- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2013

The Air Force’s chief of staff says that 70 percent of all combat aircraft will be unsuitable for combat by July if sequestration occurs.

Gen. Mark Welsh made the comments during the Air Force Association’s annual winter conference on Thursday. His assessment is that a service-wide cutback in flying hours would begin May 1, though he pointed out that the service would protect all “named operations,” according to the website AOL Defense.

AOL Defense previously reported Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, saying that sequestration would force flying hours for B-52s to be curtailed by 10 percent.

Despite a stopgap spending bill currently in force, the Air Force will end up with $12.4 billion less than its fiscal 2013 base budget, as well as having $1.8 billion cut from its war operations budget, the website reported.

While the Air Force has the ability to shuffle resources to meet immediate wartime needs, Gen. Welsh’s comments echo those of other high-ranking military officials that sharp budget cuts will have drastic effects on national security sooner rather than later.

One congressional aide argued that the Air Force has taken money from operations and maintenance to pay for new weapons in past years, which has contributed the military branch’s budget woes.

“I think if you ask the AF today, if normal funding were to be assumed through July, about 40-50% of American combat aircraft would only be capable of meeting wartime requirements,” the aide said in an email.

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