Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services testifies April 24 before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel. (Thomas Brown / Staff)
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Enlisted airmen stand to lose the most as the Air Force continues its march toward becoming the smallest active-duty force since its inception in 1947.
The service needs to cut another 1,200 active-duty airmen before Sept. 30, and early indications are the active force will lose at least 1,860 more positions in 2014 — and that’s the best-case scenario. Air Force officials aren’t even talking about what will happen if mandatory spending cuts continue into next year.
Enlisted airmen will bear the brunt of this drawdown because turnover on the officer side has helped the Air Force achieve the manning levels set by Congress, the service’s top personnel officials told lawmakers April 24.
Any officer cuts in the remainder of fiscal 2013 will be done through voluntary programs such as waivers for time-in-grade and active-duty service commitments, said Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, and Daniel Ginsberg, assistant Air Force secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee.
The personnel leaders said enlisted airmen could face force-outs this year that include:
■Another round of date of separation rollbacks — early exits for airmen who would not be retained when their term ends.
■Continued reductions in retraining opportunities for those who fail initial skills training.
■Limits on re-enlistments for some career fields.
As the Defense Department braces for the fallout of absorbing $52 billion in automatic cuts because of sequestration, the Air Force is working with a budget that does not factor in those reductions. Jones has said sequestration could force the service to send more airmen packing.
Air Force officials also anticipate more force cuts for the Air National Guard and Reserve, Jones and Ginsberg said.
Airmen with high-demand skills are eligible for bonus incentives to stay in, but the budget for those bonuses is shrinking. Under the Air Force’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget, the service would slash the fund for bonuses from $232 million this year to $207.6 million in 2014.■