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October 21, 2014

Downstream Effects of Sequester Cuts to DoD

This doesn't sound good:

The U.S. Navy’s elite cadre of fighter pilots—made famous by Top Gun—are not flying nearly often as they would like. Instead, many of the Navy’s elite Boeing F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter squadrons are sitting on the ground with only two or three flyable jets available. The rest of the jets are awaiting maintenance for want of critical spare parts—and some of those parts are being cannibalized from brand new jets in an increasingly vain attempt to keep squadrons flying.

...Sources tell The Daily Beast that there are dozens of jets awaiting maintenance—and most of the planes are less than 10 years old, which by aircraft standards is practically brand new. Effectively, dozens of brand new jets worth billions of dollars are sitting on the ground useless.

Some drop in readiness is normal. Whenever a Navy squadron comes back from a deployment onboard a carrier, it loses some of its roughly 12 jets and readiness plummets before building back up. There is a rough floor of about six aircraft that a unit is supposed to have even at low readiness levels. “They have gone below that minimum,” one source said.

The result is that the Navy’s fighter pilots are not getting necessary training to operate their pricey machines in combat should the need arise. Given that the nation is once again at war, that need could arise again sooner than anyone expects.

The problem is neither the Navy nor Boeing has enough trained engineers to inspect and perform needed repairs on the various versions of the F/A-18.

One of the main causes of the problem, according to multiple sources, was the congressionally mandated sequester that automatically cut the Pentagon budget.

Money that was cut during 2012 budget year is only now having a real impact because the skilled engineering force of engineers and technicians at various government contractors were laid off and found other jobs since then. The result is a massive backlog of aircraft that must be repaired.

The Editorial Staff don't have much insight into the aviation community, except to recall that pilots are required to fly a certain number of hours to keep up their skills and proficiency. So in addition to the obvious effects of equipment shortages, there's a safety problem to be considered.

During the sequester fight, there was a lot of uninformed talk from both sides about how little impact cuts to the Department of Defense actually had. This ties in with a long term tendency to eliminate so-called "redundancy" (labeled "inefficiency"). Donald Rumsfeld was big on this, and it never made sense to us.

During wartime, a LOT of equipment is ridden hard and put away wet. Sometimes, it's not worth the cost even to bring it home. In war, things break - either from constant use or as a result of enemy fire. The DoD procurement process is anything but simple and speedy. Contracts that get cancelled now can take years to be resubmitted, approved, and executed.

In what sane world does anyone expect that equipment that is broken/worn/left behind won't have to be replaced? Where the DoD budget needs reducing is all those feel-good, touchy feely add on allowances the Democrats were screaming for during the Evil Bu$Hitler Era. As with so much else in our national infrastructure, we've replaced long term investment in vital public goods like roads and bridges with short term payments that go directly to individuals (and which do NOTHING to enhance the welfare of the country in general).

Scary, scary stuff.

Posted by Cassandra at October 21, 2014 08:51 AM

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Comments

It's the Carter-era military all over again.

Posted by: MikeD at October 21, 2014 12:59 PM

Most airline pilots fly 85 hours a MONTH--some military pilots only get that much flying time a YEAR.

Not only does it result in a lack of proficiency, but it also contributes to a lack of PILOTS as pilots leave the military for the airlines--a waste of a "million dollar education."

With the lower flight time accrued per year, the military isn't attracting as many pilot candidates as they once were to replace the more experienced pilots.

Congress (not the FAA) passed the "1500 hour rule" a couple of years ago--mandating that pilots have a minimum of 1500 hours before being hired by the airlines. The result? Young pilots get their hours flight instructing or doing aviation odd jobs (which has nothing to do with airline flying skills) rather than go into the military, where it will take YEARS to build hours.

It's the "Law of Unintended Consequences"--almost everything that Congress does to "help" people makes the situation worse. In this example, Congress cut military flying, which resulted in a loss of trained pilots--which increased the need for more trainees--which INCREASED the cost of pilot training. In a separate move, Congress increased the hours airline pilots must have, which keeps new pilots away from the military, which degrades the experience that is needed for an airline career, which degrades safety.

Joseph Heller called it "Catch-22" (and the book of the same name). It means "A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions". Heller wrote the book in 1953, but like George Orwell, he saw the future of government.

Posted by: frequent flyer at October 21, 2014 03:19 PM

Where the DoD budget needs reducing is all those feel-good, touchy feely add on allowances the Democrats were screaming for during the Evil Bu$Hitler Era

Heck, just cut it back to the benefit package that was there when Obama took office, and stop hassling the Commissary!
I know I got a half-dozen different mailings about how I was eligible for gov't funded soup to nuts when my husband was activated-- like I have time to do full time college when he's gone... oh, wait, that's why they had the extra support for child care if you filled out a pile of forms as tall as me, and scheduled it every day. That change really made it tough on folks who were using the "occasional childcare" to watch the kids when they had a medical appointment.

Posted by: Foxfier at October 21, 2014 08:30 PM

Reminds me of the Mid 1950's
Then Pilots were lucky to get more than the 4 hours needed to collect flight pay.

Every time our military is put on short rations we loose way too many good people in the NEXT War.

Guns & Butter ends up being very little of either

Bomber and transport should fly at least 4 times a month. A bomb Squadron was supposed to have 24 qualified crews, and we were lucky to have 17 or 18 crews. Except for if we were tasked for Viet Nam bombing.

Considering everything we did real well.

As for 1,500 hours before the Airlines would look at a pilot.
By the time a military pilot reached his Career Obligation dare he will have the hours. For every school you attend the AF has an additional career obligation. By the time I reached my original Date of Separation I still had 7 years career obligation.
By the end of the Viet Nam war the good days for hiring on with the Airlines was over.

Being a Navigator all my pilot time was in a Cessna 150.

Posted by: Bill Wilson at October 21, 2014 08:34 PM

Reminds me of the Mid 1950's
Then Pilots were lucky to get more than the 4 hours needed to collect flight pay.

The truth be known we had very little ammunition or aircraft for the early years of the Viet Nam War.

Every time our military is put on short rations we loose way too many good people in the NEXT War.

Guns & Butter ends up being very little of either

Fighter pilots need to fly three days a week.

Bomber and transport should fly at least 4 times a month. A bomb Squadron was supposed to have 24 qualified crews, and we were lucky to have 17 or 18 crews. Except for if we were tasked for Viet Nam bombing.

Considering everything we did real well.

As for 1,500 hours to before the Airlines would look at a pilot. By the time a military pilot reached his Career Obligation time he will have the hours. For every school you attend the AF has an additional career obligation. By the time I reached my original Date of Separation I still had 7 years career obligation.
By the end of the Viet Nam war the good days for hiring on with the Airlines was over.

Being a Navigator all my pilot time was in a Cessna 150.

The truth was I enjoyed my service in B-52's

Posted by: Bill Wilson at October 21, 2014 08:37 PM

I know I got a half-dozen different mailings about how I was eligible for gov't funded soup to nuts when my husband was activated-- like I have time to do full time college when he's gone... oh, wait, that's why they had the extra support for child care if you filled out a pile of forms as tall as me, and scheduled it every day. That change really made it tough on folks who were using the "occasional childcare" to watch the kids when they had a medical appointment.

I know I've told this story before (though perhaps not for a long time) but I used to love to have retired Marine wives come and talk to the active duty ones.

When we compared what we had to what they had - and my mother and mother in law had) to work with, we (or at least I) felt rich. The real irony is that the times I treasured most were the "hardship" tours - they brought out the best in most of us. Having too many things handed to us generally had the opposite effect, making me feel less confident, less resourceful, less as though I was connected and driving my own fate.

Not sure why that is, but it's the way I always felt.

Bill, reading this piece I was reminded of touring the gun parks in several arty battalions. At times, there were a lot of howitzers with flat tires or ones that weren't in good enough shape to go to the field.

I remember during the Clinton years, commands would regularly run out of training money, or they had no ammo and couldn't go to the field.

Part of this is on the services - they draw up their own budgets and its their job to tell Congress what they need. But large parts of the budget are out of their hands (personnel costs and allowances).

Posted by: Cass at October 21, 2014 08:54 PM

Rudyard Kipling, "Tommy".

Posted by: htom at October 21, 2014 11:49 PM

Well, under the current administration, I am not seeing any cuts whatsoever to entitlement programs---on the contrary, nothing but expansion. Money is fungible. All that welfare funding has to come from somewhere, right?

What could go wrong with that?

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at October 25, 2014 07:48 PM