YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Budget problems aren’t likely to disrupt the paychecks of airmen, even if funding earmarked for the Army isn’t restored through passage of a supplemental bill, the Pacific Air Forces commander said Thursday.

Under such a scenario, however, the service would look elsewhere for cuts “to not impact airmen in terms of money in the pocket and not infringe on their operational readiness,” Gen. Paul V. Hester said during a stop at Yokota.

In the past three weeks, the Air Force has sent conflicting messages about what might happen if a Pentagon request to divert $1.6 billion from Air Force and Navy personnel accounts to the Army isn’t returned.

“I’m not a budget expert, but I don’t think there’s any possibility” the situation will affect airmen’s pay, Hester said.

“Pay is not one of those areas … that’s been part of the target to give to the Army,” he added.

Instead, the Air Force would look at other options.

Hester said flying hours and exercises could be scaled back. In addition, quality-of-life programs, service contracts and routine maintenance tasks might face a “slight degradation” in funding, he added.

“We’re not going to turn these things off, just modulate them a bit,” he said.

Many PACAF bases already have been forced to cut corners to pay for mission support services and utilities, among other things. Some fitness centers stopped providing workout towels, for instance, and Yokota has cut back on janitorial services at offices.

At Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, even the grass can’t escape budget constraints. Hester said it must be 14 inches high before it’s cut.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” he said. “But you will see hay fields driving around on base.”

Hester said the Air Force remains hopeful the diverted money will be brought back and further cutbacks elsewhere will be unnecessary. But Congress and the White House first must resolve the supplemental issues, he said.

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