By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Feb. 05, 2007) -- In the president's fiscal 2008 budget, released Feb. 5, Air Force leaders are asking Congress for about $110.7 billion dollars.
The Air Force budget request, about $6.2 billion more than it received in FY07, is divided into three primary areas: people, readiness and modernization and recapitalization. About 5 percent of the total budget goes toward infrastructure, said Maj. Gen. Frank R. Faykes, Air Force military deputy to the assistant secretary for budget.
Taking care of Airmen is one of the top three priorities for Air Force leaders, and this year, nearly a third of the budget, about $36 billion dollars, goes toward that goal. In fact, this year Air Force leaders have asked for about $1.3 billion dollars more than the service received last year to fund personnel costs.
"We have a 3 percent pay raise for military and civilian Airmen next year, and as you know, we have 670,000 Airmen in our Air Force -- officer, enlisted and civilian Airmen," he said. "Everybody will get a 3 percent pay raise. Also, basic allowance for housing goes up about 4 percent."
Winning the war on terrorism is certainly another priority for Air Force leaders. This year, they are asking Congress for about $30.6 billion dollars in readiness funds to help the service prepare Airmen to fight the war on terrorism. That request is about $3.2 billion more than the service received the year prior.
"Readiness is key to fighting and winning the (war on terrorism) today," General Faykes said. "We look at the readiness, the operations and maintenance account, as that direct funding that allows us to prepare, to train, and then to deploy to fight the global war on terror."
The Air Force readiness accounts are meant to pay for things like funding flying operations at bases, security forces squadrons, operating vehicle fleets, and communications systems. This is the money that allows day-to-day operations and training to go on at Air Force bases around the world.
"That readiness funding that operates and maintains our basic infrastructure at our home bases is very critical to the success of the United States Air Force in providing air dominance to the combatant commanders," General Faykes said.
Modernization is also a key priority of the Air Force, and it is reflected in the service's $38.9 billion dollar modernization and recapitalization budget request. This request is about $2.3 billion dollars more than the service received in FY07. The money will fund the Air Force's efforts to buy new, more modern aircraft.
"This is where we're going to bring on additional aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 Lightning II and the new combat search and rescue helicopter," General Faykes said, "and our number one priority in acquisition, to begin recapitalizing our tanker fleet."
The Air Force's tanker fleet, about 500 KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, averages about 45 years old. On Jan. 30, Air Force officials released a request for proposal for the tanker replacement. The RFP is the official invitation to manufacturers to begin making offers to build a replacement for the aging "Eisenhower-era" fleet of KC-135s.
In the FY08 budget, Air Force officials project they will spend about $18.4 billion on research, development, testing and evaluation. They also will spend about $20.5 billion dollars on procuring new aircraft, missiles, equipment and ammunition.
Most areas of the Air Force's FY08 budget request show increases over the FY07 outlay. But this year, officials are asking for less money for infrastructure than what was received in FY07. Last year, the Air Force received $5.8 billion dollars, this year officials are asking for just $5.2 billion. That money is used for military construction, facility maintenance, implementing directives under the Base Realignment and Closure act, and military housing.
"One area where we have a decline is in the military construction program, due to the significant pressures on our budget in FY08," General Faykes said. "We've reduced our military construction program by about $300 million, but we still are able to build (some) new military construction projects."
The general said Air Force officials will build some new dormitories, a new child development center and a new fitness center in FY08. He also said there are new fire training facilities in the plan as well.
General Faykes also said Air Force officials will continue to privatize Air Force housing, and that the service would be entirely out of "inadequate" housing in the United States by FY08, and in the entire Air Force by FY09.
"We're privatizing housing across the Air Force," the general said. "The Air Force has about 88,000 housing units on its bases. That's the equivalent of 1.5 times the number of rooms that the Doubletree Hotel chain has, so it's a big deal for us to ensure that every Airman, whether you're working in the most northern tier base or one of the most southern tier bases or if you're working at a base overseas where you may be assigned, lives in adequate housing."
Some of those "significant pressures" on the budget include increases in fuel and personnel costs, General Faykes said.
"Our personnel costs have increased about 50 percent in the last ten years while at the same time our end strength is coming down 8 percent," he said. "So the cost of our people in terms of pay, health care and those types of entitlements have gone up fairly significantly for the Air Force."
Air Force leaders, like the rest of Americans, also must contend with the rising cost of petroleum.
"Just as you would see in your own car with gas prices, the Air Force is seeing a significant cost of fuel increases of about 9 percent," he said. "For the Air Force, that's significant because we are the biggest consumer of aviation fuel within the Department of Defense. So for every ten dollar increase in the price of oil, that costs the Air Force $600 million dollars."
In response to the increase in fuel prices, Air Force officals have budgeted some $35 million dollars to research alternative fuels.
"We are looking at alternative fuels across the FYDP of about $35 million," General Faykes said. "We're starting with an effort first to certify our engines. We have successfully flown the B-52 Stratofortress with all eight engines on alternative fuels. In FY08 we will continue to certify all of our engines to fly on alternative fuels and then significantly begin investing in purchasing those fuels."
The general also said the Air Force has been a good steward of energy conservation for many years. The Air Force is the largest purchaser of "green energy" in the U.S. government. This, and the Air Force's research into alternative fuels, will help Air Force leaders reduce operating costs.
"We think that is the path for the future," General Faykes said. "It begins to get America off of its total reliance on foreign fuel, and also it drives down the cost of operating our own systems."
The Air Force's FY08 budget is but a part of the president's overall budget for the United States. Once the president's budget leaves the White House, it must be approved or disapproved, in part or in whole, by Congress. Portions of the budget for the Air Force or any other federal agency can be increased or decreased by Congress. Lawmakers will try to have the budget approved before October 1, 2007, the beginning of FY08.