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Air Force memo describes cuts budget might require

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 7:28 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Air Force leaders will cut flying hours by nearly 20 percent and prepare for a possible end to all noncombat or noncritical flights from late July through September if Congress can't agree on a budget and billions of dollars in automatic cuts are triggered.

In an Air Force internal memo obtained by The Associated Press, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley laid out broad but grim steps the service will be taking in coming days and weeks to enforce a civilian hiring freeze, cancel air show appearances and flyovers, and slash base improvements and repairs by about 50 percent.

Beyond those immediate actions, Donley and Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in the memo that the service will make plans to chop aircraft and depot maintenance by about 17 percent and initiate widespread civilian furloughs if there is no resolution to the budget issue by March. The cut in flights would reduce flying hours by more than 200,000, the memo said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other military leaders have been predicting dire consequences if Congress fails to pass a new budget and automatic cuts take place. Asked about Panetta's directive to possibly cancel ship, aircraft and depot maintenance in the third and fourth quarters of this fiscal year if there is no budget solution, Donley said the Air Force will review each type of aircraft and its requirements.

In a similar memo, the Navy said it is confronting a $4 billion shortfall in its operations and maintenance accounts and called for “stringent belt-tightening measures” if a new budget is not passed and the military has to operate with the same funding it got for the previous fiscal year.

The Pentagon is facing a spending reduction of nearly $500 billion over a decade. An additional $110 billion in automatic spending cuts to military and domestic programs will take effect in early March if no agreement is reached.

In a briefing with Pentagon reporters, Donley said the Air Force is not targeting a particular amount in savings to achieve, but is taking steps to curtail spending where possible at this point without having an irreversible effect on the service and not impacting the nation's ability to wage war.

The Air Force accounts, Donley said, will bear about up to 20 percent of the Defense Department reductions

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