Moving Toward the Air Force We Need?

ARLINGTON, VA (December 4, 2019) — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce a new entry in its Mitchell Institute Policy Papers“Moving Toward the Air Force We Need? Assessing Air Force Budget Trends,” by Mitchell’s Director of Future Aerospace Concepts and Capability Assessments Col Mark Gunzinger, USAF (Ret), and Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments Non-Resident Senior Fellow Col Carl Rehberg, USAF (Ret).

As the U.S. military reconfigures to support the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, Gunzinger and Rehberg’s paper aims to re-baseline the debate surrounding Air Force resourcing to ensure the service has enough capacity and requisite capabilities to meet current and future demands. Gunzinger and Rehberg do this by highlighting several key budget trends that illustrate why the Air Force has been under-resourced for decades.

In doing so, they challenge service top-line funding equity budget myths and lay out a path for successfully modernizing American airpower. The Air Force’s current force structure is too small to support the 2018 National Defense Strategy, Gunzinger and Rehberg point out, but this reality is not the result of any single decision or budget cut. Rather, it is the net effect of budget cuts, priorities, and choices extending back decades in some cases. Gunzinger and Rehberg conclude that the post-Cold War defense modernization holiday is a major factor in why the Air Force now faces a severe “strategy-resource gap” as it attempts to modernize its force to meet 21st century threats. Building an Air Force needed to meet the goals of the new national strategy will require the executive branch and the U.S. Congress to work together to increase the service’s budget, and allocate dollars towards procuring new aircraft and other next-generation weapon systems needed for future combat environments. Absent this commitment, the Air Force the nation needs will remain out of reach.

The Policy Paper series presents new thinking and proposals from the Mitchell Institute that respond to the emerging security and aerospace power challenges facing the U.S. and its allies in the 21st century.

For more information on the series, visit our website, at

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