AIR FORCE ACADEMY, COLO. — The Air Force’s top general wants Congress to grant him the authority to trim the ranks to cope with $1 trillion in Pentagon budget cuts over a decade.
Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the Colorado Springs Gazette in an interview published Monday that across-the-board cuts proposed over 10 years are a bad idea and a bad business model.
“We need help in planning for the future. We can adjust to any reality once we have a reality,” Welsh said.
The first set of cuts, about $500 billion, was devised in 2008 by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates as a way to trim the wartime budget for the military over a decade. The second set, the ones worrying Welsh, were ordered by Congress under the sequestration budget deal.
The deficit slashing plan requires the Pentagon to make $500 billion in across-the-board cuts over 10 years, with no leeway to control what is trimmed.
“It’s a bad business model,” Welsh said.
Welsh said he wants to examine cutting bases and the roster because that’s where the money is, making up 55 percent of the overall budget.
He said personnel costs for the service’s 327,000 airmen lead the pack and have grown steadily for more than a decade.
Bases haven’t been examined since a Base Realignment and Closure round in 2005. Welsh is joining other Pentagon brass who want to cut real estate.
Welsh said he wants a scaled-back Air Force that can conduct its traditional missions in the sky and space and play a role in the expanding arena of computer warfare.
How to modernize the force is a key focus of discussions. Welsh mentioned hypersonic craft, miniaturization and directed energy weapons, which include lasers, as key areas for research.
“Science and technology is important to a force that was born from technology,” he said.
On other topics, Welsh said the key to tackling sexual assault in the ranks is to change the culture. He wants an environment where sexual assault isn’t tolerated, but he said getting it done won’t be easy.