Draconian budget cuts on the nation's military by the Obama administration have taken such a toll that the U.S. Air Force needs 4,000 service personnel to maintain its aircraft, 700 pilots to fly them — and members are now foraging for parts in a desert site called "The Boneyard."
"It's not only the personnel that are tired, it's the aircraft that are tired as well," Master Sgt. Bruce Pfrommer, who has worked on B-1 bombers for more than 20 years, told Fox News
Pfrommer is stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, located about 35 miles from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
He told Fox that only about half of the 28th Bomb Wing’s fleet of bombers could fly.
"We have only 20 aircraft assigned on station currently," he said. "Out of those 20, only nine are flyable.
"The [B-1] I worked on 20 years ago had 1,000 flight hours on it," he added. "Now, we're looking at some of the airplanes out here that are pushing over 10,000 flight hours.
Capt. Elizabeth Jarding, a B-1 pilot at Ellsworth who returned to South Dakota in January after being deployed to the Middle East for six months, told Fox: "In 10 years, we cut our flying program in half."
The budget cuts, known as sequestration, took effect three years ago, Fox reports. They have led Air Force officials to cut staff — leaving many military personnel to work extra shifts in administrative jobs mostly held by civilians.
"Our retention rates are pretty low," Staff Sgt. Tyler Miller, a member of the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron based at Ellsworth, told Fox. "Airmen are tired and burnt out.
"When I first came in seven years ago, we had six people per aircraft — and the lowest man had six or seven years of experience," Miller added. "Today, you have three-man teams and each averages only three years of experience."
Jarding said: "Honestly, from the perspective of an air crew member, the squadron is wiped out."
Sequestration has also created a huge shortage of aircraft parts, Fox reports.
Planes no longer being used are stripped of their parts at "The Boneyard," a site in the Arizona desert. Parts also come from museum exhibits, one Air Force captain told Fox.
"We also pulled it off of six other museum jets throughout the U.S.," Capt. Travis Lytton said, pointing to a part that was pulled from pieces to keep one of his B-1 jets operating.
Meanwhile, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook gave this response when Fox asked last week whether Defense Secretary Ash Carter believed that sequestration cuts were causing more widespread problems within the military: "No, I do not think so.
"I think this is a particular issue that's been discussed at length and this is an issue we're working to address."
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