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Donley hints at FY '13 budget compromise

Sep. 17, 2012 - 12:14PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 17, 2012 - 12:14PM  |  
Secretary Michael Donley says the fiscal 2013 budget plan that caused an uproar among Air National Guard supporters this year is likely to be fine-tuned.
Secretary Michael Donley says the fiscal 2013 budget plan that caused an uproar among Air National Guard supporters this year is likely to be fine-tuned. (Tech. Sgt. John Orrell / National Guard Bureau)
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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has hinted a willingness to bend to Congress' will over proposed cuts to the Air National Guard and Reserve.

As part of an effort across the Defense Department to reduce spending by nearly $500 billion, the Air Force proposed cutting 9,900 airmen, most from the Guard and Reserve, as part of its fiscal 2013 budget.

That didn't go over well with Congress, which has tried to stop the Air Force from cutting Guard and Reserve personnel and aircraft. The impasse led Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III to tell lawmakers during his July confirmation hearing that the service's proposed budget is "simply not executable."

Speaking at the Air Force Association's national convention Monday, Donley said the Air Force continues to believe it must get smaller to retain its high quality, but he suggested there may be room for compromise on how to do that.

"Because crafting the federal and [Defense Department] budgets is a continuous process, we know the days ahead will call for us to fine-tune our strategic decisions as we follow through on fiscal year '13 and fiscal year '14 budget planning and execution," he said.

Donley also warned that the looming threat of nearly $500 billion in additional cuts to defense spending would reduce Air Force funding to about fiscal 2004 levels. The cuts, known as sequestration, would kick in next year if lawmakers fail to agree on how to cut $1.2 trillion in spending.

"Cuts to operation and maintenance would reduce flying hours and weapon systems sustainment, curtailing training and shrinking the civilian workforce," Donley said. "Procurement cuts would force program reductions, restructuring in our investment portfolio."

In other matters, Donley said the ongoing investigation into the sexual assaults of recruits during basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, is expected to identify any systemic failures and recommend reforms.

"The chief [of staff] and I, along with Gen. Ed Rice [commander of Air Education and Training Command] and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Jim Roy and other Air Force leaders, will be addressing next steps in the immediate weeks and months ahead," Donley said.

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