Flying hours, air shows and travel will be curtailed in an effort to save money across the Air Force. (Airman 1st Class Daniel DeCook / Air Force)
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Major commands have been told to stop nonessential travel, curtail flying hours and take other measures as soon as possible to save money amid the chaos on Capitol Hill over defense spending, Air Force officials said.
The Air Force is facing massive cuts to defense spending known as "sequestration," which are set to go into effect in March if lawmakers fail to agree on how to reduce the deficit. Additionally, Congress may pass a temporary spending measure in March instead of an appropriations bill for this fiscal year.
"Given these sources of budgetary uncertainty and a projected FY 13 $1.8 billion shortfall in Air Force funding for overseas contingency operations, it is prudent to implement immediate actions to reduce our expenditure rate and mitigate budget execution risks," according to a Jan. 14 memo to the MAJCOMS from Acting Air Force Undersecretary Jamie Morin and Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer.
The cost-savings measures should be implemented in a way "to minimize harmful effects on our people and unit readiness," according to the memo, which was obtained by Air Force Times.
Morin and Spencer have told the MAJCOMS to take the following steps:
Implement civilian hiring restrictions including a hiring freeze, "immediate elimination" of temporary employees and not renewing term hire employees who are not mission-critical.
Look for reductions in wartime funding requirements that will not harm wartime operations.
Cancel all TDY that is not mission-critical, such as attending or hosting conferences, staff assistance visits and training seminars.
Cancel flying "not directly related to readiness," such as air shows, flyovers and familiarization rides.
Reduce ongoing and scheduled studies not ordered by Congress or mission critical.
Limit supply purchases to "essential FY13 consumption (e.g. flying hour bench stock)" and stop minor purchases that are not mission-critical, such as furniture, information technology refresh and unit equipment.
Defer nonemergency facility sustainment, renovation and modernization projects such as carpeting, painting and remodeling but continue with compliance/life/safety projects.
Try to limit contracted work to fiscal 2013 projects such as base maintenance and custodial contracts.
Further guidance will be issued for investment accounts, the memo sys.
The Air Force has also been authorized to consider the possibility of furloughing civilian employees for up to 30 calendar days or 22 non-consecutive days but the service hopes Congress takes action to make furloughs unnecessary, according to the memo.
"For now please do not take any actions regarding furloughs," the memo says,
If sequestration actually happens, the Air Force would have to make much more draconian cuts to flying hours and maintenance, Morin said at a Jan. 15 Air Force Association event. Because the Air Force is limited in what cuts it can make to spending, such as civilian pay, other accounts would take a disproportionate hit.
"We are, I think, on the doorstep of a substantial and looming national security challenge," Morin said.
The threat of sequestration combined with the lack of an appropriations bill for the year, "Greatly complicates resource planning at a time when we absolutely need to squeeze the maximum amount of combat capability out of each taxpayer dollar," he said.
The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $122 million in stateside Air Force military construction projects including building an F-35 simulator, hangar and modular storage magazines at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. None of those projects can go forward until Congress appropriates the money.
If lawmakers opt instead to pass another temporary spending measure for the rest of this fiscal year, all of the new projects authorized by the 2013 NDAA would be on hold unless Congress included money for military construction, Air Force officials said.
"In a large, complex enterprise like the Air Force, losing six months' time on military construction projects can mean the difference between being able to execute a bed down for a new weapons system and not," Morin said.