Shortfalls in manpower, training, and equipment limit the conventional Air Force’s ability to conduct full-spectrum combat, Maj. Gen. Scott West, director of current operations on the Air Staff, told lawmakers Wednesday. “If called upon to fight state-to-state, an associated training delay would pose a significant risk to mission,” West said before the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. “Conversely, deploying airmen in their current readiness state to fight along soldiers, sailors, and marines would significantly increase the risk to success of the joint fight.” The service will attempt to address the shortfalls by first reducing the shortage of 4,000 maintainers. “Since development of human capital takes the longest to complete, we must first address personnel shortfalls in critical skills,” West said. The service will then work to increase weapons systems sustainment, improve training range infrastructure, add flying hours, and reduce the operations tempo to ready for operations against a near-peer competitor. But West warned if Congress funds the service with a continuing resolution, rather than a fiscal budget, it would prevent the service from “realizing the benefit of having increased funding levels in [Fiscal 2017] to address readiness,” such as upping end strength to 321,000 airmen. (Read West’s prepared testimony.) (See also: The Readiness Conundrum from the June issue of Air Force Magazine.)
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.