Air Force Refutes Notion that New Generation Aircraft Will Eat into Excess Capacity

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), chairman of the House subcommittee responsible for BRAC policy, started the new hearing season right where he left off last year, questioning the risk that a new round of base closures could result in the military shuttering bases that it later regrets.

The fiscal 2017 budget proposal DOD sent Congress last week renews the Obama administration’s earlier requests for a new BRAC round, but it pushes the planned round back from 2017 to 2019.

At the House Armed Services’ Readiness Subcommittee hearing Friday on the Air Force’s budget request and readiness posture, Wittman asked the witnesses whether the Air Force’s estimate of its existing excess capacity needs to be adjusted in light of the service’s acquisition plans for new generation fighter, tanker and transport aircraft.

“So my concern going forward is saying, ‘Well, let’s reduce base structure or that infrastructure,’” he said. “We know we need that to generate readiness and to support aircraft as it comes on. I want to make sure that those two curves don’t cross each other, and then we come back and say, ‘Guess what? Now we have more aircraft than we have facilities necessary to keep the aircraft and maintain them,’” Wittman said.

Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein pointed out that as new replacement aircraft first come online, the number of aircraft for a particular mission would increase initially, before falling back down. The number of tankers in service, for example, will rise to 479 before the number drops down as the next-generation KC-46A is introduced, keeping it “balanced,” he said.

“So we think that 30 percent overcapacity we have now will actually continue to exist as we make the trades of the future,” Goldfein stated.

“Right now today, we would tell you that we are keeping a number of facilities on these large bases up and running because we’re not going to tear them down, and we don’t have the force structure to require us to use them. So we could use at least a reorganization to be able to get more right-sized,” the vice chairman added.

A webcast of the hearing is available on the committee website.

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Dan Cohen
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