Senate panel proposes new budget feature highlighting force structure cost savings

By Courtney Albon / November 11, 2020 at 3:33 PM

Senate lawmakers are asking the Air Force and the Defense Department comptroller's office to work with Congress on developing a new budget exhibit that outlines the cost savings associated with proposals to divest or retire weapon systems.

In its version of fiscal year 2021 defense spending legislation, the Senate Appropriations Committee is proposing the military services provide more details on the financial implications of major force structure proposals.

"The committee recognizes that budgetary pressures associated with balancing near-term readiness and future modernization priorities frequently result in the military services proposing force structure divestitures and retirements," the committee states in a report accompanying its bill. "Despite the magnitude of these decisions, there is not a clear crosswalk to the budget justification materials submitted with the president's budget request that highlights detailed funding implications."

The initial work to craft a new budget exhibit will focus on Air Force aircraft divestitures and retirements, and work to craft the new element should begin within 45 days after the bill becomes law, the report states. The committee's intent is that the information would initially be included in FY-23 budget justification materials.

The exhibit should include "quantities of aircraft impacted, funding changes by appropriation and line item through the entire future years defense plan, and a narrative explaining how the funding change for each line was derived."

"Once the exhibit has been refined for Air Force aircraft divestiture and retirements, the committee will consider expanding the scope to include changes in force structure as proposed by other military services going forward," the report states.

The report doesn't indicate why the Air Force was chosen to collaborate on this effort. However, the service has in recent years proposed a number of significant retirements and divestments. In its FY-21 budget request, the Air Force proposed speeding up KC-10 and KC-135 retirements and reducing its A-10, F-15 and B-1 fleets.

The service's new Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown has said he won't shy away from major force structure changes and has encouraged a more robust, transparent dialogue with Congress about the need to move away from some legacy systems in order to reinvest in new capabilities.

Brown released a paper this summer titled, "Accelerate Change or Lose," in which he argued the service has a "unique, but limited" opportunity to make significant changes to counter future threats. He also encouraged more input and buy-in from Congress and industry as the service moves forward.

"We must make a compelling case to external stakeholders, backed by defensible analysis and evidence, to divest or take risk in legacy missions and capabilities," he said.