Numbers Crunch

The Air Force invests more of its total budget in joint force support than any other service. In fact, investments in joint capabilities, such as space, mobility, and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, account for about 45 percent of its total budget, states a new Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies report released Wednesday. That’s nearly a 40 percent increase since 1962, according to Arsenal of Airpower: USAF Aircraft Inventory, 1950-2009 (caution, large-sized file). “[I]f the Air Force retired its entire fighter, bomber, and intercontinental ballistic missile force, its spending would only decline 25 percent,” reads the report. Those trends aren’t good news for Air Force planners who are trying to keep an aging fleet of aircraft flying with less and less funding in the total budget. Speaking at the report’s rollout event in Arlington, Va., Christopher Bowie, one of the report’s authors, offered two suggestions: First, the Air Force needs to utilize unmanned systems more since they can have up to one-third less total ownership costs due to their extended flight endurance and greater training flexibility. Second, it needs to focus more aggressively on directed energy.