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The Air Force has decided to lower its troop numbers for the 2025 fiscal year, targeting a force size of 504,000, following a shortfall in recruitment. This marks a change from the previously projected 512,000 end strength in the 2024 budget.

Major General Michael Greiner highlighted that the original projections for the 2024 budget, which aimed for an end strength of 512,000, were overly “optimistic” in light of recent recruiting challenges. To counteract these issues, the Air Force intends to continue investing in bonuses and incentives to both attract new members and retain current airmen.


In detailing the cuts, the Air Force will request funding for 8,000 fewer airmen in its budget submission, with reductions spread across active duty, reserves, and the Air National Guard. This decision follows a 10% shortfall in active-duty recruitment last year, a significant deviation from the service’s historical performance. Despite these setbacks, officials report a recovery in recruitment efforts, achieving approximately 101% of their monthly goals recently. This resilience is part of a broader effort to adapt to the challenges of recruiting Generation Z amidst a competitive job market and stringent eligibility requirements.


The 2025 budget, seeking an overall increase to more than $188 billion, reveals the Air Force’s plans to increase investment in bonus and incentive programs, totaling $1.1 billion. Greiner said, “We really do continue to stay focused on our bonus and retention programs. Our retention rates remain very high. We’re at near record levels above 90% on both enlisted and officer.”

Alongside financial incentives, the budget proposes a 4.5% pay raise for Air Force members, increases in housing and meal allowances, and funding for infrastructure improvements and quality-of-life projects at various bases.


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