The number of Active Duty airmen currently in service has exceeded the Air Force’s goal for Fiscal 2017, thanks to an increased effort on recruitment and retention. There are about 317,800 airmen in uniform, up from 309,000 a year ago—that’s 800 more than its stated goal of 317,000, said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the service’s deputy chief of staff for manpower. Speaking at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force event Wednesday in Arlington, Va., Grosso said many inside the Defense Department, and in the Air Force itself, didn’t think it could grow its ranks that quickly. But fast work inside Air Education and Training Command enabled the service to exceed its goals, Grosso said. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has placed a high focus on building the ranks, which she said dropped too low because of budget constraints. James told reporters earlier this year she was considering enacting a little-known law that enabled her to bolster the service’s end strength by up to two percent—or as many as 6,340 airmen—above congressional mandates.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.