The Defense Department’s request to reprogram its budget for the rest of the fiscal year could return some combat squadrons to full readiness, but likely will not get grounded squadrons back in the air.
Earlier this week, the department submitted a request to Congress for authority to reprogram $9.6 billion in fiscal 2013 funding as a way to cover shortfalls in operational resources and high fuel bills. The Air Force’s share is about $1.8 billion, and the first task would be to address the readiness of some of the squadrons affected by sequestration.
Seven combat squadrons have been reduced to a “basic mission capable” tier of readiness, and this funding would bump them back to full mission capable.
“Anything we can do to find money to put back toward readiness we are doing,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters today.
There will not be enough resources in the reprogramming request to return all of these squadrons to the air, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said.
Last month the Air Force announced that due to sequestration 17 combat squadrons would be grounded either beginning in early April or upon returning from deployment. The service was also allocating 241,496 flying hours to keep other squadrons at tiered readiness. Officials have said it could take up to six months to return pilots and crews to full readiness after the grounding ends in September.
Air Force officials are reviewing flight costs on a daily basis in each squadron to find ways to address readiness shortfalls. As the year progresses, the amount of squadrons affected could fluctuate, but “not in a meaningful way unless money appears,” Welsh said.