Keith’s Congressional Corner

December 5, 2018

December 05, 2018

Keith’s Congressional Corner


“I think when you see an aircraft fire, these angry, black puffs of smoke, knowing that one of them could kill you that you – you – you understand the seriousness of the mission. And you understand your own mortality.”
– Pres. George H.W. Bush

AFA honors President George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States and Commander in Chief during Operation DESERT STORM, who passed away on November 30, 2018. His memorial service is today (Wednesday) in Washington, DC. A great American, he was one of the youngest World War II Navy pilots, two-term congressman, Ambassador to the United States, and the 11th Director of Central Intelligence. He later became the 43rd Vice President of the United States from 1981 to 1989 and 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1993. “Godspeed” and “Fair Winds and Following Seas,” Mr. President.

“The security and well being of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades. America’s military superiority—the hard-power backbone of its global influence and national security—has eroded to a dangerous degree. Rivals and adversaries are challenging the United States on many fronts and in many domains. America’s ability to defend its allies, its partners, and its own vital interests is increasingly in doubt. If the nation does not act promptly to remedy these circumstances, the consequences will be grave and lasting.”
– National Defense Strategy Commission, November 14, 2018 report

Last week, National Defense Strategy Commission co-chairs testified about the current state of the U.S. military and the need for an increased level of defense spending. Although the Air Force has pulled up a bit from its descending glide slope of readiness levels, more needs to be done.

“The Pentagon would be forced to cut in areas where the most money can be saved quickly—troops, new equipment, training and maintenance—as it did under sequestration in 2013. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be asked to find $33 billion, for example, by planning for lower troop levels, diminishing the U.S. capability to stay ahead of China and Russia, sacrificing readiness—or all three.”
– Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee and
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee

The last two defense budgets ($700 billion and $716 billion) were tremendously helpful, but increased funding levels can’t be a short-term remedy. Congress needs to continue with stable and predictable budgets—at a sufficient level. During the testimony, it was argued that next year’s defense budget needs to have $733 billion as the floor of spending in order to grow the force, fix readiness, and modernized its geriatric aircraft.

Guessing the organizational construct and cost of the Space Force—a sixth military service—has been called the new budgetary game in town. It’s really fun to play…

AFA has opposed the creation of a separate Space Force for now, because we have yet to learn 1) the purpose of the Space Force—what is the new force trying to achieve that the Air Force isn’t already doing?—and 2) the cost. These seem like fair questions especially with the expected decrease in the defense budget next year.

“I don’t think there’s a lot to this [Air Force Space Force cost analysis] process. The methodology is not very sophisticated. They’re giving no indication of where they got the numbers from. I don’t give this a lot of credibility…I would say this is an example of malicious compliance.”
– Todd Harrison, Director, Defense Budget Analysis, Center for Strategic and International Studies

So, what will standing up a Space Force really cost? Seems nobody knows and everybody wants to guess, yet the Defense Department is moving out regardless. In a new report by Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the cost could be as high as $21.3 billion.

Unfortunately, for that amount of money, you gain little more than standing up the new headquarters and buying business cards and letterhead. It doesn’t improve our nation’s space capability. It just sets up a separate stove pipe of bureaucracy. Let’s put $21.3 billion into perspective…that would procure almost all of the aircraft and space programs the Air Force purchased this last fiscal year (FY) 2019—an additional 48 F-35A fighters; 15 KC-46A tankers; 7 C-130s; 10 Combat Rescue Helicopters; as well as another round of the space procurement programs. That would go far in remedying Air Force readiness challenges and unfulfilled combatant commanders’ warfighter requirements.

Following the elections, Congress returned in a lame duck session. They have unfinished work and need to pass seven appropriations bills funding the Departments of Treasury, State, Commerce, Justice, Interior, Transportation, and Agriculture, among other agencies by December 7th. Thankfully, by the start of this fiscal year, Congress did pass the authorization and appropriations bills funding the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

AFA continues to follow the resumption of operations at Tyndall AFB after the devastating damage caused by October’s Hurricane Michael—the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous United States in terms of pressure. 31 F-22s will soon be operating from nearby Eglin AFB, however, Tyndall families will be affected for months.

One last reminder…retirees utilizing the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) need to enroll for the FEDVIP dental coverage. If you are currently enrolled in a TRDP plan, you will NOT be automatically enrolled in a FEDVIP plan for 2019. In addition, family members of active duty uniformed service members who are enrolled in a TRICARE health plan are eligible for FEDVIP vision coverage. If you want coverage beginning January 1, 2019, the latest date to enroll is DECEMBER 10, 2018.

Air Force Highlights

“The United States confronts more numerous—and more severe—threats than at any time in decades.”
– National Defense Strategy Commission, November 14, 2018 report

The 2020 Defense Budget — Risk Trumps Security | 26 Nov 2018 | by (Ret.) Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula

The Commission, “recommends that Congress increase the base budget at an average of rate of 3 to 5 percent above inflation through the future years defense programs and perhaps beyond.”

Cuts that save money in a single budget year often drive significant problems into future years. They make no sense if they undermine the ultimate objective of providing America’s men and women in uniform what they need to fight and win against the high-end threats that have now emerged.

In this regard the President’s new cuts may exacerbate two negative trends already in play. The first is stretching out equipment buys to spread costs over many years delaying necessary replacement of aging defense equipment and driving up acquisition costs by not optimizing efficient volume production. The second is buying lesser technology weapon systems that may appear to be cheaper in terms of procurement and sustainment costs, but offer less military capability against high-end threats thereby failing to meet our critical defense strategy challenges. Read more.

Inhofe sets collision course with Dems on defense budget, nukes and transgender troops | 28 Nov 2018 | by Joe Gould

Sen. Jim Inhofe [R-OK; Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee] on Tuesday released an outline of priorities for the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, signaling plans to aggressively negotiate over the first defense policy bill from a divided Congress since 2014.

Otherwise, Inhofe’s NDAA would also be a modernization bonanza, accelerating F-35 fighter jet purchases to triple the fleet by 2024; accelerating fielding of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber to complete five squadrons; and moving the goal line for a 355-ship naval fleet up to 2040 (versus 2060). He also prioritizes test facilities for a nascent hypersonic weapon. Read more.

“The point that the report makes is that $733 billion for the next fiscal year should be considered a floor and that we should probably be more than that… Those last two years have been a down payment [to reverse spending cuts and address readiness and modernization failures.]”
– Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Senate Armed Services Committee

White House Budget Cuts Could Reverse Progress, Military Strategy Experts Say | 27 Nov 2018 | by Brian Everstine

The Pentagon planned to present a $733 billion budget proposal for Fiscal 2020—the anticipated “floor” to implement the National Defense Strategy, retired Adm. Gary Roughead, the 29th Chief of Naval Operations, and former ambassador Eric Edelman, the co-chairmen of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, President Trump recently ordered government departments to prepare for a 5 percent budget cut, which would bring that budget from the current enacted level of $716 billion down to $700 billion.

The proposed cut “is a step in the wrong direction,” Roughead and Edelman said in testimony to the committee. “Sustained, timely, real budgetary growth is needed to deliver the defense the American people expect and deserve.”

The Pentagon is preparing two separate requests, one at its original level and one at the requested reduction, since the higher amount has been in planning for months and “we are not going to reverse course,” Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said last month, noting the cuts could affect areas such as hypersonics and other modernization efforts.

The Commission released its Congressionally mandated report earlier this month, stating that the military has eroded to a “dangerous degree” at a time when the country’s security is at a great risk. Specifically for the Air Force, the commission said the service needs more aircraft and weapons systems, especially bombers, long-range fighters, tankers, and, most of all, surveillance aircraft. Read more.

“There’s a sense that the last two years of growth have fixed the problems. Nothing could be further from the truth, whether it’s in readiness, whether it’s in conventional modernization or nuclear modernization. But I think that’s kind of feeding this idea that it’s time to taper down.”
– ADM Gary Roughead, 29th Chief of Naval Operations, Co-Chair, National Defense Strategy Commission

Budget cuts could imperil military and national security, experts, lawmakers warn | 27 Nov 2018 | by Claudia Grisales

The commission, which is directed by Congress to weigh the National Defense Strategy against global threats, has said an inadequately resourced military could struggle to win, or even risk losing, a confrontation with major powers such as China or Russia. Major powers competition is a central theme of the National Defense Strategy issued in January. Read more.

“There is a mismatch between our strategy and the means to carry it out. We can’t simply buy our way out of this problem. What’s needed are innovative operational concepts and capabilities.”
– Thomas Mahnken, member, National Defense Strategy Commission

Analysis: Military-Spending Slowdown Would Fuel Strategy Debate | 25 Nov 2018 | by Michael R. Gordon

But the era of rising defense budgets may prove to be short-lived. With the federal budget deficit growing and the military’s mission expanding to include a heightened competition with Russia and China, a new strategy debate is heating up.

The tug of war will begin in earnest early next year with the Defense Department’s spending request for fiscal 2020.

But it is unlikely that the next several years will see sustained annual spending increases of 3% to 5% above inflation—the level that the commission on the Pentagon’s strategy says would be needed to adequately fund the Defense Department’s current strategy. Read more.

Looming budget crunch puts DoD space strategy in jeopardy | 25 Nov 2018 | by Sandra Erwin

A two-year period of rising defense spending is coming to an end as the Trump administration moves to slice billions of dollars from military budgets. What this means for space-focused investments — such as missile-tracking satellites, technologies to protect U.S. satellites from adversaries and, notably, the establishment of a new military branch — is still unknown. But analysts and former government officials predict these efforts are all at risk, especially with House Democrats preparing to challenge the president on defense priorities. Read more.

USAF Believes It’s Making Progress Training New Pilots | 20 Nov 2018 | by Rob Mark

U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson recently told a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee that the branch trained 1,160 new pilots in fiscal 2017, and expects to train 1,311 in fiscal 2019, before expanding further. The Air Force wants to train 1,500 new pilots each year by fiscal 2022 as part of its effort to solve its troubling shortage of aviators. Increased pilot training capacity will become even more important as the Air Force seeks to increase its number of operational squadrons from 312 to 386 by the end of 2030.

The Air Force said it’s taken several steps to try and improve air crew’s quality of life and quality of service, one of the problems that leads some aviators to leave the Air Force. Wilson highlighted efforts to reduce operating tempos, revitalize squadrons and restore support staff so air crew can concentrate on flying, as well as generous incentive pay and bonuses. Read more.

Independent Estimate Puts Space Force Tab at Up to $21.5 Billion | 19 Nov 2018 | by Brian Everstine

Creating a new Space Force could cost up to $21.5 billion—or as little as $11.5 billion, according to a new report by Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The biggest difference between the Air Force estimate [$12.92B] and Harrison’s three options, however, may be in headquarters costs.

The Pentagon expects to release its plan for the creation of the Space Force in the Fiscal 2020 budget request in February. Read more.

Don’t Expect Any Trump Boost To Defense Spending | 19 Nov 2018 | by Mackenzie Eaglen

Contrary to the president’s rhetoric, there is no forthcoming Trump buildup, and the new strategy emphasizing China and Russia is becoming ever more elusive and out of touch with fiscal reality. It is simply unaffordable at this point in time.

Note: Breaking Defense editor: Her bottom line: the proposed 2020 defense budget of $733 billion (or $700 billion) really doesn’t get us above inflation and falls far short of the 3 to 5 percent annual increase the Commission on the National Defense Strategy says is necessary to counter and contain Russia and China.

With a Democrat-led House coming to town, Washington is ready for very tough negotiations on the next and final budget deal of the Budget Control Act. But that’s missing the forest for the trees. No matter how much money the Pentagon gets, the president’s budget for next year is still flat or declining. Contrary to the president’s rhetoric, there is no forthcoming Trump buildup, and the new strategy emphasizing China and Russia is becoming ever more elusive and out of touch with fiscal reality. It is simply unaffordable at this point in time. Read more.

Quotes to Note

  • “[DoD funding] has got to be sustained. It has got to be predictable…And it has to be adequate… it is not just about the topline. It is about the degree of predictability…Various levels of resources can be accommodated, if it allows us to make sound investments over a course of five, or seven, or ten years.”
    – GEN. Joseph Dunford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

  • “I really do have a hard time…with companies that are working very hard to engage in a market inside of China…engaged in arrangements where intellectual property is shared with the Chinese…which is synonymous with sharing it with the Chinese military, and don’t want to work with the U.S. military…We are the good guys.”
    – GEN. Joseph Dunford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

  • “I reject that we are in a position economically where we cannot be competitive. I believe our economy can support us being competitive…and at that historic-low level of [~3%-4% GDP] investment, we can deliver the right capabilities.”
    – GEN. Joseph Dunford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

  • “From flight testing the X-15 to the F-117, Edwards in the Mojave Desert has been at the forefront of keeping our Air Force on the cutting edge. Now, testing the B-21 Raider will begin another historic chapter in the base’s history.”
    – Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force

  • “For more than a hundred years now our armed forces have fought in defense of our common values and interests. Our two countries have developed the deepest, broadest and most advanced defense relationship of any two nations. The agreement to relocate the United States Rivet Joint capability to RAF Fairford cements U.S. presence at the base and will bring substantial benefits to Gloucestershire and local communities.”
    – The Honorable Tobias Ellwood, UK Defence Minister

Your Air Force – Did You Know?

According to a DoD IG quarterly report, from July through September of 2018, the Air Force flew twice the number of sorties and dropped five times as many bombs in Afghanistan as it did during the same time period last year.

The Year of the Defender: “We have to fight and secure a base before we can get the bombers to where they need to go. I’m expecting that if an Airman wears a [defender’s] beret, they’re the best in the business. I’m not going to be happy until our defenders are checking out their weapons before a patrol and going to a range and firing them not once a year, not twice a year, but every day, because their weapons need to be sighted and effective, and our Airmen need to be confident in their weapon to defend the base.” – Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force

Fewer than half of one percent of Americans serve in the military. Fewer than 15 percent of young adults have a parent who has served (compared to 40 percent in 1995). More than 70 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are ineligible for military service. 80 percent of those in uniform today had a family member serve in the U.S. military. Many Americans cannot provide accurate or specific facts about the military and those who serve. The military is increasingly disconnected from those it serves, which ultimately affects the sustainability of the all-volunteer force and national security.

Who is America’s all-time leading fighter ace?

Key Dates to Watch


  • Oct 1 – FY 2019 Began
  • Dec 5 – Mitchell Hour: ‘Air Force Operations: Increasing Readiness and Lethality’ with Lt Gen Mark Kelly, USAF, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, AFA HQ at 9 a.m.


If you have questions, please contact:

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