The chief of staff of the Air Force on Thursday warned decision-makers that failing to pass a defense budget will damage his service like no foreign enemy can.
"There is talk right now of going to a year-long continuing resolution," Gen. David L. Goldfein told an audience at a Feb. 23 Center for Strategic and International Studies event.
"There is no enemy on the planet that can do more damage to the United States Air Force than us not getting a budget," he said, adding the service has "serious challenges."
Of the many responsibilities the Air Force maintains, guaranteeing air superiority is at the top of the list, Goldfein said.
"I don't ever want a Marine or a soldier or a sailor or airman who hears jet noise -- I don't ever want them looking up," he said. "I want them looking directly into the eyes of their enemy because I want them to know in their heart that that is me. I don't ever want them thinking that is somebody else.
"If we don't invest in those capabilities, I'm going to have them looking up, and that spells failure," he said.
The Air Force is also responsible for two-thirds of the "nuclear enterprise, the bomber leg of the triad and the missile leg of the triad," Goldfein said.
Currently, there is an executive order to review the country's nuclear posture and ballistic missile defense to determine, "Do we want to walk away from the attributes that were built into the triad?" he said.
Missiles are the most responsive part of the triad, giving the commander-in-chief the quickest capability, Goldfein said. "The bomber leg is the most flexible; it's the one you can call back. It's the one that you can deploy forward."
The U.S. Navy's nuclear submarine force is the most survivable, he said. "Do those three attributes still make sense? If so, modernization of all three legs is still required."
If a continuing budget resolution is put into place, readiness will suffer, Goldfein warned.
"I'm not going to be able to hire the people I need to get those aircraft airborne or have the pilots I need to actually fly those missions," he said. "I'm not going to be able to get aircraft in a depot; the lines are going to stop. The civilian hiring freeze will continue for the remainder of the year.
"I'm not going to have the flying hours to get those planes airborne, I'm not going to be able to invest in the training and I'm not going to have any relief on the time," he said.
At Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, "You are going to find one squadron that's down range, one squadron that just got back and one squadron that is getting ready. That's the story of where we are right now," Goldfein said.