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Sequestration will affect force readiness

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer answers a question posed to him during a hearing of the  Senate Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support. April 18, 2013, in Washington, D.C. During the hearing, Spencer said low readiness levels resulting from two decades of sustained combat operations and further hindered by sequestration will impact the Air Force's ability to adequately perform its mission. Seated at the table with Spencer are from left: U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Campbell, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mark Ferguson and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. John Paxton. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer answers a question posed to him during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support. April 18, 2013, in Washington, D.C. During the hearing, Spencer said low readiness levels resulting from two decades of sustained combat operations and further hindered by sequestration will impact the Air Force's ability to adequately perform its mission. Seated at the table with Spencer are from left: U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Campbell, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mark Ferguson and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. John Paxton. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jim Varhegyi)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The four branches of the military delivered another warning to Congress April 18 that a prolonged budget sequester will significantly affect military readiness, and could leave the services unable to carry out defense strategy.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer told lawmakers sequestration has forced the cancellation of flying hours, the stand-down of nine fighter squadrons and three bomber squadrons -- all of which is dealing a direct blow to Air Force readiness.

"The cornerstone of our Airmen's ability to provide airpower for the nation at a moment's notice anywhere in the world is their readiness," Spencer said. "Allowing the Air Force to slip to a lower state of readiness...will negate the essential strategic advantage of airpower and put the joint forces at increased risk," he said.

He pointed out the threat to the Air Force's current state of readiness is a two-fold problem with decades of sustained combat operations and the current fiscal situation facing the forces.
Sequestration has already forced the Air Force to induct 60 less airplanes and 35 less engines into its depots as well as cut 200,000 flying hours in the last six months of this fiscal year that led to some squadrons to stop flying.

He pointed out that the lack of depot maintenance matched by the stand-down of aircraft threatens readiness in the same way that letting an old car sit untouched in a garage would.

"At home, I have a 1972 Monte Carlo and because it's old, I have to start that car at least once and get the transmission and everything working or it won't run very well," Spencer said.
Airplanes are similar in that if they sit on the ground, don't start up, taxi and fly for a period of time, they tend not to work very well.

"If you stand down aircraft for several months, that's a problem," said Spencer. The other problem is, if the aircraft aren't flying, the pilots aren't maintaining currency and neither are the maintainers.

The other services' vice chiefs emphasized that message repeatedly during a Senate Armed Services Committee's readiness subcommittee hearing on the state of military readiness in light of the $41 billion spending cut the Defense Department is absorbing over the rest of the fiscal year, triggered by the budget sequester that took effect in March.

"The reality is that if sequestration continues as it is...the Army simply will not have the resources to support the current defense strategic guidance, and we risk becoming a hollow force," Gen. John F. Campbell, Army vice chief of staff, testified.

Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III, vice chief of naval operations, said the Navy is feeling the shortfall in everything from the ability maintain readiness to the capability to respond to a world crisis.

"By the end of this fiscal year, two-thirds of our nondeployed ships and aviation squadrons will be less than fully capable and not certified for major combat operations," he said, adding that deployments have been delayed or cancelled and that in some cases, ship tours have been prolonged.