Friday, January 11, 2013

Secretary Donley on Air Force Challenges: Part 4

From AOL Defense:

This is the conclusion of a series of four op-eds Sec. Donley wrote exclusively for AOL Defense on the future of the Air Force. Today's piece makes the case that investments in new technology cannot be deferred.

Sec. Donley: Why The Air Force Can't Delay Modernization
By Michael Donley
Among the most difficult challenges facing the Air Force is the need to modernize. In the sine waves of defense spending since World War II, most resources during defense buildups have supported wartime operations in Korea, Vietnam, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan. The early-1980s build-up was the only one to focus on modernization without the burden of large combat operations, and to a significant degree we have been living off the investments from that era or even earlier.

The need for modernization is pervasive across the Air Force. While service life extension programs and periodic modifications have largely kept our inventory up to date, the cost of maintenance and sustainment is rising as budgets are flattening, and new threats and technologies require new investments.

The average age of our fighter aircraft is now 23 years, rescue helicopters 22 years, training aircraft 25 years, bombers 37 years, and tankers nearly 50 years. Satellites for missile warning, navigation, secure communications, and other needs are also aging, and replacements must be built and launched on a schedule consistent with the life expectancy of current constellations.

Given the proliferation of ballistic missile technology, integrated air and missile defense is a compelling operational need. Cyber defense and secure and resilient command and control networks are increasingly important. From nearly every aspect, the defense enterprise struggles to keep up with the demand for modern information technologies in its weapons and business systems.

The Air Force spends about 30 percent of its budget on research, development, procurement and construction -- investments in future capability. Annual investment has been as high as 59 percent during the Reagan years, but is often the first casualty of shrinking defense budgets as leaders focus on operating and maintaining the current force. Within the $54 billion in reductions aligned to the Air Force over the next five years under the Budget Control Act, over 70 percent came from lower priority, delayed, or poorly performing investment programs.

The Air Force has a clear picture of its investment spending and priorities. Over the next five years, modernization of fighters and bombers accounts for just over 30 percent of Air Force investment. Fighter modernization is dominated by the F-35 program, which alone accounts for 15 percent of total Air Force investment, followed by continuing upgrades to the F-22 fleet, F-15, and F-16.

Read the full article here >>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for share...