: Mr. Chairman -- (inaudible) -- whether they're active, Reserve, Guard -- (inaudible) -- are volunteers. We value what they bring to our Air Force. We regretted any reduction in force that we were required to do -- (inaudible) -- which prioritizes what percent of American -- (inaudible) -- in such a way that right now -- (inaudible) -- can't maintain the airplanes, they fall out of the sky.

So we've got to balance with recapitalization the -- (inaudible). When the Army -- (inaudible) -- increase their force structure, which they have, we've got to re-look at what the impact is on our Air Force. We can directly support them with our ground units, with our JPACs and with our Airborne. And so we need to be very careful about making sure that we're not out of balance and not of sync with where our ground force -- (inaudible).

REP. ROTHMAN: (General ?), did you want to -- (inaudible).

We are talking about -- (inaudible) -- you are explaining the president's request. This is the president's request for the Air Force.

SEC. WYNNE: Right.

REP. ROTHMAN: A 9 percent increase with these reductions in one kind of -- one segment of the force and increases in another segment. So what you're presenting to us is what the president would like us to accept. This -- okay, so you're fitting in within a 9 percent increase that he has imposed on you as his limit and the priorities you can accomplish for the Air Force within his priority dollar figure. Is that correct, sir?

SEC. WYNNE: That is correct. We support the president's budget and we believe we've prioritized it within that.

REP. ROTHMAN: General?

GEN. MOSELEY: Mr. Chairman, as we look at 17 years of continued deployed combat in the Middle East, to include Bosnia, Kosovo, Mogadishu, Somalia, on top of the 12 years of no-fly zones, some of the lessons learned from that length of a deployment in combat operations is that we can continue to evolve the Air Force under organized train and equip to look at units, to look at mission type, and to look at equipage and how we train these great airmen to be able to conduct that task.

So as we look at the growth of unmanned vehicles with multiple wings, we look at the growth of combat search and rescue, we look at, hopefully, recapitalization with newer equipment and what does that mean for our logistic support. For instance, we believe with the Joint Strike Fighter we can come from 18 Air Force specialty codes down to eight relative to those squadrons, so we think there's some inherent savings there, relative to the new systems.

But Mr. Chairman, I will also tell you, as our comrades in the Army grow, Air Force interface and Air Force units that directly support the Army also grow. For every one of the brigade combat teams that the Army grows, we have embedded airmen -- we have one sitting behind me here -- that do combat coms, combat weather, terminal air control parties, all embedded.

So for the Army growth that is programmed, we grow about a thousand or so airmen that live inside the Army.

REP. ROTHMAN: Gentlemen, if I may, and I'm just going to ask this question briefly -- it's a large question -- and then I want to recognize Mr. Lewis.

MR. : (Off mike.)

REP. ROTHMAN: I'm sorry?

MR. : (Off mike.)

REP. ROTHMAN: Okay. Then I'll start with go -- go the other way around, then.

In your opinion, Mr. Secretary, General, you have requested -- the president's request is a 9 percent increase over last year, from 108 to roughly 117.9 billion (dollars), but you are looking for an additional, or have mentioned that there is an additional wish list, so to speak, or rather a list of unfunded mandates, as it has been called, of an additional ($)17.9 billion on top of the 9 percent increase that you would like to have funded.

In your opinion, is there any part of the president's Air Force budget that can be used to address the -- any portion of the ($)17.9 billion unfunded mandate list that -- or that should be substituted for what is in the president's 9 percent increase?

SEC. WYNNE: Sir, we were pleased to get a 9 percent increase, as you mentioned. We were pleased that the president saw that we needed an allocation of that magnitude. The Congress asks us each year to come to them with what is the requirement to meet the national security strategy, how would you spend the next dollar. We felt like the appropriate thing to do is to stipulate a required force, to come off of that required force in a very balanced way, and to defend the president's budget as an acceptance of risk below that.

We think, as well, that you deserve to know where we would spend the next dollar. And we have established a baseline for the required force that we think is necessary. And I encourage the members of this committee to become familiar with that so that you understand the baseline with which the Air Force is (operating ?).


GEN. MOSELEY: Mr. Chairman, we take the national military strategy, we dialogue with the combatant commanders, we take their demand signals and their requirements and we build a required force that is parallel to those requirements. The program force is the amount of money that we have inside the president's budget. The delta in that is a reflection of the congressional-requested unfunded requirements list.


GEN. MOSELEY: Sir, I would take a bit of issue calling it a wish list because it deals with our people. It deals with combat capabilities and it deals with an Air Force that's at war. So we provide that to the Congress and that is a very open process that we say, given one more dollar, this is where we would spend it.

REP. ROTHMAN: So if we wanted to give you more money, you wouldn't spend it on these things, General?

GEN. MOSELEY: Sir, that's where the money would go, because that's what you've asked us to provide.

REP. ROTHMAN: And let me correct myself. It is not an unfunded mandate. It is an -- these are unfunded requirements. And we are grateful that you have thought through and laid out for the Congress these additional items. So I'm grateful.

Now may I --

REP. DICKS: Mr. Chairman, just yield on this point just a second.


REP. DICKS: Just to clarify -- Congress by statute, I think, has required the Air Force to do this.

REP. ROTHMAN: Yeah. I'm not being critical of that.

REP. DICKS: No, I just -- I think this is a good thing so that we know what we could do at the margin if we had a little extra money.

REP. ROTHMAN: And frankly, I think it's our responsibility to analyze the president's budget and analyze the list of unfunded requirements that the Air Force has presided. We may have a difference of opinion with the administration, as have prior committees with prior presidents in prior fiscal year budgets.

But I'd like now to -- so I don't take all the time -- to acknowledge and recognize Mr. Tiahrt.


REP. ROTHMAN: General, I'm just going to exercise the privilege of the chair to ask for a further clarification. Is it your testimony, or your statement to the committee, that the Air Force is now taking all the necessary steps to make certain that this kind of religious discrimination that Mr. Moran described will not happen again?

GEN. MOSELEY: Absolutely, sir, and we can provide for the record all of the studies and the work that we've done since those episodes if you would like that. We had a commission run by our deputy chief of staff for personnel and rounded up several outside experts to be able to go look at that.

And Mr. Chairman, Congressman Moran, we'd be happy to provide that and answer any other questions, because it's outrageous and it's "unsat" and we don't buy it.

REP. ROTHMAN: And sir, General, you're satisfied that you are taking and have taken all the steps necessary to assure that this won't happen again?

GEN. MOSELEY: Sir, you're never satisfied as a commander or chief of staff because you don't know what you don't know until it happens. But I am satisfied we've made the case that this is unacceptable behavior, we welcome all faiths and all disciplines, and that's the way it should be.

REP. ROTHMAN: Okay. This is your watch, General, right?

GEN. MOSELEY: Yes, sir.


REP. ROTHMAN: Thank you, Mr. Bishop.

Mr. Secretary, General, I have a few questions and then we'll start the second round. But for the record, understand that we as a committee and as Americans are in awe of the capability and the dedication of your service people under your command. We know that you are the difference between you and the other services, between the security of our country and the insecurity, or lack of security, and we are extraordinarily grateful for what you do. And we are mindful that it is only a handful of you with this extraordinary ability and talent and professionalism that make our Air Force the best on the planet Earth.

It is the responsibility of this Congress, however, and this committee to receive the president's budget for the Air Force and examine it thoroughly to make sure that our shared commitment to our national security is achieved -- is maximized by the president's allocation of dollars and that we spend the taxpayer dollars as wisely as possible. And there may be a disagreement about what system, what plane, what ordinance we would include if the president hasn't, et cetera, et cetera. But we share the same goal. We're simply trying to do our job to make sure that we examine these numbers ourselves, as a check and balance and to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities.

Along those lines, I've been told that in previous years the unfunded requirements list was called an unfunded priorities list and that not only did the name change this year but that the unfunded requirements list this year is not in priority order. If that is an accurate statement, I would ask for the record for the unfunded requirements list to be provided to us in priority order.

Do either of you gentlemen have a problem with that?

SEC. WYNNE: No, sir.

GEN. MOSELEY: No, sir.

REP. ROTHMAN: Thank you. Obviously, as soon as we can get that, it would be much appreciated and allow us to do our work even more effectively.

In November of '07, the F-15 broke apart. My understanding is, as was appropriate, the entire inventory of F-15s was then examined with a fine-tooth comb and several of the aircraft were deemed to be in danger of falling apart because of some -- a crack or other defects. And I'm assuming, but I'd like you to confirm, that you feel confident now that you have identified the problems or problem with the F-15.

Can you tell me, have you gone through the KC-135s with the same fine-tooth comb, given their age, to assure us and the American people that we have -- we're paying as close attention as possible to a potential problem with these KC-135s?

SEC. WYNNE: I can tell you, sir, that there's no engineering models that go this long. There's no engineering models that have these kind of hours in them. So every day is a brand new discovery. Our maintenance people are doing miracle work. We do, however, do tear-downs and we look very hard at the KC-135s that are going to be flying, we think, for another 35 to 40 years -- at least the last one. We also will tell you that on the F-15s -- this is the third of a stress thing, and you know stresses have to go somewhere on an airplane. When you pull an airplane at 9 Gs, they have to go somewhere.

We have chased them down into the region we think was the problem and we are repairing that. We believe that we have gotten it down to the point where we can tell our pilots that this is a safe and effective fleet. But I can tell you, sir, that as time goes on you can't patch your way into a combat force. You are going to experience what I call geriatric aging that we all hate to admit among ourselves, but it does occur. Metal fatigue -- it does occur in systems.


GEN. MOSELEY: Mr. Chairman, thanks for that question. We have a fleet viability board that looks at major weapons systems. We've looked at the KC-135, we've looked at the C-5, the C-130, the A-10. Now we're asking the system to look at the F-15 to give us some idea about long-term sustainability. But the secretary is exactly right. On the KC-135, we're beyond any engineering fail rate data from the company that built the airplane. And they build good airplanes. And to go to them and ask them what's going to break on this airplane, it's tough to know.

So, as to the question about dignity in the Air Force Academy, as the service chief I'm never satisfied that I know everything about the aircraft as they age and that I understand everything that's going to break next, because I don't.

On the F-15s, it was a major wake-up when we had a longeron break -- had an airplane break apart in flight. We got our Missouri Guardsman back; he's had some surgery and we'll get him back in shape. But sir, you're never satisfied that you know everything about that.

REP. ROTHMAN: As long as you make -- I understand, what your testimony is, is that you're making the effort to do as much as you can do --

GEN. MOSELEY: Yes, sir.

REP. ROTHMAN: -- to discover problems in these other aircraft.

GEN. MOSELEY: And on the F-15 side, we're about to embark on another set of evaluations where we go through another set of fatigue tests on an airplane off the line, as well as a tear-down test, and let the company partner with us on finding out what is any more predictive data that is knowable on how to maintain the aircraft that are now 30 years old.

REP. ROTHMAN: I have one more question, then I'm going to go to Mr. Tiahrt. And this is the general -- a general broad picture question about changes that the Air Force has made to the counterspace systems programs, if any, in response to the recent Chinese anti- satellite test. This is an open hearing; I'm certain that there are plenty of things that are being done that you can't talk about in an open hearing, but to address that potential threat, the present threat of anti-satellite weapons or the future threat of anti-satellite weapons.

SEC. WYNNE: I can tell you, sir, this goes to the executive agent for space. The executive agent for space, which is myself, has not the authority that he could have. We have demanded, for example, that any future space thing be -- come with a defensive suite, which can be argued as to whether it has merit or not, but I find myself engrossed in a coalition of the willing. In other words, I don't have the authority to direct it. I have to encourage and essentially take the moral high ground that America's space needs defense.

REP. ROTHMAN: Excuse me, Secretary, I'm not sure I follow. Who do you have to encourage, and is this a lack of congressional authority or some other --

SEC. WYNNE: Sir, there is -- there are more people managing space than there are suppliers to space in our government. And this is a question of who is in charge of space within the national security regime.

REP. ROTHMAN: Are you requesting that the Congress delineate or designate your office, and you in particular, to head this effort, and that all efforts be unified under your command?

SEC. WYNNE: The Congress actually created a panel to examine the implementation of the space commission. This was chaired by I think at the time Secretary Rumsfeld before he became Defense secretary. They have a report coming to Congress. I think -- I would encourage the Congress to review that and take them up on their offer that some of the implementation is a little bit flawed, and I think they would seek to restore the executive agent for space to make sure there is one.

REP. ROTHMAN: And do you know when we can expect that report, sir?

SEC. WYNNE: Yes, sir, I believe they're making it available this spring.

REP. ROTHMAN: This spring. Thank you.

General, did you want to comment on that?

GEN. MOSELEY: Mr. Chairman --

REP. ROTHMAN: And on the anti-satellite weapons program?

GEN. MOSELEY: Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman, thanks for that question, because that also gets at the heart of maintaining space and assured access to space for this country, not only military but for commercial.

The United States Air Force takes this role very seriously as far as space situation awareness and beginning to look at ways to maintain security of systems, not just the satellite itself but the link in the ground station, because that's the synergy of all of that. And we have Air Force Space Command that spends 24 hours a day, seven days a week, worrying about this problem, and we have a new commander of US STRATCOM that happens to have been the commander of Air Force Space Command.

So, sir, I would tell you that we worry bout this quite a bit and we understand very well what the threats to those systems are and what options we have as we evolve into newer systems, fielding newer systems that are much more survivable and much more capable, that they should fit inside that concern.

REP. ROTHMAN: Thank you, General.


REP. ROTHMAN: Thank you, Mr. Bishop.

Mr. Secretary, General, thank you so much for testifying and coming before our committee. We look forward to receiving the items that you indicated you would be providing the committee for the record and, again, receiving them as soon as possible.

Please convey to the men and women under your command our deep gratitude, respect, affection and support for their professionalism and effectiveness in defending our country and doing what they do better than any other Air Force, again, on the planet Earth.

We know that you gentlemen, as their leaders, have an awesome responsibility to coordinate all of these efforts and to do so within the budget provided to you by the president and by the Congress, and we are grateful for your many, many years of outstanding service. You are in our prayers, but we do expect from all of the people who work in government, ourselves and you as well, the highest degree of excellence, effectiveness and professionalism. So Godspeed to you both and to the men and women who serve with you.


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