The U.S. Air Force continues to have problems with its downsizing program, and is now letting airmen out early, especially those that are less essential. The goal is eliminating 40,000 jobs over the next five years. Voluntary retirements and "retrain or leave" programs have not produced a sufficient number of people. The cause of all this is the escalating cost of new aircraft. Cutting personnel strength by 40,000 will save $5 billion a year
Every few billion dollars helps, as the air force plans to spend over $60 billion on F-22 fighters, and over $277 billion on F-35s. Another $60 billion will be spent on C-17 transports. On an annual basis, these three programs will cost up to $30 billion a year. So the $5 billion a year savings from the personnel cuts will make a difference, even when the air force budget is $100-110 billion a year
Time will tell as to what the impact of the cuts will be, but the air force will never be the same. More expensive aircraft means fewer aircraft, and fewer people needed to operate them. Smart bombs have also reduced the need for as many sorties. This sort of technological change is something the air force has gone through several times over the last 70 years. There have also been some similar sharp personnel cuts in the past as well. The air force sees the downsizing as an opportunity to improve the overall quality of their personnel, by easing out the least capable.