President Trump pledges to grow the Air Force

Newly sworn into office, President Donald J. Trump on Friday pledged to grow the size of the Air Force and “rebuild the American military.”

The official White House website was updated with information about some of the new administration’s priorities. One issue paper, titled “America First Foreign Policy,” lamented “our Air Force is roughly one-third smaller than in 1991.” Trump, it says, “is committed to reversing this trend, because he knows that our military dominance must be unquestioned.”

In the document, Trump also pledged to develop a “state-of-the-art missile defense system” to protect against nations like Iran and North Korea, and to improve overall military readiness.

The Air Force has shrunk from more than 510,000 active duty airmen in fiscal 1991 to about 317,000 at the end of 2016 — a drop of nearly 38 percent over those 25 years.

After Trump’s election in November, Air Force officials said they hoped to get the service up to 350,000 airmen by the year 2024, and focus most of their growth on the maintenance, nuclear, cyber and space career fields. The Air Force also wants to grow its ranks of drone pilots, who are in great demand as combatant commanders rely more and more on the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned aircraft provide.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and other top brass have been speaking with Trump’s transition team about the need for more airmen. 

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