Although it used to be that only certain missions in the Air Force were “low density, high demand”—notably combat rescue, special operations, remotely piloted aircraft operators, etc.—now it’s the whole service, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said during his AWS16 speech, arguing that this fact should be an issue of hot national debate. “Not any system [or] … any particular mission in the Air Force, [but] the United States Air Force [as a whole] is low density, high demand. That’s where we are,” Welsh said. He explained, “Everybody wants more airpower. They want ISR, mobility, command, and control. They want strike, they want … everything. Contracting, intelligence, DCGS, you name it, they want it [and] understandably.” Welsh said while USAF is clearly not the only service with capability shortages, “we just need to understand” the chronic shortage. “And if you don’t have that force provided in the next contingency, you will lose,” Welsh said. This fact “should be an important discussion as we get into planning for future contingency operations. And our Air Force needs to keep that discussion on the front end of the table.”
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.