The Defense Drumbeat Blog

"It’s so big [the defense budget] that you can make relatively modest changes to defense that end up giving you a lot of headroom to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that.”    -President Obama, July 6, 2011

As the Navy’s fleet readiness problems have drawn increased attention, news of eye-opening readiness shortfalls are emerging from other U.S. military service branches. 

Dan Blumenthal at AEI points out that in the fighter category alone, the Air Force “will face an 800-fighter shortfall later this decade.” “The readiness cracks have been showing and worsening for years. Barely half of all Air Force units were fully mission-capable, and that was back in 2007.”

Mackenzie Eaglen from the Heritage Foundation highlights in a comprehensive piece on readiness that the Air Force has problems meeting required readiness standards beyond fighter aircraft.

Eaglen points to a number of examples including the case of an Air Force F-15C that “broke in half because of a fatigue crack.”

Eaglen also notes that “Some Air Force A-10Cs are experiencing fuselage cracks--this after substantial funds were spent to re-wing and upgrade their avionics. The B-1 bomber, used at high rates in current combat operations, has the worst availability rate: 32 percent.”

Eaglen goes on to say that“The C-130 fleet now needs a new center wing box design even after the H model avionics were modernized. The Air Force's UH-1N Twin Huey helicopter is frequently grounded. The airframes suffer from age-related cracks in rotor hubs, lift-beam area, and tail-boom assemblies. Not only is it a Herculean effort to keep the Vietnam-era helos in the sky, but the Air Force has to continuously work through ‘the issues of parts availability and obsolescence." according to the Air Force Global Strike Command boss quoted in Air Force magazine. And, even when flying, it's "not meeting the speed, payload, and range requirements for the Air Force's missile field security mission.’

So how will President Obama’s proposed $400 Billion (or more) cut to our defense budget affect Air Force Readiness? The simple truth is that the United States Air Force, and other service branches, can expect more deficiencies should President Obama’s proposed cuts be enacted. With our fighting men and women engaged in three theaters of war, this is a dangerous game to be playing.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in May that:

"If the political leadership of this country decides that it must reduce the investment in defense by hundreds of billions of dollars, then I don't think we can afford to have anything that's 'off the table,'” Gates said even about eliminating part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Gates was also noted for saying that he “already had cut as much as was advisable.

Can our nation’s defense really afford these “modest changes”?