Airmen from the 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tow the first Block 30 RQ-4B Global Hawk accepted by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing in 2011. Global Hawk Block 30s, set to retire this fiscal year, were spared until through the end of 2014 in a new budget agreement. (Senior Airman Daniel Rosenau / Air Force)
Congress has restored more than 3,300 airmen and 77 aircraft that the Air Force wanted to cut this fiscal year, according to details released by Congress.
On Tuesday, lawmakers unveiled the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report, an agreement between House and Senate negotiators on how to proceed with the fiscal 2013 budget for the military services. Congress is expected to vote on the measure later in the week.
Under the agreement, the Air Force is required to retain 32 mobility aircraft that it had wanted to get rid of, officials said. The Air Force can decide whether those aircraft will be C-130s or C-27Js. Officials did not specify what the other aircraft being restored are.
The agreement would also keep the Air Force's MC-12 aircraft in the active-duty force instead of transferring them to the Air National Guard, a congressional staffer said.
But the Air Force will be allowed to retire 21 F-16s from the Iowa National Guard's 132nd Fighter Wing at Des Moines; 20 A-10s of the Arkansas National Guard's 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith, Ark.; and 24 A-10Cs of the Reserve 917th Fighter Group at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
Lawmakers decided to restore 3,313 of the 9,900 airmen that the Air Force proposed cutting in fiscal 2013, according to a news release Tuesday from Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee. The release did not say whether those airmen restored came from the active-duty force, Guard or Reserve.
The Air Force's proposed fiscal 2013 budget was eviscerated in Congress because the service called for cutting 5,100 airmen from the Air National Guard, but lawmakers sought to preserve jobs and aircraft in their states.
The proposed cuts were part of a broader move to cut a total 11,600 airmen over the next five years, of which 4,200 would be active-duty, 5,500 would come from the Air National Guard and 1,900 would be from the reserve, according to the Air Force budget documents.
On Nov. 28, the Air Force submitted a compromise to lawmakers that would reduce the force by 9,500 airmen over five years: 6,200 active-duty airmen, and 1,400 from the Guard and 1,900 reservists, the budget documents show.
The agreement also prevents the Air Force from retiring the Global Hawk Block 30 this fiscal year and requires the service to use the aircraft through the end of 2014.
"The provision is based on concerns regarding unmet demand for intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (ISR) capability, and the fact that the Global Hawks are brand new aircraft that cost more than $100 million each," according to Tuesday's news release.
In January, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told lawmakers that the Global Hawk Block 30 had become so expensive that it "priced itself out of the niche."
The Air Force had planned to buy 42 of the unmanned aircraft, according to 2011 budget documents. Each aircraft cost about $215 million.