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Lt. Gen. John Cooper, deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering, and force protection, speaks at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 1, 2017. Staff photo by McKinnon Pearse.

​The Air Force expects to get its maintenance manning back to 100 percent by 2020 or 2021, after being short 4,000 maintainers just three and a half years ago. Lt. Gen. John Cooper, deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering, and force protection, said the Air Force’s decision to move critical accession manpower to maintenance has already had an impact, with the current shortage sitting at about 3,400 billets. The maintenance training pipeline has increased dramatically, but the decision is “squeezing the balloon,” moving one shortfall to another, Cooper said. Because of the increase in new maintainers, the Air Force will be able to fill the billets but they will all be young, inexperienced airmen. The service is “solving the quantity problem, we have to work on the quality problem,” Cooper said at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va. The service is also addressing the manning shortfall in the F-35 community with a temporary fix to hire private contractors to provide maintenance in training squadrons, and having Active Duty maintainers work in combat squadrons. The dollar value of the two are about equal, Cooper said.

See also: Maintainer Misery from the November issue of Air Force Magazine.