By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
Academy Public Affairs
The Air Force’s most recent force management initiative may affect an estimated 60 to 65 Airmen at the Air Force Academy, officials said during force management briefings here Monday.
Fewer than 10 of the Airmen who are impacted by the newest round of force management measures are enlisted, with commissioned officers making up the remainder of those affected, said Lt. Col. Karen Burke, chief of the Academy’s Personnel Support Division.
The number eligible for involuntary separation may change between now and September as eligible officers Air Force-wide apply for voluntary separation or retirement, Colonel Burke said.
None of the force management programs affect cadets set to graduate in May except for a proposed new program that will reclassify or separate those who fail to complete their initial skills training, Colonel Burke said.
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz first announced the newest round of force-management measures in a Letter to Airmen issued March 25. Driving the latest force management initiative is a record retention rate not seen since 1995, according to the letter. To meet total force goals, the Air Force must cut 2 percent of commissioned officers and 1.6 percent of its enlisted Airmen.
“In November 2009, we offered a variety of voluntary measures aimed at reducing personnel numbers,” General Schwartz wrote. “Unfortunately, not enough people took advantage of those programs.”
Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould and Academy Command Chief Master Sgt. Todd Salzman outlined how the process would affect Airmen here.
“First of all, let me tell you that if you’re vulnerable for one of the involuntary force-management programs, you’ve already been notified,” General Gould said. “So if there’s anybody out there who’s wondering … you would already know if it did in fact impact you.”
The Air Force will be overmanned by about 6,000 Airmen by September if personnel are not cut, General Gould said. Leaders will first offer opportunities for Airmen to separate early or retire through time-in-grade or active-duty service commitment waivers and through the Voluntary Separation Pay program for those officers who qualify. Airmen can continue to serve their country through programs such as Palace Chase, which allows them to transfer to the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve, and the Blue-to-Green program, which allows Airmen to cross branches and serve in the Army.
Enlisted personnel may cross-train from an overmanned Air Force specialty into an undermanned field, Chief Salzman said.
“The enlisted people in the room have heard me say this before: the days of coming into the Air Force and only having one career (field) are over,” the chief said. “It’s time for us to start taking our careers into our own hands.”
If voluntary programs do not succeed in reducing the active force, leaders will have to use involuntary means to reduce force size, General Schwartz wrote. Involuntary measures may include reduction-in-force boards and selective early retirement boards for officers. Officers eligible for SERBs include lieutenant colonels who have been passed over twice for promotion and colonels in 1981-1984 year groups with more than four years time-in-grade. Only Line of the Air Force, LAF-Judge Advocate, Medical Service Corps and Chaplain competitive categories will be eligible for the O-5 and O-6 SERBs.
“Here’s the way I want you to look at SERBs if you are in fact eligible: you can say, ‘I want to finish my career on my terms, set the date and go out when I want to,'” General Gould said. “Another way is, if you want to continue working in the job you’re in, you need to make sure your boss understands that.”
Senior raters will communicate directly with these boards as they do to promotion boards, based on the individual’s career-long record of performance, General Gould said, adding that everyone who met the SERB during the previous round of force management was retained.
The Air Force is determined to conduct its force management initiative carefully, General Gould said.
Regardless of whether an Airman affected by force management separates early or retires – voluntarily or involuntarily – Air Force and Academy leaders are committed to supporting Airmen’s transition to civilian life, Chief Salzman said. The chief encouraged supervisors to make sure their people take advantage of Transition Assistance and other Airman and Family Readiness Center programs.
“While they may be going out a little earlier than they planned, they need to go out fully prepared to take on the rigors of civilian life,” he said. “The good news is, the civilian community is always looking for men and women who come out of the military. Let’s set our people up for success and make sure that we give them all the tools that they need.”
For more information on force management, visit the Air Force Personnel Center at www.afpc.randolph.af.mil or contact the Military Personnel Section at 333-8766.