Keith’s Congressional Corner

March 14, 2019

March 14, 2019

Keith’s Congressional Corner


“I am proud of the progress that we have made in restoring out nation’s defense. We have cut years out of acquisition schedules and gotten better prices through competition; we have repealed hundreds of superfluous regulations; and we have strengthened our ability to deter and dominate in space.”
– The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

SLIPPING THE SURLY BONDS: Secretary Heather Wilson announced last Friday that she is resigning her position as Secretary of the Air Force effective May 31st and will return to academia.

Despite clashing with the administration over its intention to create an independent service for space defense operations, in the end, Secretary Wilson’s view dominated as she is currently leading the stand-up of the new service within the Department of the Air Force. She was also right that the Air Force is too small for what is expected of it and championed the message that it needs to grow to 386 operational squadrons. [Note: the Air Force had 401 squadrons in 1991 and only 312 now.]

AFA thanks the Secretary for her dedication to the ‘long blue line,’ and I wish my classmate well. ’82 Best in Blue.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein

FISCAL YEAR 2020 BUDGET: The Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 President’s Budget (PB) was released this week. Out of a $4.7 trillion federal budget, $750 billion was earmarked for national security. While the president requested a five percent cut from this last year’s spending in all other agencies, defense spending was increased. Despite the promise that it will draw opposition from Congress, the defense budget skirts next year’s discretionary spending caps by moving a sizable portion of defense spending into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account—an account meant for warfighting and exempted from Budget Control Act spending caps.

DEFENSE SPENDING: For those who argue that the US spends too much on defense, it is important to understand that only 15 percent of total federal spending goes to pay for our military. In the early 1960s, that percentage was about 50 percent. We currently defend our nation by spending about 3.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense and international affairs. In comparison, we spend 15 percent of GDP on entitlement payments to individuals. Over the past decade, $500 billion was cut from defense spending—nearly one-half of modernization funding. In 2010, defense spending was reduced approximately 20 percent in real terms, while the global threats have increased tremendously.

“We are currently 80 percent fourth-gen aircraft and 20 percent fifth-generation aircraft. In any of the fights that we have been asked to plan for, more fifth-gen 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

AIR FORCE BUDGET: The Office of the Secretary of Defense trimmed fifth-generation stealth F-35s from the budget, so it could fund 8 fourth-generation F-15X fighters for the Air Force—a folly we discussed in the last update. Although the Air Force has consistently stated for almost two decades that it needs to procure only fifth-generation fighters and did not include fourth-generation fighters in this budget, the Secretary of Defense’s office pushed the Air Force into purchasing fighters it did not want and cannot afford. Instead of balancing the fourth-generation-fifth-generation mix, the fleets become further out of whack. Plus, the Air Force now gets to feed a production line and logistics tail it didn’t budget for.

They are great new old fighters and can carry lots of weapons, however, if you were sending your child into harm’s way, would you want him/her in the latest technology that evades enemy threats or in an updated version of a 1970s designed fighter that modern threats can detect and target?

The Air Force is short fighters and needs to procure 72 per year. Instead of ramping up the purchase of the only fifth-generation produced by allied nations, the Defense Department will pay more for each F-15X aircraft that comes with limited survivability in future conflicts. We owe it to the warfighters to give them the best equipment, not weapons systems that the Air Force last purchased in 2001. AFA advocates for Congress to direct the purchase of more F-35A aircraft per year for the Air Force.

As we predicted, the Defense Department is planning on spending billions to stand up a new Space Force—a sixth military service under the Department of the Air Force. Although some proponents compare the construct to the 186,000 member US Marine Corps inside the Department of the Navy, this Space Force projects a service of only about 15,000 personnel. That’s roughly equivalent to two-thirds the size of a single Marine division. AFA advocates that Congress avoid building a new bureaucracy and increased costs that merely pay for new uniforms, patches, and business cards, by keeping the world’s best ‘space force’ as it is within the Air Force.

In another recent surprise, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, opined that only two legs (air and sea) of the Nuclear Triad were needed, and the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile System (ICBMs) is expendable. Ground launched weapons offer another option, present targeting challenges, are crucial for deterrence, and provide nuclear assuredness. Besides being the quickest response option, it is also the cheapest leg of the Triad on a per-warhead basis. AFA advocates that Congress continues with the development of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).

Hypersonics is the #1 defense development goal as both Russia and China are eclipsing the US in hypersonic technology. Hypersonic missiles can scoot at Mach 5 and are difficult to counter. AFA advocates for a boost in research and investments in both hypersonics and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

VETERANS: The President’s Budget increases funding for veterans’ healthcare by nearly ten percent over FY 2019 levels. It also invests in veteran rehabilitation services, education and employment assistance, and suicide prevention.

AWS: Earlier this month, AFA hosted its record-breaking 35th annual Air Warfare Symposium (AWS) and Technology Exposition in Orlando, Florida. Hopefully, you read many of the timely articles from our Air Force Magazine staff with summaries in AFA’s Daily Report (DR). Audio and Videos here.

“We’re the Air Force. We do impossible things.”
– Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Secretary Wilson kicked off the conference with a ‘State of the Air Force’ presentation, explaining that innovation is a hallmark of our service and is the future of our success. Today, our technological dominance is at risk. We have returned to an era of great power competition, and the Air Force will be at the forefront. Job #1: improve readiness. Quit wasting time on stupid stuff. Revitalize the squadrons. Our Air Force is too small for what our nation is asking us to do. The USAF has saved 78.5 years in program acquisition already. The acquisition game has changed, and speed matters.

A panel of Combat Air Forces commanders admitted that they don’t have the fuel and weapons stockpiles necessary to feel comfortable but recognize that they will never have enough resources and we have to go fast.

General (Ret.) Mark Welsh, 20th Chief of Staff of the Air Force, returned to the stage stating that we are, and always will be, in disruptive times. People don’t know what we do or how good we are at it. The Air Force is the most enabling force on the battlefield, and the USAF is the most dominant on the battlefield. Don’t apologize for that.

Air Force Highlights

“It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it”
– Pres. George W. Bush

Out of a $4.7 trillion federal budget, $750 billion was earmarked for national security. While the president requested a five percent cut from this last year’s spending in all other agencies ($563B), defense spending was increased.

Despite the promise that it will draw opposition from Congress, the defense budget skirts next year’s discretionary spending caps by moving a sizable portion of defense spending into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account—an account meant for warfighting and exempted from budget caps.

The Air Force fared adequately from this budget, especially in regard to growing in size, with the investment in the nuclear TRIAD, and with the increase of Research and Development (R&D). However, with the addition of the Space Force and unwanted F-15X (‘F-15e’s), they are spending in areas in which they did not originally budget.

In addition, despite all the Air Force needs, its Aircraft Procurement account only went up slightly, while several of the procurement accounts decreased.


President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Highlights

$4.7 trillion federal budget for FY 2020

  • $750 billion (B) for national defense. Defense Department receives $718B (increase of $33B)
  • Maintains the Budget Control Act Spending CAP of $576B and plusses up the OCO account to $165B)
  • 3.1% pay raise for military members. [Note: a comparable pay raise for government civilians was not mentioned.]
  • Increases personnel end strength
  • $9.6 billion for cybersecurity
  • $286 million “to ensure a robust, resilient, secure, and ready manufacturing and defense industrial base.”
  • $208 million for the Pentagon’s new Joint Artificial Intelligence (AI) Center



$166B (vs $156.B in FY19 PB); $42.4B in OCO

  • PERSONNEL: Increases personnel end strength 4,400; only increases Air Force Reserve 100 billets and Air National Guard 700 billets
  • NUCLEAR: Revamps nuclear deterrent. Funds B-21 bomber R&D; Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD); B-21 bomber
    • GBSD: $570.3M (FY19 enacted $414.4M)
  • SPACE FORCE: Officially requests the stand-up of the Space Force within the Department of the Air Force
  • R&D: Hikes funding in R&D to $35.4B—a 16.4 percent increase over last year. This is a good news story.
  • Hypersonics Prototyping: $576.0M (FY19 enacted $508.9M)
    • F-15X: Biggest change in the budget: Funds 8 x ‘F-15e’ at a cost of $1.05B and starts the program for 80 F-15Xs over the next five years [Note: These were not requested in the Air Force’s FY 2020 budget. That same $1.05B could purchase 13 new F-35A fifth-generation fighters]
    • F-35s: Funds only 48 F-35As (vs 56 in FY19). [Note: this is well below the original procurement plan and is even less than what was planned last year. Last year’s budget called for 48 this year in FY 2020 and 54 per year for the next five years. This will likely affect the total number of aircraft in the Program of Record (POR) and increase the cost per aircraft.]
    • KC-46A air refueling tankers: 12 aircraft
    • 12 x Combat Rescue Helicopters
  • Ammunition Procurement decreased (vs FY19 enacted
  • Missile Procurement decreased (vs FY19 enacted
  • Other procurement) increased (vs FY19 enacted)
  • Space Procurement increased to $3.55B (vs $2.33B in FY19 enacted)

“Our budget proposal that we initially submitted did not include additional fourth-generation aircraft.”
– The Honorable Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

Mitchell Weighs In: More F-35s or New, Old F-15s? | 4 Mar 2019 | by Lt Gen (Ret.) David Deptula and Doug Birkey

The Air Force needs to buy more new fighter planes. The constricted size and increasing age of the Air Force’s fighter inventory is the product of long-standing deferred investment; the 2009 decision to prematurely curtail the F-22 buy at less than half its required inventory; failure to boost F-35 production to originally planned rates; and the fact that 234 of 1970’s era F-15Cs will be hitting the end of their service lives in the next decade. Maintaining the current fighter inventory size demands that the Air Force buy at least 72 fighters per year into the 2020s. Failure to meet this requirement is not an option given the burgeoning global threat environment.

The Air Force cannot afford to buy anything less than the capability and capacity required to meet the objectives of the national defense strategy. This requires boosting F-35 production—not investing finite dollars in new-old aircraft designs that address yesterday’s challenges; offer marginal value; and put the broader Air Force modernization portfolio at risk. There are already too few dollars available to fund all of the Air Force’s modernization priorities—an additional aircraft line risks programmatic fratricide and the classic death spiral. Read more.

“The F-35 is critical for what we’ve got to do in order to execute the missions of the National Defense Strategy … and operate in … a future threat environment.”
– Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch,
Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition

Buying new F-15X fighters for the US Air Force is unsolicited and unwise | 4 Mar 2019 | by Gen (Ret.) John Loh

The OSD’s decision to renege on the Air Force goal of procuring only fifth-generation F-35A fighters and, instead, budget for new fourth-generation F-15Xs in the Air Force budget shows both a lack of persistence and sound logic. It also weakens Air Force support to grow its fighter force and obtain a healthy return on its large F-35A investment, and it adds to the growing list of new programs the Air Force must fund.

Over the past 15 years, the Air Force has been both consistent and persistent in advocating only the new fifth-generation, stealthy F-35A and retiring over time its non-stealthy fourth-generation F-15s and F-16s. Read more.

“This is a dumb idea. The Air Force does this already. That is their job. What’s next, we move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the “under-the-sea force?”
– CAPT. (Ret.) Mark Kelly, USN, NASA Astronaut

Space Force to cost $2 billion, include 15,000 personnel in first five years | 1 Mar 2019 | by Mike Gruss and Aaron Mehta

The Trump administration plans to spend $2 billion in new funding over a five-year period to create its Space Force, during which roughly 15,000 space-related personnel will transfer from existing roles. While many of the details have yet to be determined — will the service have a boot camp (unclear), its own service academy (no), their own uniforms (possible) or recruitment centers (probably) — a Space Force would share resources such as an acquisition chief, general counsel and chaplains with the broader Department of the Air Force. Read more.

Quotes to Note

“As the commander of ACC, I would like to see us buy more new aircraft — period. We need to address the average age of our fleet… [It’s] more expensive to operate an F-35 than a fourth-generation aircraft over time.”
– Gen. Mike Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command (ACC)

“The challenges we face as a nation are wicked hard, and it’s going to take folks with different backgrounds, different life experiences, and different perspectives to be able to come in and sit down together and provide the creative solutions that we as a nation need to be able to fight and win.”
– Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff, US Air Force

“Data is kind of like the new oil in that, in order for artificial intelligence to succeed, you need data, and the better the data, the better labeled the data, the better opportunity you have for your artificial intelligence to expand into new areas.”
– Mark Cuban, Shark and Dallas Mavericks owner, at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium

Your Air Force – Did You Know?

The end of February marked the 28-year anniversary since war ended in the Persian Gulf. Operation Desert Shield led to Operation Desert Storm—a classic example of aerospace power and air superiority. More than 1,200 combat sorties were flown, and 106 cruise missiles were launched against targets in Iraq and Kuwait during the first 14 hours of the operation.

“The Air Force flew over 65,000 sorties during Operation Desert Storm and accounted for 31 of 35 kills against fixed wing aircraft. The Air Force flew 59 percent of all sorties, with 50 percent of the assets and incurred only 38 percent of the losses. The mission capable rate for Air Force aircraft was 92 percent – higher than our peacetime rate.

The Air Force’s success in Desert Storm stems from quality people, equipment, training, and leadership. Today’s airman is the best that has ever been recruited. Articulate, bright, and innovative, these people willingly accept responsibility, and operate sophisticated equipment with skill and pride. They are team players. The Air Force today has the “global reach” and the “global power” to support national security objectives. These comprehensive forces can exploit the speed, range, flexibility, lethality and precision of modern airpower. Desert Storm reflects a commitment to recruiting quality people, providing them with the best equipment and technology available, training them until they gain confidence in their ability and their equipment, and giving them quality leaders to direct them. This formula was a winner in this war. Realistic training at Red Flag and other exercises prepared both pilots and support personnel for war and they performed magnificently. When coupled with innovative planning, aggressive leadership, and near flawless execution, Desert Storm was an unqualified success.”

– Operation Desert Storm White Paper: “Air Force Performance in Desert Storm,” April 1991

Could we win another Desert Storm today? It is important to remember that today’s budget prepares us for future conflict, and we go to war with the force we have.

Key Dates to Watch


  • Oct 1 – FY 2019 Began


  • Feb 27-Mar 1 – AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, FL
  • Mar 12 – FY 2020 President’s Budget Released
  • Apr 5 – Mitchell Institute Breakfast: “Range of the Future” Space Breakfast with Gen John Raymond, Air Force Space Command, Capitol Hill Club
  • Apr 12 – Mitchell Hour with Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
  • 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)