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USAF Force Structure Changes: Sustaining Readiness and Modernizing the Total Force


New Strategic Guidance

For the last decade, the United States has undertaken extended operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan. As we responsibly draw down from these operations, take steps to protect our
Nation’s economic vitality, and protect our interests in a world of accelerating change, we face an
inflection point. The changing geopolitical environment and our changing fiscal circumstances
merited a reassessment of U.S. defense strategy. Out of this assessment, the Department of
Defense (DoD) developed a strategy that transitions our defense enterprise from an emphasis on
today’s wars to preparing for future challenges, protects the broad range of U.S. national security
interests, advances the Department’s efforts to rebalance and reform, and supports the national
security imperative of deficit reduction by reducing defense spending. The resulting strategic
guidance provided a set of precepts to guide decisions regarding the size and shape of the force
over subsequent budget cycles.

To implement the new strategic guidance, the Joint Force will need to recalibrate its
capabilities and make selective additional investments to succeed in the following missions:
countering terrorism and irregular warfare, deterring and defeating aggression, projecting power
despite anti‐access/area denial challenges, countering weapons of mass destruction, operating
effectively in cyberspace and space, maintaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent,
defending the homeland and providing support to civil authorities, providing a stabilizing
presence, conducting stability and counterinsurgency operations, and conducting humanitarian,
disaster relief, and other operations.

These missions will determine and shape the capabilities required by the future Joint Force,
and the Air Force must continue to provide key capabilities in all 10 mission areas. However, the
overall capacity, or size of the force, will be based on the requirements that the following missions
demand: countering terrorism and irregular warfare, deterring and defeating aggression,
maintaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent, and defending the homeland and
supporting civil authorities. U.S. forces will no longer be sized to conduct large‐scale, prolonged
stability operations. read more

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