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PME continues for now; cuts could still come

Apr. 6, 2013 - 10:36AM   |  
The Air Force has no plans at this time to curtail PME that lasts longer than a year, such as Air Command and Staff College and Air War College, because the programs require airmen to make permanent change of station moves to attend, said Capt. Candice Ismirle, an Air Force spokeswoman.
The Air Force has no plans at this time to curtail PME that lasts longer than a year, such as Air Command and Staff College and Air War College, because the programs require airmen to make permanent change of station moves to attend, said Capt. Candice Ismirle, an Air Force spokeswoman. (Air Force)
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Professional military education courses have not ground to a halt as predicted before massive defense spending cuts took effect last month, but Air Force officials say suspending PME is “still on the table.”

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Professional military education courses have not ground to a halt as predicted before massive defense spending cuts took effect last month, but Air Force officials say suspending PME is “still on the table.”

The Air Force has not decided whether the cuts could come in the next six months, sometime after the start of fiscal 2014 or if they’ll come at all, but PME programs that require short-term temporary duty assignments such as Squadron Officer School and noncommissioned officer academies likely would be most affected, said Capt. Candice Ismirle, an Air Force spokeswoman.

“[Air Education Training and Command] will first wait to see how the sequestration cuts fall out and plan to only cut PME slots if absolutely necessary,” she said. “Since we don’t know if these cuts are going to happen or not, we don’t have a timeline for when they would be in effect.”

So far the service has made no moves to reduce the current number of airmen in PME. Classes are at their regular sizes of about 300 for Senior NCO Academy and more than 700 for Squadron Officer School, according to officials at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., where the schools are located. The current SNCO class is expected to graduate May 2 and the Squadron Officer School May 10. New SNCO classes are slated to start May 13, while Squadron Officer School starts May 28.

In February, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said failure to stop sequestration could force the Air Force to eliminate some slots for professional military education. Though lawmakers were successful in passing a continuing resolution to stop a government shutdown, it did not stop $85 billion in automatic cuts because of sequestration. Welsh said failure to stop those cuts could leave the Air Force with no money for PME-related travel.

Ismirle said Air Force leaders have not decided how they would notify airmen if they decide to implement PME cuts.

“If we make that decision, we will come up with a plan to properly notify airmen,” she said. “We are too early in the process at this point.”

The Air Force has no plans at this time to curtail PME that lasts longer than a year, such as Air Command and Staff College and Air War College, said Ismirle, because the programs require airmen to make permanent change of station moves to attend.

In February, Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley said the service had identified 4,168 slots for the Noncommissioned Officer Academy, which is required for technical sergeants to advance; 906 slots at the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, which is required for master sergeants to be promoted; and 138 slots at the Airman Leadership School, a requirement for senior airmen to advance, that would likely be affected if the cuts become necessary.

The Air Force also would cut 2,172 slots from Squadron Officer School for captains and 240 Joint Professional Military Education slots for majors, lieutenant colonels and full colonels, she said.

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