The Air Force’s global presence is under pressure as budget concerns have mounted and Congress seems to prefer to sacrifice foreign permanent bases over stateside reductions, said RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles. She noted in her Nov. 16 address that only a handful of countries host permanent Air Force garrisoned forces, all of them being NATO allies (e.g., Germany) or nations with which the United States holds mutual defense treaties (e.g., Japan). Otherwise, the Air Force presence is in countries where the US-host nation security relationship runs the gamut from close cooperation to “transactional” arrangements where the United States pays for access, such as to Kyrgyzstan’s Transit Center at Manas, she said. Because of host-nation sensibilities in areas such as the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia, agreements for visiting and rotational forces are the likely models that the Air Force will be use in years ahead for force posture, said Pettyjohn. “Permanent garrisons are anathema to many of our new and perspective partners,” even with allies like Singapore, she said. Future basing constructs abroad will be more modest, with more joint or partner facilities, she said.
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.