Pacific Focus: The Pentagon is "walking the walk" of rebalancing its forces to the Asia-Pacific region as it continues to drawdown in Afghanistan, said Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter at AFA's Air & Space Conference outside Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19. And, the Air Force will play "a key role" in that rebalance, he said during his conference address. Already, 60 percent of the Air Force's permanent overseas forces are stationed in the Asia-Pacific, he said. Air Force ISR assets coming out of Afghanistan, like MQ-9 Reapers, RQ-4 Global Hawks, and U-2 reconnaissance assets, will shift to the region, he said. Further, the Defense Department, despite dealing with steep budget cuts, is making no reductions to its tactical aviation posture in the Asia-Pacific. In fact, a large part of the Air Force's F-22 force is based there and F-35 strike fighters will be permanently stationed in the region as well, he said. In fact, he noted, "our newest forces are going to the Asia-Pacific first." Further, B-1 bombers currently supporting ground forces in Afghanistan will augment the rotations of B-52 bombers that provide a continual long-range strike presence on Guam, said Carter.
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