The Air Force tried to cut 15 three-star billets last year but was only successful in cutting eight, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Thursday morning. “The others were just a bridge too far,” not because of Air Force resistance, but because of resistance outside the service, Welsh said. Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently proposed updating the Goldwater-Nichols Act, and lawmakers and defense officials have been discussing trimming headquarters operations and jobs for the highest-ranking officers. Welsh, speaking at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va., said it is fair to ask why the general and flag officer ranks have not been downsized at the same rate as the overall force. If the services can’t justify those positions, he said, “maybe they shouldn’t be there.” Still, he said, “it’s very difficult to reduce,” in part because senior positions “are coming out of somebody’s district, somebody’s state.” There is also a “ripple” effect on other jobs that goes along with reducing senior officer positions, he noted.
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.