Dayton Daily News Updated: 4:45 p.m. Monday, October 23, 2017 | Posted: 3:43 p.m. Monday, October 23, 2017
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE —The Air Force has been “hemorrhaging” pilots in a growing shortage that shows the impact sequestration has had on the military, a top congressional defense leader said.
Making his first trek to Wright-Patterson, House Armed Services Committee chairman and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the shortage of Air Force pilots could exceed 1,900 based on what the high-level congressional leader was told last week. At the end of fiscal year 2016, the Air Force estimated it was about 1,500 aviators short.
“This is an example of where cutting the defense budget by 20 percent since 2010 has real consequences,” Thornberry said at a press conference Monday at the Miami Valley base with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, chairman of the House Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee.
....Turner said sequestration, or automatic defense budget cuts, has had a “devastating impact across the board” to the Department of Defense. The spending reductions were enacted under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and meant to last a decade.
“This is all about we need an adequately funded budget with consistency so that the Department of Defense can plan,” he said.
...“We are short (aircraft) maintainers in the thousands and even if we are able to pass the ideal defense budget next week, you can’t just flip a switch and have a competent fighter pilot or a competent maintainer appear out of thin air,” Thornberry said. “It takes time to develop the expertise, it takes money to go through the training."
...Pentagon spending has been capped at last fiscal year’s levels since Oct. 1 when Congress failed to pass a new defense bill before the start of the 2017 fiscal year. Since then, the military has operated under a continuing resolution, set to expire Dec. 8.
“One of the highest priorities … in the next few weeks in Congress is to have an adequate defense budget passed and signed into law so that these people (at Wright-Patterson) have the resources and the funding stability they need to just focus on their work,” Thornberry said. “They don’t need to worry about Washington politics interfering with what they do because it is so important to the country.”