Tight budgets are forcing the Air Force's combat squadrons to cut back their training hours by nearly 60 percent -- "leaving frontline units unprepared to go to war," according to Defense News.
Air Combat Command (ACC), the primary provider of combat airpower, is cutting 32,000 flying hours to help compensate for its $825 million operations and maintenance shortfall.The cuts come as Air Force aircrews are heavily worked, flying missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and over some U.S. cities in an attempt to prevent another terrorist attack."Starting early this summer, units may have aviators unable to get required training to maintain full combat-ready status," Col. Jim Dunn, deputy director of flight operations for ACC, said in a written statement. "Overall effectiveness will become a growing challenge."With this cut, the command now has 21,000 flying hours left of the original 53,000-plus hours programmed for the rest of this fiscal year -- a 60 percent reduction...Retired Gen. Hal Hornburg, former ACC commander, said the cuts are "a big deal" and show the military's grim financial situation."They're not cutting fat, they're cutting to the bone," Hornburg said, noting the Pentagon has taken large sums of money away from the Air Force to pay for the Army in Iraq.Reducing flying hours will free up about $272 million, not quite a third of the command's shortfall, said Col. Dave Goossens, ACC comptroller.This is bad news -- another sign of how the Iraq war is slowly grinding down American military readiness. But are times really that tight at the Air Force? I mean, if the generals there wanted to save $272 million, couldn't they just take a F-22 Raptor or two out of the budget, instead of staging a giant PR campaign for the dubious stealth jet? Is an extra fighter plane that much more important than every pilot's training time?And how's this for poor choices: two of the only groups not affected by the flight-time cuts... are the "Raptor squadron [and] the Thunderbird aerial demonstration team," says Defense News.