USAF Must Get Bigger, Not Smaller

The Air Force must stop downsizing and instead “modestly upsize” across the Total Force, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James told airmen Dec. 8 in a live online town hall meeting. “Enough is enough,” she said. “We have got to stop the downsizing.” James said she has seen under manning “everywhere I have traveled,” citing specific holes in the maintenance force, nuclear forces, remotely piloted aircraft, and the cyber force. Additionally, James noted that the two-year bipartisan budget deal is good news, despite the fact that the deal provides the Defense Department $15 billion less than the Pentagon asked for in Fiscal 2017. The Air Force must invest in readiness, she said, because about half of combat air forces are not ready for a high-end fight. “We’ve got to do better,” James said. On the topic of opening the Air Force’s six remaining male-only career fields to women, James said the service has been working on establishing “gender-neutral, operationally relevant standards.” As part of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s move to open all military jobs to women, the services now must submit a specific implementation plan, including a timeline, James said. And though it is very possible that women will enter the training pipeline for those special operations jobs in 2016, it may be several more years before women are in the units, James said. (See also: The Air Force’s Tight-Budget Shopping List from the November issue of Air Force Magazine.)