Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the Air Force “may have even gone too far” with its end strength reductions, and is seeking a modest upward adjustment in the Active Duty, Air Guard, and Reserves to “plug some holes” in areas such as maintenance, alleviate pressures in the nuclear field, and increase cyber billets. The changes would raise total end strength to 492,000—a 6,600 increase across the Total Force. In addition to seeking associate unit arrangements for capabilities such as the F-15C in the Air Guard, USAF will soon brief Congress on proposals stemming from the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force report to allow for better integration of airmen across the components. One of these requests would be a proposal to change the law to permit Air Force Reserve Command pilots to train Active Duty pilots as instructors, she said. If Congress is supportive, the language could be inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act as soon as this fall, she told reporters in a media roundtable Feb. 13 in Orlando.
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.