Inhofe Praises USAF For Getting Pilots Flying Again

Jul 15, 2013

USAF Thunderbirds perform at the Kirtland AFB air show in Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 2011. The popular Thunderbirds demonstration team will start flying again after being grounded since April
Credit Ingrid Truemper / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Air Force says many of its combat air forces will start flying again after being grounded since April because of budget cuts.

The Defense Department received authority from Congress to shift about $7.5 billion from lower priority accounts to more vital operations. The Air Force says the restored flying hours represent about $208 million of that allocation authorized by Congress.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says if the Air Force can find the money to put its pilots back in the air, it can also find the money to end civilian furloughs.

“The [Department of Defense] is now only a few months away from Fiscal Year 2014 with no fix for the next round of sequestration,” Inhofe says. “While the letter I received from the Pentagon last week was woefully light on details, Secretary [of Defense Chuck] Hagel made clear that the pain will only increase next year as a result of the arbitrary across-the-board cuts to the defense budget.”

The grounding affected about one-third of the Air Force's active-duty combat aircraft, including squadrons of fighters, bombers, and airborne warning and control craft.

Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia said planes in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific would become airborne again starting Monday. The restoration of flying hours will last through Oct. 1.

Earlier this year, Inhofe introduced a bill that would require President Obama to submit a replacement plan that freed up $85 billion in sequestration cuts. The Senate voted not to proceed with that legislation.