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February 18, 2010—Don’t look for the Air Force to launch any new major programs for the next few years, or perhaps longer, said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, Thursday at AFA's Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition in Orlando.

“For the immediate future, I think our major programs are set,” Donley told reporters.

“Beyond that, have to await an economic recovery, assess the future of the economy, where the defense budget will fit in that context and what level of resources will be provided to defense four, five, or six years from now.”

Asked if he’s worried the industrial base for critical technologies—like stealth, large military aircraft, fighters—will survive a decade-long new program drought, Donley said, “I think the Long Range Strike work that we’re engaging in now has addressed the issue of industrial base engineering talent at the high end, [including] very sophisticated low observable capabilities and advanced communication capabilities.” The project is funded for $1.8 billion over five years.

But “we have some immediate challenges out in front of us in terms of solid rocket propulsion” and other industrial base suppliers that may have too little to do to stay in business.

There are “important questions still unanswered” about the supplier base. Donley acknowledged that USAF may have to increasingly accept a single supplier in some critical areas of manufacture.

“To a degree … [USAF] has already been doing that,” he said, adding that it’s an issue the Pentagon’s acquisition, technology, and logistics organization is working on.