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Academy to cut 10 academic majors under tight 2015 budget

Mar. 4, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said the Air Force Academy will be forced to cut 10 academic majors — one-third of its current offerings — under the fiscal 2015 budget.
Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said the Air Force Academy will be forced to cut 10 academic majors — one-third of its current offerings — under the fiscal 2015 budget. (Jerilee Bennett / The Associated Press)
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The Air Force Academy will be forced to cut 10 academic majors and 99 military and civilian staff positions under the fiscal 2015 budget.

In a March 3 briefing with reporters, Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said that the academy is planning to cut the basic sciences, biochemistry, materials chemistry, general engineering, environmental engineering, humanities, philosophy, social science, systems engineering management and meteorology majors — nearly one-third of the 33 majors currently offered.

The academy plans to cut three academic courses from its graduation requirements, but has not yet decided which ones. And the academy will cut three cadet programs: its leadership exchange program with Air Education and Training Command, the Philmont Rangers, and its joint service training programs.

The academy is also planning to cut 60 military positions — 40 enlisted academy military trainers and 20 airmen in the Dean of Faculty office. The academy now has two trainers assigned to each of its 40 squadrons, but under the budget cuts, each squadron will now have one trainer. Those cuts amount to one-third of the academy’s 120 total military trainers.

The academy will maintain its current Cadet Wing structure of four groups and 40 squadrons, and its Operations Air Force and the Service Academy Exchange Program.

Overall funding for athletic programs will be cut 10 percent. Johnson said all 27 intercollegiate sports will see at least some budget cuts, although some will be hit harder than others. That budget cut will also force the academy to cut 30 civilian athletic positions, including nine assistant coaches.

Johnson said about 90 percent of the academy’s budget is tied up in personnel, limiting its options as it sought to cut the budget. The staffing cuts would amount to more than 3 percent of the academy’s 3,000 staff, which is roughly evenly divided between civilian and uniformed airmen.

“We don’t have hundreds of aircraft to cut, or big hangars,” Johnson said. “We have people. And so when we cut, we lose people.”

Johnson hopes the cuts won’t result in many people losing their jobs. About half of the 39 civilian positions slated to be cut are currently unfilled, as are 12 of the 60 military slots, and those positions will simply go away. Johnson said she hopes to be able to move the service members and employees now in the remaining positions into different jobs, if they do not retire on their own. She said the last time the academy had to cut civilian positions, it was able to move affected employees into different jobs.

But the academy has never before cut faculty positions, and because they are so specialized, Johnson said placing them in new jobs will be trickier.

“We are making difficult choices and have a successful track record of using voluntary measures to achieve reductions whenever possible,” Johnson said. “At this time, we are not certain whether a reduction in force will be necessary. We are pursuing all available voluntary force management measures with the goal of avoiding nonvoluntary measures.”

Roughly 1,000 of the academy’s uniformed staff are eligible for the Air Force’s force management programs, Johnson said.

An additional 44 civilian cuts are planned between fiscal 2016 and 2018, the academy said.

The academy embargoed release of the budget news until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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