Air Force plans all its personnel cuts for first year

By CHRIS CARROLL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 13, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Air Force would cut 9,900 personnel in 2013, equaling the pace of Army cuts next year, officials from the service announced Friday at the Pentagon. After that, however, planned Air Force end strengths cuts will end, while tens of thousands of more soldiers leave the service.

If Congress approves the Defense Department budget request revealed Monday, the service would lose 3,900 active-duty airmen, 900 reservists and 5,100 Air National Guard members. The Air Force will end up with a “smaller, high-quality force” ready to implement new defense priorities, Gen. Edward Bolton, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for budget, said Monday at the Pentagon.

“These reductions align the force structure with the new defense strategy and within funding constraints,” Bolton said.

The total Air Force budget would fall to $154.3 billion from $162.5 billion in 2012, according to budget documents. Overseas contingency funds would fall to $14.3 billion from $16.8 billion.

The biggest decrease comes in the procurement budget, which falls by $3 billion. Terminated aircraft include a variant of the Global Hawk surveillance drone, the C-27J cargo plane and modernizations to the C-130 cargo plane .

Among other cuts, the service will purchase fewer F-35A fighters and fewer Predator drones than planned. Together, the aircraft cuts save $1.9 billion. Other procurement cuts come in the purchase of missiles and ammunition.

But key Air Force programs such as development of a new long-range strike bomber and nuclear deterrence will be protected from cuts, Bolton said.

The Air Force announced in recent weeks it would shed 227 aircraft, or about 4 percent of its existing fleet. That included the controversial decision to eliminate about 100 A-10 ground attack aircraft, consistent with the larger DOD move away from planning for counterinsurgency operations.

But while smaller, the Air Force will maintain readiness, Bolton said. The 1.17 million flying hours budgeted will allow pilots to get in approximately the same number of flying hours next year, he said.

Twitter: ChrisCarroll_




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