Fiscal 2025 Budget Underfunds Crucial Air and Space Force Needs  

March 11, 2024

Congress, DOD Must Invest More Now and In the Future to Counter China, Russia, Iran, and Others

ARLINGTON, Va., March 11, 2024—The President’s 2025 budget request increases Air Force funding by 1.6 percent, but the overall budget falls short of what’s needed to modernize and fund the Air & Space Forces at a crucial time in the nation’s history.  

The Air & Space Forces Association praised the increase and shift in priorities reflected in the budget, but challenges decisions that cut investment in the Space Force by 2 percent just months after the service’s fourth birthday—not because it hasn’t performed, but because Pentagon leadership couldn’t prioritize those needs.  

The budget cuts procurement in current fighter programs, reducing both F-35A purchases by six compared to last year’s request and F-15EX purchases by the same number. It also seeks again to divest the Air Force’s Block 20 F-22 fighters, along with more than 100 other planes to free up $2.6 billion for modernization. And it cuts some 10,000 Airmen across the Active, Guard, and Reserve forces—positions that may have to be bought back in the future as the Air Force re-optimizes for great power competition.  

“Under this budget, the Air Force—already the oldest and smallest force it its history—would see its total aircraft inventory fall below 5,000 for the first time ever,” said AFA Executive Vice President Maj. Gen. Doug Raaberg, USAF (Ret.). “We need to buy more and newer aircraft faster to keep pace with emerging high-tech threats and peer adversaries!”  

The budget request is a clear compromise between competing priorities, said AFA Chair of the Board Bernie Skoch. “Department of the Air Force leaders unveiled ambitious and crucial plans to re-optimize the services to better deter and compete with peer competitors at last month’s AFA Warfare Symposium. But this budget falls short of fulfilling the goals of that plan.”  

Skoch commended Department leadership for their vision, while challenging the Pentagon’s wider investment vision.  

“Secretary Frank Kendall is absolutely on the right track when it comes to transforming our Air Force and Space Force to stay ahead of technologically advanced competitors like China,” Skoch said. “We as a nation need to do everything we can to endorse this effort, and to ensure an enduring advantage in air and space warfare.” 

The Department’s $262.6 billion budget request includes $188.1 billion for the Air Force and $29.4 billion for the Space Force. The Air Force budget reflects a 1.6 percent increase over 2024, well short of inflation, while the Space Force budget reflects a 2 percent cut from the year before.  

Meanwhile, $45.1 billion, or more than 20 percent of the overall Department of the Air Force budget, will never touch either the Air Force or the Space Force. This “pass-through” spending flows through the Department to fund other agencies in the Intelligence Community.  

“The pass-through distorts people’s understanding of what our nation invests in its Air & Space Forces,” Raaberg said. “As long as such a substantial portion of the Department of the Air Force’s budget is diverted to other uses, we will continue to underfund these two critical services, which are both the most essential enablers of the other military services, and the most crucial warfighting elements to deterring war against peer competitors, now and into the future.”  

About AFA 

The Air & Space Forces Association is an independent, non-profit 501(c)3 association dedicated to advocating for investment and support for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force, and for supporting Airmen, Guardians, and their Families. Founded in 1946, AFA is the single largest entity of its kind focused on air and space power. With more than 113,000 members and 200 chapters spread around the world, our mission is to promote dominant U.S. Air and Space Forces as the foundation of a strong National Defense; to honor and support Airmen, Guardians, and their Families; and to remember and respect the enduring heritage of the Air and Space Forces.