Decades of Air Force Underfunding Threaten America’s Ability to Win

Arlington, VA | September 12, 2022 — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce a new entry in its Policy Paper series, Decades of Air Force Underfunding Threaten America’s Ability to Win by Lt Gen David A. Deptula, USAF (Ret.), Dean, and Mark A. Gunzinger, Director of Future Concepts and Capability Assessments at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

It’s no secret that America’s Air Force fields the oldest, smallest set of capabilities since its founding in 1947. This is particularly problematic given the scale of threats that define the current national security environment. Without the right mix of modern airpower competencies, core strategies simply will not work.

Funding is at the heart of the issue. The Air Force’s budget has been less than the Navy and Army’s for the last 30 years in a row. The Army received over $1.3 trillion more than the Air Force between 2002–2021, an average of $66 billion more per year than the Air Force. These sorts of realities repeatedly prompted service officials to pursue “divest to invest” modernization strategies that introduced significant risk and failed to effectively balance modernization, force size, and readiness.

Resetting the Air Force to meet the national security demands of today and tomorrow is possible, but it will take forceful leadership at the highest levels of the Department of Defense. Without modernizing our geriatric Air Force and building it to the capacity required by our national defense strategy, the U.S. is a great risk of losing its next major conflict.

The Mitchell Institute Policy Papers is a series presenting new thinking and policy proposals to respond to the emerging security and aerospace power challenges of the 21st century. These papers are written for lawmakers and their staffs, policy professionals, business and industry, academics, journalists, and the informed public.

For media inquiries, email our publications team at

Copies of Policy Papers can be downloaded at

Download Report Watch Rollout Event Download Slides
Rollout Photos Air & Space Forces Magazine Podcast | Aerospace Advantage

Share Article