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Apply starting today for 15-year retirements

New incentives, boards to get more airmen to leave in 2014

Jul. 29, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
50th Space Wing welcomes new commander
Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, master sergeants and technical sergeants who want to apply for 15-year retirements must do so before Aug. 13. If approved, they would retire by Nov. 13. (Amber Whittington / Air Force)
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Airmen approved for 15-year retirement would receive a reduced percentage of basic pay, calculated as an annuity in monthly increments for service of less than 20 years. The breakdown, in six-month increments:

Years of Retirement
service(% of base pay)
Under 2013 pay rates:
A lieutenant colonel with 16 years would get about $3,032 per month, versus about $3,926 per month at 20 years.
A master sergeant with 18 years would get about $1,971 per month, versus about $2,263 per month at 20 years.

Starting today, eligible enlisted airmen and officers with at least 15 years of service can apply for retirement. The window for applying runs only until Aug. 13, and those approved for early retirement must be out by Nov. 13.

Since July 18, the Air Force has announced several voluntary and non-voluntary measures to help cut at least 1,800 airmen to meet its projected end strength of 327,600 by the end of the next fiscal year. The most recent measures announced are the 15-year retirements and selective early retirement boards for full and lieutenant colonels in December.

The Air Force formally announced the fiscal 2014 Temporary Early Retirement Authority program July 25. The program is open to technical sergeants, master sergeants, captains, majors and lieutenant colonels with between 15 and 19 years of service.

Right now, the Air Force estimates about 597 officers and enlisted airmen are eligible for TERA next year, said Col. Dawn Keasley, chief of the military force policy division.

“This additional voluntary program is needed to achieve the total number of losses required to meet end strength,” Keasley said in a July 26 email. “This is in line with our multi-year force management strategy of using voluntary measures first and involuntary programs only when necessary.”

Asof July 22, the Air Force had 985 more technical sergeants and 1,430 more master sergeants than its fiscal 2014 requested active-duty end strength, according to figures available on the Air Force Personnel Command’s website. The service also is 668 majors, 307 lieutenant colonels and 299 colonels above its projected end strength at the end of the next fiscal year.

The number of airmen eligible for TERA will likely change. End strength numbers are fluid, so it is not clear exactly how many enlisted airmen and officers the Air Force will need to cut by the end of the next fiscal year. Also, the Air Force’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget does not include the steep defense spending cuts known as sequestration, which could lead to even more personnel cuts.

Airmen hoping to collect the 15-year retirement benefits must act fast. Airmen accepted for early retirement will receive all of the benefits of traditional retirement pay, but they also would be docked 1 percentage point for each year short of 20 years.

Who gets selected for early retirement will be based on the Air Force’s manning and mission needs, according to two July 24 memos obtained by Air Force Times. Eligible airmen must be in non-critical specialties, but Air Force Specialty Codes, year groups and competitive categories can be deemed ineligible with little or no notice.

“This program is not ‘first come/first served,’” the memos say. “Applicants who meet the basic eligibility criteria and who apply for release under these programs are not guaranteed for approval.”

Officers who are eligible for TERA must be in year groups 1994 to 1998 and have at least eight years Total Active Federal Commissioned Service. Both enlisted airmen and officers stationed overseas can apply for early retirement if they are slated to return to the U.S. in October.

To find out if you are eligible for TERA, go to the FY 2014 Voluntary Force Management page on the My Personnel Service (myPers) website or type in “25484” on the main page under “Search by Keyword” to look at the eligibility matrix.

If you’ve already been approved for voluntary separation, you cannot apply for TERA, the memos say.

“The intent of this program is not to compensate those who have previously signaled their intent to separate, but rather to generate added losses by offering an early retirement incentive,” the memos say.

If you’re eligible for TERA, you can ask to waive all or part of your Active Duty Service Commitments, Time in Grade and Total Active Federal Commissioned Service, but there is no guarantee that those waivers will be approved, the memos say. Enlisted airmen can request a waiver of up to two years for an enlistment contract or an extension on their enlistment contracts, while lieutenant colonels can ask to retire with at least two years’ time in grade.

Airmen with no Active Duty Service Commitment will be given priority for approval, said Lt. Col. Jason Knight, deputy chief of the military force policy division, in a written response to questions from Air Force Times on July 22.

“Applicants with ADSCs that are waiverable through the FY14 voluntary force management program will be given next priority, based on the least ADSC being approved first,” Knight said. “In any instance of a tie, longest time in grade, commander recommendation, and then the application date stamp will be considered.”

The Air Force did not offer TERA for this fiscal year because its projections indicated it did not need the program to meet its end strength goals, he said. Of the 391 airmen who applied for TERA last year, 241 were turned down.

“Those 241 who were not approved did not meet the basic criteria or met the exclusion criteria, such as AFSC not eligible, DEROS [Date Eligible for Return from Oversees] longer than waiver allowed, deployed,” Knight said. “Advertising program criteria and providing detailed information to our FSSs [Force Support Squadrons] and MPSs [Military Personnel Sections] will help better educate the force on all of our voluntary force management programs.”

Before Congress approved TERA, 157 majors with between 14 and 17 years of service and who had been passed over for promotion twice and were forced out of the service in 2011. Although they did not retire, they each received about $125,000 in involuntary separation pay.

Facing high retention rates and the need to get smaller, the Air Force has announced other measures recently to entice airmen to leave, such as offering time-in-grade, time-in-service and active-duty service commitment waivers. Some airmen who qualify will be allowed to serve out their commitments in the Air National Guard or Reserve.

The Air Force also is offering a new option to officers in fiscal 2014: a commitment waiver allowing those who have recently attended Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, or other senior and intermediate developmental programs to retire after only one year. Officers who attend such education programs normally commit to serving three more years.

But not all of the measures the Air Force will employ will be voluntary. In December, certain lieutenant colonels and full colonels will face selective early retirement boards.

“The Air Force is targeting 30 percent of eligible lieutenant colonels and colonels by competitive category,” Keasley said. “It would be difficult to provide a specific number at this point since the size of those categories changes daily as people retire and make other career decisions.”

With so many colonels staying in the service longer, there are fewer vacancies for lieutenant colonels to fill, and that has created a domino effect for majors and captains, Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, director of force management policy and deputy chief of staff of Manpower Personnel and Services, told Air Force Times in September.

Last year, the Air Force had to cancel the line majors board scheduled for December, affecting about 2,500 captains who were commissioned in 2005.

The board will look at lieutenant colonels from the Line of the Air Force, Nurse Corps, Biomedical Science Corps, Line of the Air Force-Judge Advocate General and Medical Service Corps career fields who have been passed over for promotion twice by Dec. 9, when the board convenes, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

The colonel board will look at colonels with four or more years of active-duty time in grade in the following career fields: Line of the Air Force, Line of the Air Force-Judge Advocate General, Medical Service Corps and Nurse Corps, an AFPC news release said.

Colonels considered for early retirement by the 2010 or 2012 boards and lieutenant colonels considered by the 2010 or 2011 boards will not be part of this board, the news release said. Lieutenant colonels who are considered for this board will be exempt if they are recommended for promotion before Dec. 9.

By law, the Air Force cannot select more than 30 percent of officers from each competitive category for early retirement, said Lt. Col. Rick Garcia, of the Air Force Personnel Center. The SERB process is a retirement program, not a separation program, so those officers selected to leave the Air Force will still retire with full pay and benefits.

Those officers who do not want to go before the board can apply for voluntary retirement until Nov. 15, the news release said.

There is no difference in the compensation for officers who opt for voluntary retirement and those who are selected by the SERBs, but those who volunteer to retire early can stay in the service a little longer, said Lt. Col. John Barlett, AFPC’s operations division chief.

Officers selected by the selective early retirement boards will have to retire on July 1, 2014, while those who are approved for voluntary retirement can stay in the Air Force until Sept. 1, 2014, Barlett said.

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