Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement after today’s Full Committee hearing to receive testimony from the Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Michael W. Wynne, and the Air Force Chief of Staff, General T. Michael Moseley, on the Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for the Department of the Air Force:

            “The U.S. Air Force is very much a service at war and combat, having flown over 430,000 sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  In addition to their traditional combat role of providing air support, 7,700 Air Force personnel have supplemented functions on the ground in duties usually performed by the Army and Marine Corps, including detainee operations, interpreters, convoy operations, explosive ordnance disposal, and police training.

            “This is only some of what our forces are doing to make us so proud.  But as with our other military services, I am deeply concerned about the state of Air Force readiness.  The pace of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere has stressed the ability of the Air Force to man, operate, maintain, and modernize its ten Air Expeditionary Forces.  Readiness to meet Air Force current missions has declined 17 percent since 2001 as a result of higher operations tempo; increased operations costs for fuel, spare parts, and utilities; and the higher cost of supporting older aircraft fleets.  On top of that, the Air Force’s list of unfunded requirements for the coming fiscal year is at an all time high.  

            “Another primary concern must be the size of our forces.  Our military is only as good as the people who volunteer to serve, and we cannot afford to ignore the fact that wartime operations are placing enormous pressure on our men and women in uniform and their families.  While the Pentagon has recognized this strain and requested significant force level increases for the Army and Marine Corps, this year’s budget for the Air Force includes personnel reductions of 5,600 in the active duty force, 7,400 in the Air Force Reserve, and 300 in the Air National Guard.

“We have learned that fighting the War on Terrorism will require more people, not less.  If we are to expect that the Air Force will provide the same amount of global power and global reach to joint forces, I believe that personnel reductions of this magnitude should be reconsidered in this budget and in future years.”