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Mark Welsh

32 - Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh
2012 Rank: 11

Air Force Chief of Staff
The dynamic and outgoing Welsh was expected to make a more public case for air power when he became Air Force chief of staff in August 2012, and to patch up a bruising rift between the active force and the Air National Guard that had prompted Congress to freeze the service’s budget. But while he has worked hard to better coordinate active, Guard and reserve components, Welsh, like his counterparts, has been hammered on the Hill for other issues, notably sexual assaults of female airmen. By most accounts, he has helped heal some internal tensions, but his biggest challenge lies ahead — convincing Congress and the Pentagon that divesting relatively small fleets of planes like the A-10 attack jet and KC-10 aerial tanker is necessary as the service’s budget is cut to ensure funding for new systems like the F-35A fighter, the KC-46 tanker and a new long-range bomber. Some analysts expect another fight with Congress over aircraft cuts as members fight to save units as a means of protecting bases in their districts. Unlike his fellow service chiefs, Welsh spent much of his first year on the road, meeting and talking to airmen rather than in Washington shaping the budgetary battlefield. Critics say that’s why the Air Force has already suffered deeper cuts than the Navy. Either way, what Welsh does in the next two years will decide what US air power looks like for decades to come. 

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