The Air Force needs between 40,000 and 60,000 additional airmen to relieve an overworked force and expand capabilities in cyber and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said last week at an Air Force Association breakfast.
“Every problem we have in growing, in modernizing, increasing mission capability, is manpower related,” Welsh said.
The service’s active-duty end strength is slated to increase from its current level of 311,000 airmen to 317,000 by October, reported Air Force Times. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, however, has said the service needs an additional 4,000 airmen beyond that.
The Air Force’s greatest needs stem from its cyber and ISR units. It also is training more airmen in newer aircraft such as the F-35.
“People are a limiting factor right now,” Welsh said, “and adding more burden to them in any way, shape or form is a bad idea.”
If the Air Force remains hampered by an undersized force, its capability and response time will be limited.
“The nation that’s going to win [the next war] is not the one with the biggest army,” Welsh said. “It’s not necessarily the one that has the most tanks, or longest range artillery systems. The one that’s going to win is the one with the best Air Force.”