While the core function of the US Air Force is to fight and win America’s wars, that mission is being challenged today by sequestration-imposed cuts, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh III. In a conversation at AEI on Thursday, General Welsh laid out the unique value of the Air Force to America’s fighting men and women and explored how dangerous cuts were having a disproportionate impact on the critical areas of readiness, modernization, and force structure.
According to General Welsh, internal budget constraints are limiting the service’s budgetary options. This is leading to the impossible tradeoff of being a ready force today versus being a modern force tomorrow. He concluded that as the service looks to balance these competing priorities, it will not be able to trim at the margins. Instead, it will have to make real cuts that will harm real military capabilities — unless Congress relieves the burden of sequestration.
With sequestration likely to remain law throughout this year and beyond, the US Air Force finds itself in a “ready today” versus a “modern tomorrow” dilemma.
How will the Air Force balance capability, capacity, and readiness in the coming years? What is the future of key modernization initiatives such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker, and the long-range strike bomber? Moreover, what lessons has the Air Force learned from past debates that will influence upcoming budget proposals?
In the concluding session of its series with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, AEI’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies will host General Mark Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, to address these questions and more.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the events live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.
Jon Kyl, AEI
General Mark Welsh III, US Air Force
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Jon Kyl was a US senator for 18 years after serving for 8 years in the US House of Representatives. He was elected unanimously by his colleagues in 2008 to serve as Republican whip, the second-highest position in the Senate Republican leadership, which he held until his retirement in 2001. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he helped write reforms to US patent law and the landmark Crime Victims’ Rights Act, as well as important provisions of the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and other antiterrorism laws. At AEI, Kyl joins former senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) to lead the American Internationalism Project, a new effort within AEI’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies. The project aims to rebuild and reshape a bipartisan consensus around American global leadership and engagement.
General Mark Welsh III is Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. In this capacity, he serves as the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for the organization, training, and equipping of 690,000 active-duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and civilian forces serving in the United States and overseas. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the general and other service chiefs function as military advisers to the secretary of defense, National Security Council, and the president. General Welsh entered the Air Force in June 1976 and has been assigned to numerous operational, command, and staff positions. Before his current position, he was Commander of US Air Forces in Europe.