WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of Senate Armed Services Committee, today praised the Air Force for restoring its flying hour program with reprogramming money recently authorized by Congress and called for an end to civilian furloughs.
“After more than 90 days of our airmen being grounded due to sequestration, the announcement today by the Air Force is welcome news,” said Inhofe. “If recent reprogramming measures can put our pilots back in the air, I fully expect the Air Force can also find a way to also end furloughs for this fiscal year.
“Today’s announcement proves the military’s pain from sequester could have been mitigated all along had my bill to give flexibility to the Department of Defense been rightfully considered. Instead, the President chose politics over the needs of our warfighters and issued a veto threat of my bill, focusing his effort on shirking responsibility rather than providing the budget flexibility his commanders have repeatedly requested. The President did so at the cost of our military and civilian personnel and their families who continue to bear the brunt of the fiscal uncertainty. Now the Air Force will also have to compensate for the additional costs of neglected maintenance and training required to return our aircrews and aircraft to mission ready status. Once again the Obama Administration has broken faith with our men and women in uniform and the American people, because clearly this was avoidable.
“The DoD is now only a few months away from Fiscal Year 2014 with no fix for the next round of sequestration. While the letter I received from the Pentagon last week was woefully light on details, Sec. Hagel made clear that the pain will only increase next year as a result of the arbitrary across-the-board cuts to the defense budget. At a time when the world is becoming more dangerous, the President's historic defense cuts have resulted in an underfunded missile defense strategy, a shortfall in vital overseas war-fighting funding, and dire warnings from our military leaders that they soon will be unable to respond to contingencies around the world. Sequestration must be avoided, but if the President is going to continue down this destructive path, we must at the very least allow our military leaders the ability to mitigate some of the impact.”
On February 28, Inhofe and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced S. 16, legislation that would grant flexibility to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the full $85 billion in sequestration cuts for the rest of fiscal year 2013. Despite bipartisan support, President Obama issued a veto threat of the legislation and the Senate voted not to proceed to the bill by 38 to 62.
During the SASC mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (S.1197), Inhofe and Chairman Carl Levin successfully included language requiring the Secretary of Defense to establish the “Department of Defense Readiness Restoration Fund” to address significant funding shortfalls for readiness training due to sequestration. The fund would increase the DOD’s ability to transfer funds to high priority readiness accounts to meet requirements for training, flying hours, and the maintenance of military equipment.