Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Monday praised the announcement by the Air Force that Combat Air Forces units resumed flying after being grounded for months by the budget cuts known as sequestration.
The Air Force announced Monday that Combat Air Forces units under multiple commands began flying again, using money that was reprogrammed by Congress.
“Since April, we’ve been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness,” said Air Force Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of the Air Combat Command. “Returning to flying is an important first step, but what we have ahead of us is a measured climb to recovery.”
The 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base is part of the Air Combat Command.
Inhofe, of Tulsa, said, “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.”
Inhofe said the announcement also showed that the military pain from the automatic budget cuts could have been reduced if the Senate had “rightfully considered” his bill to give Department of Defense leaders more flexibility in shifting money around various accounts.
The Senate voted against a procedural move to consider Inhofe’s bill in late February.
President Barack Obama had vowed to veto the legislation. Inhofe said 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.”
Inhofe and Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, have authored language in the new defense bill establishing a Department of Defense Restoration Fund to augment the department’s ability to transfer funds to high priority readiness accounts to meet requirements for training, flying hours, and the maintenance of military equipment, Inhofe’s office said.
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