Keith’s Congressional Corner

December 18, 2018

December 18, 2018

Keith’s Congressional Corner


“…if you use constant 2018 dollars, between the years of 2010 and 2015, our defense spending fell from $794 billion in 2010 to $586 billion five years later in 2015. That’s a 24 percent reduction over a five-year period.”
– Sen. Jim Inhofe, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

Congress continues its lame duck session with the unfinished work of funding seven federal agencies. The federal agencies are currently operating under a second continuing resolution (CR), lasting through midnight on December 21st.

With Congress and the Administration facing a wall of resistance, it is uncertain whether there will be a partial government shutdown later this week.

Fortunately, if there is a partial government shutdown, it will be only 25 percent of the federal government–the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Veterans affairs (VA) are funded for the entire fiscal year (FY). In addition, the US Postal Service and social security checks will continue unaffected. The DOD may, however, be required to fill in the gaps for agencies like the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Readiness continues to be a focus for the Air Force. The Secretary of Defense mandated an increase in Air Force fighters’ mission capability (MC) rates to 80 percent by September 2019. Through the dedicated effort to staff enough maintainers and due to increased budgets for spare parts, the Air Force has been able to increase its readiness by 15 percent since Secretary Wilson took office in May 2017.

Meanwhile, the Air Force was slighted again in a key leadership post. President Trump announced that Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley would become the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to replace Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, Jr., the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The last Air Force general serving as Chairman was General Richard Myers, who vacated the role in September 2005. Since 1949, only four Air Force generals have served as the senior military advisor to the president.

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time—a tremendous whack.”
– Prime Minister Winston Churchill, UK

Earlier this month, we participated in a DOD roundtable with the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We discussed several issues of importance to our members including readiness, nuclear recapitalization, great power competition, global threats, personnel (health and benefits), and family issues.

We also represented AFA in an Exchange Retiree Advisory Council meeting with the Director/CEO of The Exchange (AAFES) where we discussed the Pentagon’s proposals for consolidation of the Exchanges and Commissary (DeCA). While AFA supports efficiencies, we want to maintain the well-deserved shopping benefits for our members.

Remembering Tyndall AFB…The Air Force decided to establish three F-35 squadrons at a rebuilt Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and permanently move out its F-22’s.

“There is nothing more fulfilling than to serve your country and your fellow citizens and to do it well.”
– Pres. George H.W. Bush

Together, we are Airmen for Life…the new 116th Congress will be sworn in on January 3, 2019. We wish them the best and AFA will strive to ensure that they understand Air Force budgets, programs, and issues. We hope you, too, return in 2019 with a renewed determination and vigor to assist AFA in its mission to promote a dominant United States Air Force, a strong national defense, and to honor Airmen and our Air Force Heritage.

For those young believers, one of the most important missions this time of year, in which the Air Force is very much involved, is tracking St. Nicholas. The North American Aerospace Defense Command celebrates its 60th anniversary of defending the homeland—to include its 63rd annual tradition of tracking Santa’s journey on December 24th. Learn more about their unique mission below.

Of our nation’s 2 million military members in uniform, 300,000 are deployed across 177 countries. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers during the holidays.

Finally, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Omisoka, or Festivus, we wish you, your families, and friends a wonderful and safe holiday season: “One Voice”: A Holiday Presentation by The USAF Band.

Seasons’ Greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year filled with health, happiness, and spectacular success.

Air Force Highlights

“Everyone varnishes the truth around this country and they don’t let people know the real threat out there.”
– Sen. Jim Inhofe, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

Inhofe Outlines Priorities as SASC Chair | 6 Dec 2018 | by Amy McCullough

While at the National Defense University (NDU), in his first official speech as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) outlined his six priorities for the committee moving forward:

  1. The National Defense Strategy will “serve as a blueprint” for everything the committee does.
  2. Rebuild readiness. Modernize US forces to prepare for the renewed great power competition. [For the Air Force, this means modernizing its fighter and bomber fleets; increasing procurement of advanced weapons; and increasing capacity in airlift, air refueling, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. As the US has spent the last two decades focused on counter terrorism operations, China and Russia have used that time to modernize their own forces.’
  3. Increase investments in “key technologies.”
  4. US must care for its service members, which includes everything from educating military children to providing quality medical care.
  5. SASC will remain focused on defense and acquisition reform.
  6. “…all of these priorities require resources,” so the committee will remain committed to “returning to strategy-driven” defense budgets. Read more. | Inhofe’s NDU Speech

The U.S. Air Force Could Fall Behind Russia and China by 2025 | 11 Dec 2018 | by Kris Osborn

The US Air Force will fall behind Russia and China by 2025 unless the service quickly embarks upon a sizeable expansion of its fighting technologies, weapons arsenal and major attack platforms – to include new bombers, fighters, drones, rescue helicopters and more, senior service leaders suggest. Read more.

Kelly: Parts are Key to Mattis’ Readiness Order | 6 Dec 2018 | by John Tirpak

Meeting Defense Secretary James Mattis’ directive that the Air Force achieve 80 percent mission capable rates on its F-16, F-22, and F-35 fighters depends largely on the availability of parts, Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly, USAF’s director of operations, said at an AFA Mitchell Institute event on Wednesday.

Kelly said he thinks the Air Force will make the September 2019 goal, since it’s already cleared its shortfall of maintainers, but availability of parts, particularly for the stealth jets, will be a bigger challenge. Read more.

I am confident from the meeting that the President is determined to keep our nation strong and the military adequately funded.
– Sen. Jim Inhofe, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

Mattis, GOP hawks warn Trump against defense cuts at White House meeting | 5 Dec 2018 | by Joe Gould

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and two top Republican lawmakers met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday to argue against a $33 billion budget cut he’s considering for the military. Read more.

Air Force Wish List for Santa

And, if there is not peace on Earth, the Air Force needs a stable and predictable budget—at a sufficient level to remain the world’s preeminent Air Force.

– Increase the force size. The Air Force must grow to 386 operational squadrons (24 percent increase) to meet the National Defense Strategy. It requires 350,000 Active Duty; 120,0000 Air National Guard; and 72,500 Reserve personnel to remain the dominant force.
– F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs). The Air Force must procure them faster. At the current rate of 46-56 per year, it will take more than a quarter of a century to recapitalize their fleet.
– KC-46A refueling tankers. By starting late and by procuring only 15 per year out of nearly 500, the Air Force will likely consider air refueling drones before they replace the last of the Eisenhower era KC-135s.
– B-21 Raider Bombers. 90 percent of the current bombers predate stealth. The B-21 bomber program must remain on track in order to start procuring the Raider bombers by the mid- 2020s.
– Nuclear recapitalization. The Air Force operates two-thirds of the nuclear TRIAD, and despite hyped claims that it will require $1 trillion to recapitalize the aging and obsolete TRIAD, it is much more prudent to modernize our nation’s greatest deterrent than to bet on all nations behaving in the future.
– Research & Development. Without our asymmetric advantage, we risk losing air and space superiority, deterrence, national assets, and jeopardize our forces in harm’s way.
– Pay and Benefits. AFA is advocating for compensation and benefits that help our Airmen remain in service on behalf of our nation.
– Civilian Personnel. AFA has advocated for the tools necessary to recruit and retain the much-needed civilian personnel force. As a result, we successfully achieved a fair pay raise for next year.

There are several other stocking stuffers we are seeking, however, the list above would be greatly appreciated for our nation’s warfighters. Santa, the Air Force has been very good this year…

Air Force Association Legislative Issues – 2019.

Air Force Association Top Issues – 2019.


CyberPatriot, After Reaching 175,000 Students, Turns to Elderly | 5 Dec 2018 | by Shaun Waterman

The Air Force Association’s cyber education program, CyberPatriot, has seen 175,000 students from kindergarten through high school flow through its program, retired USAF Brig. Gen. Bernard Skoch, the program’s commissioner, said Tuesday at the AFCEA IT Day in Northern Virginia. “Next year, I hope to be here to announce our in vitro cyber training program,” he joked. In the meantime, the program is heading in the other direction—it’s latest iteration is Cyber Generations, a program for the over 60’s set. “We are talking about training a generation that didn’t grow up with this technology in the basics of cyber hygiene,” Skoch explained, adding, “It’s not really called Cyber Geritol.”

Airbus Looks to Pounce As Boeing Struggles to Deliver First Tanker | 28 Nov 2018 | by Marcus Weisgerber

Airbus is teaming up with Lockheed Martin to pitch a new refueling aircraft to the Pentagon, looking to pounce as Boeing struggles to deliver its KC-46 to the Air Force. Read more.

Quotes to Note

  • “Our most recent review was last week, and the B-21 Raider is on schedule and performance.”
    – The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

  • “[Secretary Heather Wilson was] signaling Congress that whether America has a space force or not, the Air Force is prepared to protect and preserve America’s orbital advantages. Wilson is in a tough spot because almost nobody in her service likes the idea of a separate space force, yet her job is to carry out the president’s agenda…[So Wilson is saying to Congress,] You pick the organizational framework, and whatever it is, we will get the job done.”
    – Loren Thompson, Lexington Institute

  • “The T-X [trainer aircraft] will revolutionize how we train pilots in the future. From the performance, flight characteristics, data management, avionics, higher angle of attack — the T-X brings a high level of realism, 5th-generation capabilities and futuristic training concepts that we simply do not have at this time. I’m excited for the future of the flying training community and how it will make us more lethal, competitive and agile with our production pipelines.”
    – Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, commander of 19th Air Force

  • “If we come in at the number of $700 billion [for the FY 2020 defense budget]… the Air Force goes back to a smaller Air Force than they were in 2016 when the President was elected. That’s the seriousness of what we are really talking about. You don’t just halt the defense buildup–you are taking a cut at it, and you are starting to go back to where we were.”
    – Gen. Jack Keane, former Army Vice Chief of Staff; defense analyst

Your Air Force – Did You Know?

On December 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a young child in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper – the youngster wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus.

The ad said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center.

On duty that night was Colonel Harry Shoup, who has come to be known as the “Santa Colonel.” Colonel Shoup received numerous calls that night and rather than hanging up, he had his operators find the location of Santa Claus and reported it to every child who phoned in that night.

Thus began a tradition carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it was formed in 1958. Today, through satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters, NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.

Every year on December 24, fifteen hundred volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and emails from children (and adults) from around the world. Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in seven languages), over telephone lines, and by email to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa website receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers receive more than 140,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the globe.

This year, children and the young-at-heart are able to track Santa through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. To follow on any of these websites, type in @noradsanta into the search engine and start tracking. Read more. | Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard it.

Key Dates to Watch


  • Oct 1 – FY 2019 Began
  • Dec 24 – NORAD Tracks Santa Learn more.
  • Dec 31 – Opt-in deadline for the Blended Retirement System (BRS) Learn more.


If you have questions, please contact:

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