The 2018 budget proposal issued by the Trump administration this week details several ways the Air Force will try to correct imbalances in its ranks, as it has struggled to maintain sufficient manpower in the face of 26 yearsof ongoing combat operations.

“Continuous combat operations and deployments have produced shortfalls in operational readiness and challenged the Air Force’s personnel, equipment, and infrastructure,” the budget request overview states.

The Air Force’s budget request “balances readiness recovery, strategy-based modernization, and acquisition programs.”

The overview says the proposals it lays out will start a multiyear process to recover readiness and full capabilities, though the continuing need to be able to provide worldwide rapid-response operations will hinder that recovery.

Air Force officials have been warning for some time about the service’s personnel shortfalls — particularly of pilots and skilled maintenance crew members — driven by a combination of factors, including high workload, frustrations with Air Force life, and enticements from private industry.

air force cockpit
US Air Force/Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

“Manpower shortfalls in key areas remain the number one issue limiting readiness and is our top priority,” Gen. Stephen Wilson, vice chief of staff for the Air Force, said in written testimony to the Senate in February.


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