Keith’s Congressional Corner

February 26, 2019

February 26, 2019

Keith’s Congressional Corner


“This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.’’
– James Madison, Federalist 58

One of the key questions in Washington is whether the legislative and executive branches can get back to regular budget order. Last year, they passed funding for 75 percent of the federal government—including the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

It marked the first time in a decade that national security was funded by the beginning of the fiscal year. On only four occasions in the last 43 years has the entire federal government been funded by October 1st. DoD needs sufficient money–on time–to provide the needed tools and support to warfighters. The VA needs the resources to honor our nation’s veterans.

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”
– Frank Zappa

The Air Force funds and oversees two of the three legs of the nuclear triad and almost three-quarters of its command and control. Despite hype, inflated and double-counting in some cost estimates, the nuclear triad is a necessary and reasonable investment in our nation’s security. Despite fantastic maintainers and duct tape, the 40-plus year-old intercontinental ballistic missile system is deteriorating and needs to be replaced with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). Research and Development funding also continues on the B-21 bomber, expected to be ready in the mid-2020s. Meanwhile, Russia and China are aware that nearly 90 percent of the Air Force bombers do not have stealth technology and are unable to penetrate enemy air space. Our nation deserves full research and development funding of these programs to provide sufficient deterrence.

Our nation, and a billion plus people around the world, rely upon the Global Positioning Satellite system (GPS) that the Air Force funds and operates. The next generation GPS III follow-on, encompassing 22 satellites, will cost $10.7 billion. Space operations and their systems can’t be done on the cheap. The Air Force needs full funding of this program.

“In any of the fights that we have been asked to plan for, more fifth gen [stealth] aircraft make a huge difference, and we think that getting to 50-50 means not buying new fourth-gen aircraft, it means continuing to increase the fifth generation.”
– The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

This upcoming presidential budget is expected to include the purchase of eight F-15X fighters at a cost of $1.3 billion. Instead of procuring the fifth-generation fighters required in a potential conflict with Russia or China, the Air Force is veering from its original two-decade old plan and will buy 80 new/old fourth-generation aircraft for at least the next five years—at a higher cost than F-35s. It’s like buying new 2001 Corvettes for more money than the 2019 model. They go fast and turn well–but if in an accident happens… The Air Force needs to recapitalize its outdated fighters by purchasing 80-100 F-35s per year—the original procurement schedule of the only fifth-generation fighter currently in production by the U.S. or its allies.

“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, Commander, US Strategic Command

It’s official. On Friday, President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4) which centralizes all military space functions under a new Space Force—inside the Department of the Air Force. The service would be led by a civilian undersecretary of the Air Force for space, and a four-star general Space Force Chief of Staff—similar to the USMC which resides inside the Department of the Navy. Uniformed and civilian personnel currently supporting space operations will be part of the new Space Force. Unlike the Air Force’s proposal, this construct will not include the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), nor will it include NASA. Congress still needs to approve the creation of the sixth military service, and the administration is expected to send a legislative proposal to Capitol Hill soon. AFA has long opposed the expenditure of valuable resources and time required to set up a separate military service that merely leads to a new organizational structure and bureaucracy without achieving additional space capability.

Alongside MOAA and the other military and service organizations within The Military Coalition (TMC), we are working each week on personnel initiatives that support our Total Force, its families, civilians, and retirees. Recently we met with the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss positive legislative fixes. We are also working with a key consortium of associations in DC that are focused daily on Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve issues.

Air Force Highlights

”This [Space Force] is an important next step towards real reform of national security space where we face real threats posed by Russia and China“
– Rep. Mac Thornberry, Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee

Trump officially organizes the Space Force under the Air Force … for now | 19 Feb 2019 | by Valerie Insinna

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a directive centralizing all military space functions under a new Space Force, which will be overseen by the Department of the Air Force.

While it is technically up to Congress to approve the creation of the Space Force, a sixth military branch that would organize, train and equip a corps of military space personnel, Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive 4 marks the first time the administration has made clear how the new service would fit into the existing military structure

According to SPD-4, the Space Force will initially reside under the Department of the Air Force and it will be led by a civilian undersecretary of the Air Force for space as well as a four-star general serving as the Space Force chief of staff — a measure that is less ambitious than the stand-alone service originally envisioned by the president. Read more.

Air Force Could Struggle to Grow Its Fleet | 14 Feb 2019 | by Jon Harper

The Air Force hopes to ramp up to 386 squadrons by 2030, but it could face challenges just to maintain its current size. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the service would need significantly more funding annually than it has received in recent decades simply to replace aging airframes. The Air Force has about 5,600 aircraft, many of which are nearing the end of their service life, the nonpartisan research group noted in a recent report, “The Cost of Replacing Today’s Air Force Fleet.” CBO estimates that replacing the planes in the current fleet one-for-one would cost an average of $15 billion a year (in fiscal year 2018 dollars) in the 2020s. Read more.

“A world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us.”
– Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of UK

Is there a way to save the ‘fraying’ nuclear consensus in Congress? | 14 Feb 2019 | by Aaron Mehta

Following the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which called for long-term investment in modernizing America’s nuclear arsenal, Congress seemed to strike a general consensus on nukes: New investments in weapons would go hand in hand with arms reduction efforts such as the New START treaty.

It wasn’t perfect, and not everyone was on board. But on the whole, the balance allowed the investments in new bombers, nuclear warheads, long-range missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles to go through with little challenge from Democrats, while ensuring New START would receive support from Republicans.

Years later, the landscape looks very different, which could have major consequences as the Trump administration attempts to push its own priorities from the Nuclear Posture Review through a Democratic-controlled House. Read more.

“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”
– Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of UK

Heather Wilson stays mum on Defense secretary rumors | 13 Feb 2019 | by Zack Stanton

President Donald Trump still hasn’t nominated anyone as defense secretary, more than a month after Jim Mattis resigned the position. But on Capitol Hill, one name keeps coming up as a potential successor: Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Read more.

Why it’s time to make cybersecurity a national priority | 13 Feb 2019 | by Eric Trexler

To get there, we must make cybersecurity a national priority. Remember that the space race was won when everyone — from the president on down — became organized around a single initiative: to put a man on the moon. This was a national effort that put man on the moon and created never dreamed of technologies and even entire industries. The benefits of the investments are still boosting our economy and lives. We need the same attitude, vision and commitment to win the cyberspace race. The entire country, including its citizens, must be united around the concept of becoming a dominant cybersecurity force. Read more.

Building The Air Force We Need To Meet Chinese And Russian Threats | 12 Feb 2019 | by Lt Gen (ret.) David Deptula

In the words of Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, “The Air Force is too small for what the nation expects of us.”

Nor is the Secretary alone in her assessment. During a 2017 hearing, then Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain declared: “This is a full-blown crisis, and if left unresolved, it will call into question the Air Force’s ability to accomplish its mission.” The baseline reality is that the Air Force is operating the smallest, oldest, and least ready aircraft force it has ever fielded in its history. In 1990, the Air Force fielded 3,206 fighters and 737 bombers. Today, it has just 1,731 fighters and 157 bombers. Mobility aircraft like tankers and transports were also slashed by over half. Read more.

The US Air Force Has Won Control of the Space Force | 12 Feb 2019 | by Marcus Weisgerber

Six months ago, service leaders said they were being cut out of the planning process. Now they’re being put in charge of it.

Detailed planning for the proposed Space Force is expected to be handed over soon to the U.S. Air Force, a sign that Pentagon leaders — many of whom opposed the notion of consolidating military space operations in a new organization — have found a version that they can support. Read more.

More than half who took survey are dissatisfied with military privatized housing | 12 Feb 2019 | by Karen Jowers

More than half of military families who responded to a survey about their privatized housing reported having a negative experience, according to a new report released on the eve of a hearing where lawmakers will scrutinize the condition of military housing. Read more.

F-35 Will Cost Less To Operate Than Older Fighters. Here’s Why Some Policymakers Don’t Get That. | 11 Feb 2019 | by Loren Thompson

By the end of this year, nearly 500 F-35 fighters will have been delivered to three U.S. military services and various allies. The plane is meeting all of its performance requirements, and the cost of each fighter is steadily declining. In fact, the most common variant of the fighter now costs no more to build than the latest version of the Cold War fighters it is replacing. Read more.

Quotes to Note

  • “We’ve been looking at ways to accelerate the training of, particularly, maintainers, because they’re such a large part of our enlisted force, and they are so critical to us.”
    – The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force
  • “We were 4,000 maintainers short. As of December, we are fully manned in maintenance for our active-duty units. So we have closed that gap.”
    – The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force
  • “We have lost 11 Airmen over the last four weeks and more than 100 Total Force Airmen in 2018. Suicide has devastating effects on individuals, families, units, communities, our readiness and our nation. We must collectively work toward preventing those who are in despair from dying by suicide. It requires each of us to be involved and steadfast in our commitment to stop suicide.”
    – Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein; Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright in a joint statement
  • “Civic leaders, you are part of this family. We live, we work, we go to school, we go to church in your communities. It provides us different perspectives by leveraging your expertise to help strengthen our joint war-fighting team. Thank you for everything you do to help us on this journey.”
    – Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff, US Air Force

Your Air Force – Did You Know?

Located at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb., U.S. Strategic Command is one of ten unified commands in the Department of Defense. The mission of USSTRATCOM and its 162,000 members is to deter strategic attack and employ forces, as directed, to guarantee the security of our nation and our allies. The command’s assigned responsibilities include strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, space operations, joint electronic spectrum operations, global strike, missile defense, and analysis and targeting. USSTRATCOM’s forces and capabilities underpin and enable all other Joint Force operations.

Key Dates to Watch


  • Oct 1 – FY 2019 Began


  • Feb 27-Mar 1 – AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, FL
  • March 12 – Expected release of FY 2020 President’s Budget
  • Sep 16-18 – AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Gaylord National Hotel, National Harbor, MD

If you have questions, please contact:

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