Although the Defense Department is facing “serious budget constraints” at home, the US will continue to commit resources and personnel to the Middle East while making sure military capabilities evolve to meet new threats, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a speech at the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain on Dec. 7. “Questions have been raised about America’s intentions, America’s strategy, and America’s commitment to this region,” said Hagel, who is the first US defense secretary to participate in the conference since 2008. “The United States has enduring interests in this critical region of the world and we will remain fully committed to the security of our allies and our partners in the region.” Hagel noted there are some 35,000 military personnel serving in and around the Gulf. “We’ve deployed our most advanced fighter aircraft throughout the region, including F-22s, to ensure that we can quickly respond to contingencies. Coupled with our unique munitions, no target is beyond our reach.” In addition, Hagel said, the US has deployed its most advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities around the region and has fielded “an array of missile defense capabilities, including ballistic missile defense ships, Patriot batteries, and sophisticated radar.” He said even with current economic constraints, the US “will continue to represent nearly 40 percent of global total spending.” (AFPS report)(Hagel speech)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.