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Air Force reducing size by 8,000 troops

Staff Sgt. Robert George, a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, marches his unit following the issuance of uniforms and gear. Recruits are molded into warrior Airmen through a recently expanded Air Force Basic Military Training program. (Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo/U.S. Air Force)
March 15, 2024

The U.S. Air Force has proposed a reduction in its planned troop total in the military branch’s 2025 budget request to Congress. After failing to reach its recruitment goals last year, the Air Force has proposed reducing its size by 8,000 troops in Fiscal Year 2025.

According to, Air Force officials told reporters during a roundtable last week that it is targeting a total of 504,000 troops for Fiscal year 2025, compared to the 2024 budget request’s end strength projection of 512,000 troops. reported that the 2025 budget request’s reduction of total airmen in the military service comes after the Air Force failed to reach its recruitment goals last year for the first time in over 20 years. According to, the Air Force was 10% short of its active-duty recruitment goals in Fiscal Year 2023.

Addressing the service’s original 2024 end strength number, Maj. Gen. Michael Greiner, the deputy assistant secretary for the Air Force budget, said, “That was probably assuming some optimistic growth that just given the recruiting challenges that we’ve experienced the last year was unrealistic.”

READ MORE: 24,000 US Army positions cut amid recruitment woes

Maj. Kaitlin Holmes, an Air Force spokeswoman, told that the troop reduction request includes 4,700 fewer active-duty troops, 2,600 fewer reserve members, and 700 fewer Air National Guardsmen. reported that Congress previously reduced the Air Force’s end strength projection for Fiscal Year 2024 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The budget request for Fiscal Year 2025, which was publicly released on Monday, will be sent to Congress for lawmakers to use as they develop budget plans for each of the U.S. military branches. reported that the Air Force has expressed greater optimism with its current recruitment success for Fiscal Year 2024, claiming that it is at roughly 101% of its month-to-month recruitment goals.

The Air Force’s 2025 budget request is asking Congress for approximately $188.1 billion for next year, representing a 1.6% increase over last year’s $185 billion budget request. According to, $1.1 billion of this year’s budget request has been marked for various bonus and incentive programs, including $91 million for initial enlistment bonuses, $21 million for cyber retention bonuses, $327 million for aviation bonuses, and $10 million for the Air Force’s college loan repayment program.

“We really do continue to stay focused on our bonus and retention programs,” Greiner stated. “Our retention rates remain very high. We’re at near record levels above 90% on both enlisted and officer.”