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Air Force officials project budget shortfall

by Master Sgt. David Byron
Air Force Print News

3/11/2005 - WASHINGTON -- Supporting the war on terrorism and ongoing operations around the world have created a projected budget shortfall forcing the Air Force to tighten its belt.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper has directed all major commands to cut back on low priority spending in an attempt to stave off a budget crisis.

"We expect to be $733 million short in military personnel funding," General Jumper said in a message to major command commanders. "And based on our current burn rates, we project a $3 billion shortfall in our (operations and maintenance) funds by the end of the year."

The unexpected debt can be largely attributed to war-on-terrorism expenses, officials said.

The fiscal 2005 supplemental funding bill is currently working its way through Congress.

"We're faced with some uncertainty because congressional action still lies ahead and may not be completed until April," the general said. "We will have to realign some funding to ensure all commands are solvent while we await the supplemental bill's enactment."

Although it will affect modernization efforts, funds will be reprogrammed as a partial solution. The general identified the top two funding priorities.

"We must continue to support requirements of the global war on terrorism and ongoing operations in the theater," General Jumper said. "We must also protect efforts supporting the next rotation to those operations."

While readiness and combat training, including flying hours, will remain a high priority, the general has directed slowing those activities if it is clearly necessary to meet the top two priorities.

Some areas will be hit harder.

"Facilities, business operations, travel, administrative functions, nondeployment-related training and new contracts rank as lower priorities," he said. "These areas should be slowed significantly through the end of the fiscal year."

Air Force and MAJCOM leaders are currently building detailed plans to keep the O&M account solvent through Sept. 30 using available funding, and most MAJCOMs have already begun changing their spending priorities.

Air Force Space Command officials delayed some key programs, and limited contract awards, facility projects, travel expenses, equipment purchases and supply requirements not directly tied to the ongoing war effort, officials said.

Despite the cuts, AFSPC officials have said they remain committed to focusing their remaining funds on maintaining space superiority, providing desired combat effects to the joint warfighter, and maintaining strategic deterrence.

Air Mobility Command officials also cut back on travel, supply and equipment purchases that don't affect current combat operations, officials said. They have also limited facility projects to emergency work only and slowed planned technology upgrades.

Mobility flying operations, required depot maintenance and all war-related activities will not be affected, AMC officials said.

Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard will not immediately be affected. Their appropriation funding bill is separate from the active-duty system.

"We will do all we can to find more funding," General Jumper said. "But, we have to cover the military personnel bill and ongoing war effort first.

"I'm asking that all Airmen give this their personal attention and carefully consider whether each dollar spent is spent wisely."

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