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FY 2017 Federal Budget Snapshot: Air Force

Published: February 24, 2016

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In early February the White House released its fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request, including agency discretionary and information technology (IT) budget submissions. Let’s take a look at the Air Force to see what the numbers and funding priorities tell us about the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.

Total Discretionary Funding

The FY 2017 federal budget provides the Air Force with $166.9B in total funding, an increase of $5.1B (+3.1) from the FY 2016 enacted level of $161.8B. This amount consists of 151.1B in base funding compared to $145.7B in FY 2016 and $15.8B in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, compared to $16.1B in FY 2016. The 3.7% growth in AF base funding makes it the major gainer among the defense components. Army and Navy are in the negative, year over year, and the Defense Agencies receive a more modest bump of +1.2%.

Discretionary funding highlights include:

  • $22.4B in in base funding for Procurement, down $2.7B (10.8%) from FY 2016 estimated enacted level of $25.1B.
  • $46.9B in base funding for Operations and Maintenance (O&M), an increase of $900M (+2%) from the FY 2016 enacted level of $46.0B.
  • $19.6B in base funding for Research, Development, Test, & Evaluation (RDT&E), up $2.3B (+13.3%) from the FY 2016 enacted level of $17.3B.

Air Force Total IT and New Development Budgets

The Air Force is requesting a combined $5.3B for IT in FY 2017, just about the same amount they requested in FY 2016, but they reported an enacted FY 2016 IT budget of $5.1B, so the new request is a 3.0% increase. This is still about $423M less than what they spent in FY 2015. Still, the requested 3% increase for FY 2017 makes the Air Force the sole year-to-year gainer among the defense components. (Army, Navy, and the Defense Agencies are all dropping from FY 2016 to FY 2017. (Las year, it was the other way around.)

Where new IT Development, Modernization, and Enhancement (DME) funding is concerned, the growth trend continues for Air Force, with a 2.0% gain from FY 2016 and continues to sustain a fairly consistent funding lever across the most recent three years. (See table below.) This DME growth is moderate, but it makes the Air Force the only defense component that is requesting an increase in DME funding in the new FY. All the others are trimming their DME.


Noteworthy IT Programs

Looking further into the Air Force’s IT budget investments and initiatives provides some vision into their current priorities and future direction. Here are a few initiatives that stand out among others due to relative size, budget growth, and/or proportion of new development spending.

FY 2017 IT funding highlights include

  • Next Generation Operational Control System - The Global Positioning System (GPS) Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) program procures and fields a modernized satellite command and control (C2) system capable of operating all GPS III and legacy satellites. It receives $332.5M (+13.0%) for FY 2017 and consists of 100% DME funding.
  • Air and Space Operations Center-Weapon System Increment 10.2 - Air and Space Operations Center-Weapon System (AOC WS) Increment 10.2 is a major modernization effort and net-centric infrastructure is a necessary component to future modernization efforts to the AOC. It receives $434M (+290%) for FY 2017 and consists of 61.6% DME funding.
  • AF NC3-MEECN Modernization - Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN) updates the last line of operational systems that are the last line of operational command, control, and communication (C3) systems when all other non-survivable (non- nuclear hardened) communication links have failed. The initiative receives $273.8M (+155.4%) for FY 2017, 93.4% of which is DME funding.
  • BASE LEVEL COMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE–ANG - Air National Guard (ANG) Base Communications directly supports 88 Flying Wings and 579 Mission Support Units and are located in all 50 states and 4 territories.  Base Communications provide day-to-day communications services to over 107,000 airmen. It receives $225.6M (+14.5%) for FY 2017 and consists of 4.8% DME funding.
  • Mission Planning System Modernization - Initiative consists of ACAT III acquisitions programs that provide follow-on Joint Mission Planning System releases/capability to Air Force platforms. It receives $136.3M (+9.1%) for FY 2017 and consists of 46.8% DME funding.
  • Tactical Data Link System - Tactical Data Links (TDL) are used in a combat environment to exchange information such as messages, data, radar tracks, target information, platform status, imagery and command assignments. It receives $134M (+25.7%) for FY 2017 and consists of 62.9% DME funding.

While the Air Force FY 2017 IT budget provides a modest rebound from the nearly $580M cut in FY 2016, the -7% downward move from FY 2015 points to a larger picture of downward fiscal pressure, IT efficiency gains, and focused priorities on reenergizing and refreshing non-IT capabilities at the Air Force. The IT investments above, and others, fit within an overall strategy to move to a joint operating environment (i.e. JIE) while selectively modernizing key infrastructure and systems support to the warfighter mission.