Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James speaks at the Pentagon on Jan. 24. (Cliff Owen/The Associated Press)
At a time when tens of thousands of rank-and-file airmen are seeing their jobs endangered and facing voluntary and involuntary force reductions, one group has remained noticeably untouched: generals.
There are now 305 general officers in the Air Force, the same number as last year, and one more than in fiscal 2012. And according to the Air Force’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, which was released in March, the overall number of generals is slated to remain unchanged next year.
But that could change.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a May 13 editorial board interview with Air Force Times that the service is planning to “scrub” its general officers to reduce their ranks.
“It’s being scrubbed,” James said, when asked if it was fair to not cut generals. “Let me just tell you that. We’re actively looking at it.”
James said she did not have any information on how many general officers could be cut, but said the results should be ready by the end of this year.
“By the time we have our next budget submission, we’ll have more to say on that,” James said.
But as the Air Force scrubs its general officer ranks, Brig. Gen. Arthur Haubold said, it will also have to ensure it keeps its civilian Senior Executive Service members properly balanced with general officers. Among the military services, the Air Force has the smallest number of SES per capita, Haubold said.
“It’s important to keep that in balance as you talk about general officer billets,” said Haubold, the mobilization assistant to the Air Force director of public affairs who accompanied James on her visit to Air Force Times’ headquarters. “And that’s part of the overall review that we’re doing.”
The Air Force’s overall end strength has dropped from 333,370 in 2011 to a projected 310,827 in 2015, but few of those cuts have come from the general officer corps.
General officers by the numbers: