Keith’s Congressional Corner

November 6, 2018

November 06, 2018

Keith’s Congressional Corner

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt

November 6th is Election Day. AFA encourages you to exercise your right to vote.

35 Senate and all 440 House of Representative seats are up for election or re-election. It’s important to remember that future federal budgets and priorities will be affected by this year’s election and the resulting composition of the new Congress, which starts in January.

My next Congressional Corner will present an analysis of how the new 116th Congress will likely influence budgets and programs for the Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs that affect our Air Force, our AFA members and their families, and veterans.

For the past few decades, military experience in Congress declined. This year, 172 veterans won primaries and will appear on midterm ballots. They represent service spanning from the 1950s to today and have experience in Active- Duty, reserves, and Coast Guard.

“The capability gap that separates us from other air forces is narrowing. That gap will close even faster under BCA (Budget Control Act) levels of funding. When sequestration first hit in 2013, we saw the domino effect it had on our pilots, maintainers, weapons loaders, air traffic controllers, and our fighters and bomber squadrons. Readiness levels of those central-to-combat operations plummeted. In short, we were not fully ready. We cannot afford to let that happen again.”
– Gen Larry Spencer, Vice Chief of Staff, USAF
March 15, 2015 Readiness Hearing before Senate Armed Services Committee

We have been told to stop expecting the same level of spending in the president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget which is scheduled to be released in February. In fact, absent new law, sequestration is scheduled to return in FY 2020. Tamping down expectations for continued high budgets, the president has asked the Executive Branch federal agencies to cut five percent from next year’s budget. For the Department of Defense (DOD), it will likely mean a 2.3 percent cut and a spending limit of $700 billion. At this eleventh hour of budgeting, the DOD is creating two budgets for submission—one for $733 billion and one for $700 billion. Editor’s Note: DOD received $700 billion in FY 2018 and $716 billion in FY 2019.

Last month, AFA met with the associations affiliated with the National Guard and Reserve to synchronize priorities and messaging for the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Many of us agree that the 116th Congress will be critical in our collective advocating for Guard and Reserve issues. More to follow.

I also participated in an Air Force Roundtable at the Pentagon with a select handful of fellow military and veterans service organizations. The Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Air Staff leaders gave presentations and discussed Tyndall AFB recovery efforts, “The Air Force We Need,” modernization requirements, the pilot shortage, and military kids in the public school system.

AFA’s thoughts and prayers continue to be with the many Airmen, families, and civilians affected by Hurricane Michael. 1,300 airmen are diligently striving to bring Tyndall AFB, FL back from despair. The badly damaged F-22s that remained at the base have been made flyable and will depart within days. That said, I talked with a 1AF civilian last week who said the pictures and stories fail to capture the devastation and the long recovery process ahead. Air Force Magazine has extensively covered these efforts and will continue to publish timely stories about our fellow Airmen.

Air Force Highlights

“I’m an Airman. I’m not a space guy. I’m not a cyber guy. The badge doesn’t matter, it’s what’s below the badge that matters.”
– Gen John Hyten

DoD’s Space Force Plan Diverges from USAF Vision | 22 Oct 2018 | by Steve Hirsch

The Pentagon’s plan to create an independent Space Force would create a lean new military service headed by a secretary and uniformed chief of staff and built from staff and commands now in the Air Force, Navy, and Army.

But the plan, outlined in a 13-page draft proposal reviewed by Air Force Magazine, diverges from an earlier Air Force proposal by leaving out the National Reconnaissance Office and describing a lean organization in which many support functions would remain with the current parent services.

Under the plan, the Defense Department would “consolidate the preponderance of space missions” under the Space Force, but leave service-specific, space-related missions, such as Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, cyber operations, and “the overall missile defense mission,” in the existing armed services. Those missions might be re-evaluated for inclusion in the new force later on. Read more.

“The Air Force failed to identify space as essential to their identity. A Space Force would have had no such qualms. A Space Force would have used the opportunity of the threat to push even harder and faster to defend U.S. space assets, not engage in a retreat — because if they did not, they would no longer matter. Similarly, while the Air Force jealously advocates for more and more resources for air operations, and consistently attempts to expand its mission space to engage in new areas of warfare, it consistently tries to shed space missions as unnecessary or unessential.”
– Doug Loverro, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy

Space Force policy memo being drafted to establish new military branch | 22 Oct 2018 | by Sandra Erwin

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday will hold a meeting of the National Space Council at the National Defense University to discuss the next steps toward creating a Space Force as a new branch of the U.S. military.

According to a draft of the policy directive, the Defense Department would have to submit a legislative proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget by Dec. 1 recommending that a Space Force be formed as a separate branch of the armed forces. DoD also would submit a budget request for the new service to be included in the president’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2020.

According to the draft policy document, the Space Force would be composed of a Department of the Space Force led by a civilian and a U.S. Space Force led by a four-star officer who would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The term Space Force only applies to the new branch, not to U.S. Space Command, a unified combatant command that is in the process of being formed. The Space Force would be responsible to provide space services to all U.S. combatant commands.

The draft also directs the Pentagon to form a Space Development Agency in fiscal year 2019.

A big unknown is how Congress might react to the administration’s proposal. The legislative branch has the final say on whether plans for a new military service can move forward. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have endorsed the establishment of U.S. Space Command but many are not yet sold on the idea of a new military service, and would want to consider alternatives such as organizing a Space Corps under the Department of the Air Force. Opponents have challenged the idea of a separate service as wasteful spending that would drain resources and focus from the national security space mission, and have cautioned about unintended consequences of breaking up the Air Force. Read more.

“Airpower is like oxygen. When you have enough, you don’t have to think about it. When you don’t have enough, that’s all you can thing about.”
– Gen Frank Gorenc, USAF (Ret.)

Wilson: KC-46 Delivery Will Slip, Again | 19 Oct 2018 | by Brian Everstine

The Air Force and Boeing expect the first delivery of the KC-46, previously scheduled for Oct. 27, to slip again as the aircraft’s refueling system and avionics await Federal Aviation Administration certification. Read more.

Mattis Asks Trump to OK US Space Command, Pick Leaders | 19 Oct 2018 | by Marcus Weisgerber

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has asked President Trump to approve the creation of a new military headquarters for space warfare, as Pentagon officials proposed earlier this summer.

The request is the latest in a series of bureaucratic moves made inside the Pentagon in recent weeks that set the stage for the Defense Department’s formal proposal early next year to establish a Space Force — a sixth branch of the military. Read more.

Dental and Vision Insurance Changes

Effective January 1, 2019, retired members of the uniformed services, their families, and family members of active duty service members will be eligible for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). Eligible individuals must enroll during the 2018 federal Benefits Open Season from November 12 to December 10, 2018 to have coverage starting January 1, 2019. The current U.S. Department of Defense’s TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) will sunset on December 31, 2018. For more information about this new opportunity to join FEDVIP, please visit

Quotes to Note

  • “The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking us to do. The difference between what is needed and what is available is measured in risk.”
    – The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force
  • “Our nation faces current and future challenges in space that demand an immediate change in how we organize, train, equip, and employ our force. The Space Mission Force represents how we will meet these challenges.”
    – Gen John Hyten, then Commander, Air Force Space Command
  • “These things we do, that others may live.”
    – US Air Force Pararescue

Your Air Force – Did You Know?

In the four years before 2018, approximately 70,000 munitions were expended in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

The Air Force provides approximately 75 percent of the Defense Department’s nuclear command, control, and communications capabilities and operates two legs of the triad—intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.

AETC: Air Education and Training Command, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas is the second oldest major command in the Air Force. AETC was formed in January 1942 as the Army Air Corps Flying Training Command with headquarters in Washington, D.C. Less than a year later, the headquarters moved to Fort Worth, Texas. The headquarters ultimately moved to Randolph AFB in 1957. In July 1993, Air Training Command and Air University merged to form AETC. The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Plan renamed Randolph Air Force Base to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. Over the years, more than 25 million students have graduated from AETC training and education programs.

Some of the military’s most difficult missions are carried out by Combat Controllers. Acting as a one-man attachment to special operations teams across all United States Military Branches, it’s up to these specialists to provide command and control and direct air traffic in remote, and often hostile, areas. It takes years of training and a commitment to excellence in a range of skills to become one of these elite warriors and succeed on missions all over the world.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bounds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings…” What is the name of this famous poem that Airmen know, and who is the author?

Key Dates to Watch


  • Oct 1 – FY 2019 Began
  • Nov 6 – Election Day
  • Nov 11 – Veterans Day
  • Nov 14 – AFA Breakfast with Gen Stephen “Seve” Wilson, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Key Bridge Marriott
  • Dec 7 – Mitchell Institute Breakfast with Gen John Raymond, Commander, Air Force Space Command, Capitol Hill Club


  • Feb 4 – Expected release of FY 2020 President’s Budget
  • Feb 27-Mar 1 – AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, FL

If you have questions, please contact:

Keith Zuegel, (Ret.), USAF
Senior Director, Government Relations
Air Force Association (AFA)