Gen. Welsh: Don't mess with Ray Odierno

Don't pick a fight with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno or try to show up your wife while wakeboarding. That's the message Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh gave at a Pentagon press conference with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley today while explaining why his arm is in a sling.

"It's ugly in these sequestration meetings; we were struggling for resources between the service chiefs the other day, and I think that's the first time I realized how big Ray Odierno really is! I'm recovering slowly," Welsh joked about his banged-up arm.

The actual reason for the injury is that Welsh and his wife, Betty, were both wakeboarding for the first time in Florida last year. His wife took to the sport immediately, prompting Welsh to prove how good he was at it. This didn't go well, and Welsh recently had surgery on the shoulder that he injured in the unsuccessful attempt to show off, according to the four-star.

In real news, Welsh and Donley told the gathered reporters that the service has begun looking at ways to tighten up its finances as it braces for the possibility that sequestration -- roughly 10 percent across-the-board defense cuts -- will kick in in February should Congress fail to avert it.

Here are the basics of the costs-savings measures that will likely be put into action "in the next few days," according to Donley and Welsh:

  • Freeze on nonessential civilian hiring
  • Stop non-emergency upgrades or repairs to infrastructure
  • Freeze on non-emergency travel and things like furniture purchases.

These freezes are designed to have a minimal impact on the service's ability to perform its missions and will be reversible -- this means that the service isn't going to start raiding its R&D money or canceling weapons procurements.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's fiscal guidance, announced yesterday and aimed at preparing for sequestration, "asks us to focus on adjustments and spending patterns that are reversible and recoverable to the extent possible," said Donley.

The Air Force secretary said that "there are no specific [savings] targets, because they wouldn't mitigate the impact of sequestration; all they can do is [help] steel ourselves for what might happen" if sequestration kicks in.

Donley reiterated his long-standing claim that sequestration will have devastating effects on the Air Force's attempt to modernize and upgrade its fleet of fighters, bombers, tankers, and satellites.

Both Donley and Welsh warned that even if sequestration is avoided, budgets will shrink in the coming years -- something that will force the service to shrink in size, making it more reliant on new, more effective weapons that will replace the service's fleet of Cold War-vintage aircraft.

U.S. Air Force