Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, said Jan. 4 that it's unlikely the military branch will launch the number of new programs it once did in an era of budget austerity. (Ty Greenlees / Dayton Daily News via AP)
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DAYTON, Ohio — A general who leads a major Air Force command expects federal budget-cutting will mean not only spending reductions but fewer new programs.
Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger heads the Air Force Materiel Command based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. It employs nearly 82,000 people in acquisition, research and development, testing, evaluation and other duties at nine bases. At Wright-Patterson, the command has a workforce of nearly 14,000 people, most of them civilians.
She's among many leaders who must await Washington's efforts to work out agreements on federal debt and budget issues still lingering after last week's "fiscal cliff" accord that postponed automatic spending cuts.
"Certainly, there's some disappointment at not reaching resolution and having another two months of uncertainty," the Air Force's first female four-star general said in a Dayton Daily News interview published Monday.
She said the military workforce understands the need to do its part in the nation's fiscal crisis.
But, she added, "that means that there will be in all likelihood fewer new programs that will be launched ...."
Wolfenbarger's command reorganized last year to cut 1,000 civilian jobs and save more than $100 million.
"My belief is that at this point we are hoping to stabilize, in terms of the numbers of people that we have in the command to execute our critical missions," she said. "But I would tell you that with the threat of sequestration and other future budget reductions, it is difficult to stipulate with great certainty that there won't be future changes in that regard."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that another $500 billion in cuts in across-the-board sequestration would be "devastating" to the military.
"The simple reality is that Gen. Wolfenbarger and the rest of the Air Force don't know how much money they are going to have the rest of the year," said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Va.