12:10 PM, Jun 27, 2012 • By MICHAEL AUSLIN
Colorado's wildfire has exploded into an "epic firestorm," in the words of Colorado Springs fire chief Richard Brown. Over 30,000 people have evacuated, and already hundreds of homes have been consumed. Ironically, the U.S. Air Force Academy has also been evacuated, at the very time that Colorado desperately needs more Air Force C-130s to fight the massive fire.
A C-130 fitted with the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) can drop 3,000 gallons of fire-retardant material in 5 seconds, and reload in just 15 minutes. This tempo is crucial to containing wildfires like the one devastating Colorado Springs. However, of a current fleet of nearly 380 C-130s, only eight can be fitted with the MAFFS—and four of them are already in the skies over Colorado. With another fire looming in the north of the state, there is no excess capacity to help protect civilian areas. That means thousands of exhausted firefighters on the ground are without enough of the crucial support they need to control the fires.
All this raises concerns about President Obama’s defense budget, which cuts 65 C-130s from the fleet over the next four years. While that will leave 318 C-130s, the demands on the fleet are not shrinking in Afghanistan or other places. Nor did the Air Force have much choice in the matter.
The Air Force took the brunt of Pentagon budget cuts in the 2013 budget, shrinking by 4 percent (or roughly $4 billion dollars), after having a flat budget since 2004. Since 2001, over 500 aircraft have been retired, and another 300 will be scrapped by 2017. All this is happening while demand for the Air Force increases: The service flew approximately 400 sorties per day in Afghanistan and Iraq during 2011, while also fighting in Libya and delivering thousands of tons of disaster relief aid to Japan after its earthquake and tsunami. C-130s have been central to all these operations, and the proposed cuts will reduce airlift capacity among all the Air Force's components: active, reserve, and guard. Sequestration would be even worse, mandating equal percentage cuts down to the program level across the service, with no flexibility for Air Force leadership to target the cuts.
But as the wildfire in Colorado shows, readiness and flexibility are sometimes needed at home as much as abroad. Cutting more C-130s puts a greater strain on the entire Air Force fleet. It means fewer planes will be available for possible conversion to the MAFFS configuration. And that means that as hundreds of houses burn in Colorado, only eight planes can be called upon to help the thousands of firefighters on the ground. America should not have to make such tradeoffs: We can fight both aggressors and fires smarter and better, but only if we do it increasingly from the sky.
Michael Auslin is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
4:24 PM, Feb 16, 2012 • By RICHARD CLEARY and THOMAS DONNELLY
The $489 billion cut to defense budgets engineered by Barack Obama — as well as the played-for-fool Republican accomplices on Capitol Hill — won't just mean less American military power. These cuts have significant consequences for America's allies, as well.
1:33 PM, Dec 13, 2011 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper is reporting that the Japanese government is close to settling on the F-35 Lightning as the much-needed replacement for its F-15 fighter. That’s exceptionally good news for a program that’s both key to preserving American military preeminence and at a lot of risk due to prospective deep defense budget cuts. Indeed, Japan’s decision may actually complicate the Pentagon’s challenges in meeting the targets laid out by the Budget Control Act, Obama administration po
9:06 PM, Oct 1, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
In Annapolis today, Air Force and Navy met on “the fields of friendly strife.” With 10:00 left in the game, Air Force led 28-10, having more or less dominated play for the first 50 minutes. With 2:09 left, the Falcons still led 28-17. Then Navy nailed a must-make 37-yard field goal, recovered the ensuing onside kick, scored a touchdown on 3rd-and-goal with 0:19 left, and made the subsequent 2-point conversion on an option pitch just inside the left pylon: 28-28, overtime.
2:39 PM, Sep 15, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
At the Daily Beast, Eli Lake reports on a House investigation into whether the Obama administration tried to pressure an Air Force general to change his congressional testimony to help a major campaign donor:
1:47 PM, Feb 28, 2011 • By GARY SCHMITT and THOMAS DONNELLY
Perhaps it was inevitable. After ten years of contentious wrangling and with tens of billions of dollars going to the winner of the competition to build the U.S. Air Force's next fleet of tankers, no matter who won there would be recriminations and charges that the fix was in.
“Our only friend right now is Hugo Chávez.”9:00 AM, Feb 17, 2011 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Shortly after Argentine foreign minister Héctor Timerman accused the United States of operating torture schools, his government decided to trigger a genuine crisis in bilateral relations.
Put MEADS out of its misery.11:35 AM, Dec 29, 2010 • By GARY SCHMITT
For those of us who have been arguing against cutting the U.S. defense budget and, indeed, arguing instead that it’s too low as is, we’re used to our critics saying that we never have met a defense expenditure we don’t like, that we have no ideas for how defense monies can be better utilized, or that we never seem to find a program that ought to be cut.
9:00 AM, Dec 9, 2010 • By MICHAEL AUSLIN
After years of ignoring North Korean aggression and provocations, the South Korean government has stated that any future attacks will result in war on the peninsula. In such a crisis as happening now on the Korean peninsula, one assumes the political and military leadership of the United States would deploy its most sophisticated weapons to the Korean peninsula, both as a warning to Pyongyang and as a capable force to defend against any further aggression in support of our South Korean allies. Yet what was missing from the joint military exercises last week between the U.S. and South Korean navies, in which the U.S.S. George Washington aircraft carrier and several American guided missile destroyers and cruisers joined several Korean ships? The answer: America’s most capable attack fighter, the 5th generation stealthy F-22 Raptor.
12:19 PM, Dec 3, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
At today's Senate hearing, three of the four service chiefs expressed opposition to repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy on gays in the military. "My recommendation is that we should not implement repeal at this time," said Marine Corps commandant General James F. Amos (watch his opening statement here).
Lavelle was sacrificed for the sake of statecraft.9:37 AM, Aug 5, 2010 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
The Washington Post reports today on the posthumous rehabilitation of Air Force General John D. Lavelle. In 1972, Lavelle was forced to retire with a reduced rank in disgrace for conducting unauthorized bombing missions in North Vietnam, and then covering it up.