James: More Capacity Needed to Build Readiness

As a new administration readies to take the White House and expects to boost military spending, the outgoing head of the US Air Force is continuing to press for more spending to build the service’s ranks and its ability to fight the high-end battle. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, speaking Monday at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., said the military needs to increase the size of the Air Force “moderately” to build its ability to fight. The Air Force is ready to do its current missions, including bombing missions in the Middle East and flying surveillance. “You’re damn right we are [ready],” James said. “We’re doing it.” However, a lack of capacity and training means the service isn’t as prepared to fight in an anti-access, area-denial environment against an adversary, such as Russia or China, that can deny aircraft and fight in space. The service has been downsizing for 25 years, and the current amount of Active Duty airmen is the smallest since 1947. Ideally, the service should move toward a level of about 325,000, up from about 317,000 today, including beefing up the ranks of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance personnel, cyber operators, and fighter pilots, she said. (See also: The Readiness Conundrum from the June issue of Air Force Magazine.)