The Obama administration and Congress must prioritize recapitalizing combat air capabilities to adequately support the president’s new emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, according to a recent report by the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.

The March 2012 report, “Nearing Coffin Corner: US Air Power on the Edge,” said the White House and Congress must prioritize investment in next-generation weapon programs like the next generation bomber; the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker; F-22 modernization; low-range, low-observable, carrier-based strike platforms and joint electronic warfare capabilities to make the Asia-Pacific strategy successful.

Diversified logistics lines, air base resiliency, carrier-based group defenses, vigorous cyber capabilities, strong command and control networks and robust data links will also be critical enablers for the entire joint force, according to the report.

“Should the United States find itself underequipped in a future conflict, it simply will not be possible to rapidly design, develop and field modern weapons systems and their requisite support elements,” the report said.

Reinvesting in air power is also critical due to the development of Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) capabilities in the Asia-Pacific, according to the report. China has spent the last 20 years developing comprehensive aerial A2/AD capability with next-generation weapons programs like the J-20 stealth fighter, HQ-9 surface-to-air-missile and DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile, according to the report.

“Even where new technology is not available, China has the advantage of amassing its assets at home without having to worry about the complexities entailed with power projection,” the report said. “This means that Chinese capabilities do not necessarily need to equal or exceed those of the United States to be effective.”

The report said with only 185 F-22s and 20 B-2s, the United States has an extremely limited number of stealth aircraft that could participate in a first-wave assault to eliminate the source of A2/AD threats.

“These small-fleet dynamics become even more complex considering that only a portion of these aircraft would be combat-coded and available at a given time,” the report said.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] produces the F-22 and F-35, Northrop Grumman [NOC] the B-2 and Boeing [BA] the KC-46.