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Jan. 14, 2013—
Budget sequestration will severely damage Air Force readiness if it is triggered on March 1, states a memo last week from the service's leadership to Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

According to the Jan. 7 memo, signed by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force can no longer simply hope Congress will avoid the postponed sequester and is therefore taking steps to blunt the effects, which in any case will have "immediate and devastating impacts to readiness."

Specifically, since combat units must have top priority, the Air Force will apply the mandated spending cuts to any units not in Afghanistan or spooling up to go there, "sacrificing preparedness for contingencies or [operations plans]," states the memo.

The 18-percent reduction would be applied "disproportionately across the force," causing some units to "stand down for extended periods," with a possible "flying standdown from late July through September," wrote Donley and Welsh.

These units will "likely fall to the lowest readiness levels and will require extensive time and funding to recover," losing more than 200,000 flying hours, states the memo.

Sequester will force backlogs in depot maintenance, and "the 50/50 organic/contractor depot ratio" may have to be abandoned, it states.

Massive civilian furloughs across the Active Duty component, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve would create "immediate capability gaps in all critical skill sets," ravaging morale and productivity, wrote Donley and Welsh.

The service would have to defer all military construction, ranging from runway repairs to new mission beddowns to range upgrades, thereby driving "substantial costs in the future," states the memo.

In acquisition programs, the sequester—coming on top of a year's worth of continuing resolution rather than a real budget—will create "a protracted, disruptive effect" on contracts, and will "result in delayed delivery of modernization capability, which is already undercapitalized to meet the new defense strategy," wrote Donley and Welsh.

For a detailed discussion of the readiness concerns of Air Force senior leaders, read The Readiness Question, a new article from Air Force Magazine.