The Readiness Subcommittee met today for a hearing on Department of the Air Force Aircraft Force Structure Reductions. Chairman Randy Forbes (VA) made the following statement available as prepared for delivery:
"I want to welcome all our members, Governor Branstad and our other distinguished panel witnesses to today's hearing that will focus on the readiness impact associated with proposed reductions in the United States Air Force inventory.
"In this year's budget request, the president proposed significant reductions in the United States Air Force aviation inventory and proposed to retire 227 aircraft in fiscal year 2013. In supporting this request, General Schwartz, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force indicated that the Air Force 'will be a smaller but superb force that maintains our agility, our flexibility and readiness to engage a full range of contingencies and threats.'
"Using General Schwartz's rationale, a smaller force would be capable of supporting the entirety of Air Force requirements around the globe.
"My friends, I do not share General Schwartz's assessment and optimism. The force structure proposed by the president in the fiscal year 2013 budget request is not supported by the requirements and was driven by a fiscally constrained budget. In fact, the Air Force has previously provided the strategic rationale and in public testimony supported a much larger force structure.
"If we adopt the budget request proposed by the President and embark on the road to reduce our force structure, we will make the United States less secure and embolden hostile nations to challenge the United States in areas that will not be to our advantage. In the end, the additional risk borne by our budget decisions of today could be paid in the loss of American lives.
"I opposed dropping off the force structure cliff of the Budget Control Act and will actively oppose the debilitating impact associated with sequestration.
"As to the impact of the aviation force structure reductions to the active, guard and reserve components, I believe that it is incumbent on all of the components, to include the Council of Governors, to have an active dialogue to discuss their needs and develop a common understanding of the strategic implications associated with their various interests. It is only through a vigorous discussion of the 'nations' interests that a clear path will be provided.
"As to the road ahead, it appears that there are certain force structure movements that can be agreed by all parties. I would hope that these agreements could be quickly concluded. This would go a long way in relieving the indecision associated with many service members as to their roles in support of national defense. I hope that our hearing today will serve to foster this additional dialogue and best serve our nation.
"Finally, I have heard that some of my colleagues have proposed an independent panel to assess the overall force structure requirements of the United States Air Force. Some critics of this proposal have indicated that the time associated with this independent assessment would significantly harm the Air Force and serve to exacerbate future modernization efforts. While I would support this independent assessment, I believe that there are elements of the overall force structure that should move forward that have broad support and would oppose an extensive freeze of the existing force structure while this assessment is ongoing. Additional clarity on the requirements that support the overall force structure has been lacking for many years and is clearly warranted.
"To better assess the overall United States Air Force aviation force structure, we have prepared two panels representing the United States Air Force and the Council of Governors. Representing the Council of Governors, I am pleased to introduce the first panel consisting of a single witness:
The Honorable Terry Branstad.
Governor of the State of Iowa"