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​Gen. Michael Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, spoke during an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast event in Arlington, Va., July 29, 2014. AFA staff photo by Lyndsey Akers.

When sequestration hits again—as Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Hostage believes it will—ACC will have to deal with it differently than it did before. During the summer of 2013, some squadrons were grounded and others flew at bare-bones rates, while those preparing to go to combat got preference. “I thought I could get away with it once,” Hostage said during an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast event in Arlington, Va., Tuesday. But he doesn’t think his airmen could “accept it if I go back to them, year after year,” and choose certain units to simply ground or “take a knee.” Hostage warned that “we would run into a morale issue pretty quickly.” That’s why the Air Force has recommended getting quickly down to about 309,000 people, to save the money necessary to keep the remaining force ready. “My contract to the young airmen is, I won’t send you (into combat) if you’re not ready,” he said. He’s also instructed his commanders they should no longer try to “do more with less, … cut corners, … (or) do the things you’re tempted to do because you don’t want to report failure.” He said when they reach the limits of what they can reasonably do with the resources available, “stop at that point, and I’ll either fix that limit or we’ll deal with it until the time comes when we can recover.” (See also Tiered Readiness at ACC.)