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Despite the long-term buildup in the Pacific, the Air Force has had to put some exercises there on hold because of sequestration.
The force can still respond to threats, but these responses come with a cost, said the Air Force’s top commander in the Pacific.
“We have scrambled against every airplane we have had to scramble against,” Gen. Herbert Carlisle told reporters July 29. “But every time you do that you have to get [the resources] from somewhere.”
Carlisle highlighted aircraft intercepting a Russian bomber last month as an example. U.S. F-22s, KC-135s and an E-3 Sentry were sent to intercept the bomber as it flew near Alaska earlier this year.
The command canceled one Red-Flag Alaska but has still been able to host other foreign units for other exercises there that helped certain PACAF units maintain readiness.
PACAF has reviewed each exercise on a case-by-case basis “to prioritize and balance operations and meet partnership commitments while ensuring maximum readiness,” command spokesman Capt. Robert Howard said in an email.
The command has scaled back its participation in exercises Cope Tiger with Thailand, the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Expo in Malaysia, the Pacific Airlift Rally with Cambodia and Talisman Saber with Australia. The command had to completely pull out of Exercise Balikatan in the Philippines and Commando Sling in Singapore.
Earlier this year, the Air Force was forced to ground 16 combat squadrons because of budget cuts. The service kept funding for aircraft already assigned to U.S. Pacific Command but cut back on the readiness of other units based in the U.S., including E-3 Sentrys. Last month, the Air Force was able to return these squadrons back to the air after Congress approved $208 million in a reprogramming allocation for flying hours.