- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Air Force is telling Congress that the double whammy of sequestration budget cuts and the partial government shutdown “endangers the safety of our airmen” and “unnecessarily adds risks” to everyday missions.

In a memo to Capitol Hill Friday night, Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon said it has been forced to “take extraordinary actions” to make do with less money.

The Air Force combat air division is still trying to recover from lost training hours due to sequestration. The lack of an appropriations bill for fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, “exacerbates the training backlog and delays readiness recovery,” says the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

More than 15 air events have been cancelled due to lack of personnel to operate training ranges.

The service has suspended operations for five fighter units — four A-10 strike jets and one F-16 fighter.

Airmen are faced with “breaking the law” or canceling missions because the Air Force lacks the cash to pay contractors in Afghanistan.

SEE ALSO: Lockheed Martin reduces furloughs to 2,400 employees because of shutdown

Pacific Air Force, which would play a major role in any conflict with North Korea, will have only one E-3 airborne control aircraft available later this month due to a lack of maintenance money.

On the health care front, the service said it is “not able to properly care for airmen and their families” because of delayed surgeries and appointments.

Before the government shutdown, the Air Force already was grappling with sequestration’s directive to cut $37 billion this year and $52 billion in 2014 from the total Pentagon budget.

The Air Force retired more than 500 aircraft and limited flying hours and maintenance.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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