The Air Force unveiled a sweeping list of voluntary and involuntary force management programs it hopes will reduce the ranks throughout 2014.
The force reduction measures — which will be the Air Force’s broadest since the drawdown of the early 1990s — are being put into place to help the service adjust to steep budget cuts known as sequestration.
“This has pretty much every tool in our toolkit at our disposal, both voluntary and involuntary,” Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso said in an interview. “Our strategy is to use the max use of voluntary programs that we can. Everywhere where we’ve been able to incentivize people to leave monetarily, we’re going to.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has repeatedly warned that sequestration, if left in place, could force the service to cut roughly 25,000 total force airmen over the next five years. Grosso could not say exactly how many airmen the Air Force plans to cut under the 2014 force reductions because a final budget has not yet been passed for the year, but said it could be in the thousands. Grosso said the latest fiscal 2014 budget deal — if it passes — would leave the Air Force with an end strength of 1,900 fewer billets than it had in fiscal 2013, which match the end strength the administration’s proposed 2014 budget.
According to a timeline provided by the Air Force, the 18 programs will include reductions in force beginning in June, two rounds of date-of-separation rollbacks in January and May, and 15-year retirements for both officers and enlisted beginning in January. A selective early retirement board for colonels and lieutenant colonels is underway.
But the Air Force is also rolling out several new involuntary force management programs for the first time as part of this effort.
A new authority called the enhanced selective early retirement board, or E-SERB, will consider even more officers than under the regular SERB process. The E-SERB, the authority for which was granted in the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, will meet in June and consider colonels with between two and four years time in grade, lieutenant colonels who have been passed over for promotion once, and retirement-eligible active-duty officers between the rank of captain and colonel.
The regular SERB applies to colonels with at least four years time-in-grade and lieutenant colonels who have been passed over at least twice. And under the regular SERB, officers can only be considered once during any five-year period, but the E-SERB has no such restriction.
Another new force management program, called a quality force review board, will meet in May. This board will consider separating airmen who have gone absent without leave, who have received a referral on their enlisted performance report, or otherwise screwed up. Airmen who have between 18 and 20 years of service will be excluded from the quality force review board.
The Air Force also is, for the first time, planning retention boards for chief master sergeants, tech sergeants, staff sergeants, senior airmen and senior noncommissioned officers.
Grosso said the Air Force Personnel Center will email airmen who are eligible for these force management programs, and also urged airmen to keep checking the MyPers website as more eligibility information on these programs is rolled out over the next two weeks.
She also said airmen should start talking to their commanders, career assistance advisers and other mentors to find out whether they may be separated under one of these involuntary programs.
“Our goal is to make sure that every airman in the United States Air Force understands, if they fit into any of these buckets, and if I [do], how do I make a good decision for my family?” Grosso said. “Am I eligible for any voluntary programs, and which ones? We’d like for everyone eligible for these programs to immediately sign up for transition assistance. We think that will help them make a better life decision.”
And airmen should check their personnel folders to make sure their duty history, medal records, deployment records and other career information is up to date before separation boards begin reviewing them, Grosso said. Sometimes records are accidentally omitted, she said, and an omission could hurt those airmen’s chances of staying in.
Grosso said the Air Force and Defense Department are already preparing to handle increased numbers of airmen exiting the service. That could include approving overtime for civilian personnel employees, increasing that capacity of civilian transition programs and preparing to issue even greater numbers of DD 214 records.
On the way out
Important dates for voluntary retirement and separation programs:
|Program||Application window:||Selected airmen retire or separate in:|
|Chief Master Sgt./Senior NCO Voluntary Phase||December through March||January 2015|
|Temporary Early Retirement Authority (Enlisted)||January through April||August|
|Temporary Early Retirement Authority II (Officer)||January through April||August|
|Enlisted Voluntary Separation Pay||January through April||September|
|Officer Voluntary Separation Pay||January through April||September|
|Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board Voluntary Phase||January through April||January 2015|
The dates for involuntary programs:
|Program||Review board meets:||Selected airmen retire or separate in:|
|Selective Early Retirement Board||December||July|
|Date of Separation Rollback I||January through February||May|
|Quality Force Review Board||May||September|
|Date of Separation Rollback II||May through June||September|
|Chief Master Sgt. Retention Board||June||November|
|Senior NCO Retention Board||June through July||December 2014|
|Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board||June through July||December 2014|
|Tech. Sgt. Retention Board||June through July||January 2015|
|Staff Sgt. Retention Board||June through July||January 2015|
|Senior Airman Retention Board||June through July||January 2015|
|Reduction in Force||June through July||January 2015|
|Force Shaping Board||July||December 2014|
Source: Air Force