Welsh: USAF Really Short 40-60K People

The Air Force’s recent moves to up its end strength to 321,000 people is only a crisis Band-Aid. To really fix the service’s manpower shortages, as many as 40,000-60,000 more Active Duty airmen are needed, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Thursday. Speaking at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va., Welsh said USAF’s recent plan to add 4,000 airmen will only be enough “to do what we’re doing today,” allowing remotely piloted aircraft operators to go down to “six [days] on, one off” from “seven on, no off.” Absent the increase, “we will drive them out” of the service under a punitive and increasing workload. The 4,000 also does nothing, he said, to address the typical career field manning of 84 percent. Welsh called the 40,000-60,000 figure an “educated guess,” but said that’s what it would take “to do it right, and fill in those manpower holes throughout the force.” There would also have to be a proportionate increase in the Guard and Reserve, “because they’re a major part of this.” Though such an increase is “probably not going to happen,” Welsh said, “Something has to change. We’ve got to give up something to get the new stuff, or we risk breaking the force.”