Friday, December 2, 2016

Air Force Get More Airmen, No Extra Planes in Defense Bill |

Air Force Get More Airmen, No Extra Planes in Defense Bill | The U.S. Air Force would add 4,000 more airmen to its ranks next year -- but no extra warplanes to its arsenal -- under a compromise version of the defense authorization bill.

The move would boost the Air Force's authorized end-strength for the active component to 321,000 airmen, according to a summary document released this week on the negotiated fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

The $619 billion bill must pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by President Barack Obama before becoming law. The House may vote on the measure Friday and the Senate may do the same next week.

The Air Force in September had about 311,000 airmen serving on active duty, according to Pentagon personnel statistics. Amid the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the size of the service peaked in 2004 at nearly 377,000 airmen before beginning a steady drawdown. Last year, the service was authorized to add more airmen for the first time in six years.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in recent months has pushed for 4,000 to 8,000 more airmen, in part to address a shortage of fighter pilots and maintainers in the force.

"I am absolutely certain that we need somewhere on the order of 321,000 to 325,000 active-duty airmen," she said in an interview with Air Force Times in August.