YOKOTA AIR BASE, JAPAN—Budget problems aren’t likely to disrupt the paychecks of Air Force personnel in fitness and recreational facilities, even if funding earmarked for the Army isn’t restored through passage of a supplemental bill, according to Gen. Paul Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander.
Under such a scenario, however, the service would look elsewhere for cuts “to not impact airmen in terms of money in the pocket and not infringe on their operational readiness,” Hester said during a stop at Yokota Air Base earlier this month.
In the last three weeks, the Air Force has sent conflicting messages about what might happen if a Pentagon request to divert $1.6 billion from Air Force and Navy personnel accounts to the Army isn’t returned.
“I’m not a budget expert, but I don’t think there’s any possibility” the situation will affect airmen’s pay, Hester says. “Pay is not one of those areas…that’s been part of the target to give to the Army.”
Instead, the Air Force would look at other options, including scaling back quality-of-life programs, service contracts and routine maintenance tasks. Many bases already have been forced to cut corners to pay for mission support services and utilities, among other things. Some fitness centers stopped providing workout towels.
“We’re not going to turn these things off, just modulate them a bit,” he says.
The Air Force remains hopeful the diverted money will be brought back and further cutbacks elsewhere will be unnecessary. But Congress and the White House must first resolve the supplemental issues, he says.