The Air Force has a “path laid out” for the future, and has the money it needs for everything in that plan—except nuclear recapitalization, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Thursday. “We don’t have the money in our program for that,” Welsh said. And whether the Air Force gets the money it needs for that recapitalization depends on whether the US decides what it wants the military to be able to do in 30 or 50 years, Welsh said. “If you want to continue to use your military as if you are the global superpower, then it’s going to require investment,” he said. Welsh noted that the Navy doesn’t have enough money in its budget for nuclear recapitalization, either. “This is a debate that has to happen,” he said, rather than continuing to put it off. The nuclear triad has been the “backstop of our national security,” Welsh said, and if the US wants to keep it, “then we need to recapitalize it. It’s old. It’s really old.” Though some members of Congress have proposed a separate fund for new submarines—the Navy’s portion of the nuclear recapitalization effort—the Air Force has not been formally asked about that, nor has it asked for a separate fund itself, Welsh said. Still, he said, USAF would want both of its legs of the triad included if such a fund was created.
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.