Airmen assigned to 87th Electronic Warfare Squadron Combat Shield assess the defensive system readiness of a U.S Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 8, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ericka A. Woolever)

WASHINGTON — The Air Force told lawmakers that it could use an additional $3.5 billion on top of its $188.1 billion fiscal year 2025 budget request to refill its stock of spare parts, carry out construction projects and conduct exercises in the Indo-Pacific, according to a congressionally mandated wishlist obtained by Breaking Defense today.

Compiled by each service and combatant command alongside the Pentagon’s annual budget submission to Congress, the wishlists, known as unfunded priority lists (UPLs), feature items that military officials emphasize are critical to meet their obligations but were not able to be funded in the regular budget process. The Air Force in previous years has requested items like additional fighter jets, though new airplanes did not feature in the UPL submitted today — despite fiscal pressures in FY25 that forced the service to trim its fighter buy

The top unfunded priority on the Air Force’s list this time around is for exercises in the Indo-Pacific, which is followed in order of importance by carrying out construction projects, replenishing spares inventories and furnishing equipment to reorganize the service’s fighter force structure.

By far the largest share of extra funding requested by the Air Force’s FY25 UPL would be directed toward restocking spare parts for numerous platforms, coming in at about $1.5 billion. According to the UPL, the objective was partially funded in the fiscal year 2025 budget, but a “fiscally constrained environment necessitated difficult decisions and it was not possible to fully fund key programs while still meeting other Air Force priorities.” 

The restocking request is a one-off “with no impact” to future funding lines, the list says. 

The UPL further requests roughly $1.1 billion to carry out a host of military construction projects, ranging from equipment for a new radar in the island nation of Palau to planning and design activities for the Air Force Reserve. “[R]equirements, growth and inflation” largely drove the need for the request, the list says, which if granted, would enable the Air Force to restructure future-years plans and better position the service to carry out its dramatic “reoptimization” initiative.

Another $612 million on the list would finance a “one-time purchase of equipment” to create nine new mission generation force elements (MGFE) — Air Force jargon for deployable combat capability. The funding would specifically provide spares, support equipment and other items necessary to “reorganize” the current fighter force structure to produce the MGFEs with existing aircraft. Overhauling combat wings was a key part of the Air Force’s “reoptimization” plan. The Air Force did not immediately respond when asked how the plan relates to the MGFE funding. 

The service said it would also put $266 million towards exercises in the Indo-Pacific. The extra money would specifically fund the very first “theatre-wide” exercise that would test out the service’s Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept, the list says. ACE aims to make operations more dispersed and unpredictable, requiring airmen to operate from austere locations with limited equipment and crews.

If funded, the theatre-wide ACE exercise would kick off in FY25 and continue biennially, according to the document.