“I think you've almost got too much judicial process here for the perpetrators and not nearly enough for the victims,” Cole said.
Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh, the chief of staff for the service, said he agrees.
“There's no magic that's going to solve this problem,” he said. “It's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of new ideas, a lot of partnership with the Congress, with outside agencies and experts who deal in this area. … But we understand the problem.”
Tinker Air Force Base is home to a huge aircraft repair depot that primarily employs civilians. Rather than imposing furloughs across the board for civilians, Cole said, “some discrimination might be appropriate” to ensure aircraft are properly repaired.
“I don't want airplanes that don't fly, let alone airplanes that come down with crews in them,” Cole said.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said the decision on furloughs has yet to be made, but that Cole's points have been part of the discussions. Because of the budget cuts that took effect in March, Donley said, a repair backlog of 60 aircraft and 35 engines is expected at Air Force depots.
The Air Force was doing its best to “minimize the impacts and to maximize the readiness we can get from our depot workforce with the funds available,” he said.