Senator Collins Calls for Action on National Security Supplemental, Questions Secretary Kendall on Risks to the Air Force in Budget Request


Opening Remarks: Click HERE to watch and HERE to download.


Q&A with Secretary of the Air Force Kendall: Click HERE to watch and HERE to download.


Washington, D.C. – At a hearing to review the Fiscal Year 2025 budget request for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense, highlighted the risks the Administration’s request would impose on our national defense.  Senator Collins also highlighted the need for the House to pass the national security supplemental that cleared the Senate in February.


During her opening remarks, Senator Collins said:


none of us can gloss over the fact that this budget request would result in a real decrease in funding available for the Air Force and Space Force to buy aircraft and weapons.  That's true for the other military services as well.


Just to keep pace with inflation for critical needs, like military pay, health care, and housing, the topline would need to be higher by at least 4%, but the Administration proposes a topline increase of less than 2% for the Air Force.


To comply with the caps of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the 2025 budget request for the Air Force is $2 billion less than was planned when Secretary Kendall and General Saltzman testified before the Committee just last year.

Air Force officials have said that at any one time, 514 aircraft in the fleet are grounded due to a lack of spare partsFunding for additional spares to reduce that deficiency significantly was excluded from the budget request...  What are the consequences if Congress does not restore this $2 billion reduction?  What risks are we assuming, given that China's Air Force continues to grow, and this budget request proposes a net reduction of 129 aircraft?

Each budget request must account for both the threats we're facing now, and that are projected into the future.  What I know with certainty, is that the threats facing our country and our military are growing.  Two combatant commanders, in the last few months, have told me that this is the most dangerous global environment in 50 years.


Unless the national security supplemental is enacted into law, and soon, the Air Force will have to take funding "out of hide" from the Fiscal Year 2024 defense appropriations bill...  The bipartisan national security supplemental, passed by the Senate in February, included more than $1.8 billion for these purposes.  Without this supplemental funding, there will be even greater harm to overall readiness and modernization.


Finally, I would note that many of the military aircraft transporting aid to Ukraine and Israel are supported by the 101st Air Refueling wing in Bangor, Maine, of which I am very proud.  Secretary Kendall, I know they're very eager to host you, and I look forward to doing so as well.


In response to a question from Senator Collins about the greatest risks the Administration’s budget request would impose on the Air Force, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said:


My greatest concern is time and the pace of modernization…  China [has] modernized in a way which is intended to take advantage of what they see as our vulnerabilities.  And so, they are attacking things like our airfields, our carriers, our satellites that we rely upon, in relatively small numbers.  They're also modernizing in the air domain, and in the counter-space domain very effectively in general, and they are fielding quantities.  We do have to respond to the quantities, as you mentioned.  Unfortunately, holding onto increasingly aging, and expensive to maintain, and less cost-effective assets really doesn't help us with that equation.

We have a cost problem with the aircraft that we're buying now.  Our fighters are very expensive.  The F-35 and the F-15EX cost about $100 million each, NGAD (Next Generation Air Dominance) will cost over $300 million and will be bought in small numbers.  The uncrewed Collaborative Combat Aircraft give us an opportunity to address the cost and the quantity issues with relatively inexpensive but very highly cost-effective platforms that we add to the fleet.


So, getting on with the next generation capabilities is by far my highest priority right nowThe risk is increasing over time, and if we focus on the risk today, at the expense of that higher levels of risk we're going to see as China continues to modernize, we're going to be in a very intractable position within just a few years.




As the Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins is pressing forward with Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) to hold subcommittee hearings on the President’s budget request.  These hearings provide an important opportunity to assess our country’s needs for the coming year and will help guide Senators Collins and Murray’s efforts to write the annual government funding bills.