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Air Force reveals details of plan to cut 8,000 officers by late September, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Air Force unveiled the much-anticipated details of the fiscal 2007 portion of its multiyear “force-shaping” plan Wednesday, announcing that 8,000 officers, mostly those in midgrades, must be eliminated from the roster by Sept. 29, 2007.

Enlisted personnel are safe from the chopping block, but 1,227 noncommissioned officers will be given a choice: switch career fields or get out of the service.

A 12-page FY07 Force Shaping Program message, sent by Air Force Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, deputy chief of staff for personnel, comes in seven parts, each of which details a particular aspect of the 2007 force-shaping plan.

The 8,000 officers who must be removed from the Air Force roster in fiscal 2007 are divided into four major groups: junior officers, midgrade, senior officers and “others,” according to Air Force spokesman Capt. David Small.

The “others” group is a “normal attrition” category of retirement-age individuals and those officers of all ranks who would have left the service, with or without a force-shaping program in place, Small told Stars and Stripes on Monday.

Like each of the services, the Air Force is working to balance the rising costs of personnel against its desire to modernize the force to meet future threats, Brady told Stripes in a July 19 interview.

“People are very important. They’re also our most expensive asset,” Brady said. “We could continue to keep 360,000 people and fly 75-year-old airplanes. That doesn’t seem like a prudent course.”

In January, Air Force officials announced a five-year plan that includes reducing the Air Force by 40,000 people by fiscal 2011 and using the funds to upgrade their aging fleet of fighters, tankers and other aircraft.

But force shaping “isn’t just about reductions,” Brady said. “We need a force that is in balance,” and that means the service also needs to make big shifts in the way it uses the people who stay.

So force shaping includes ways to move airmen out of overmanned career fields, such as public affairs, weather and finance, into undermanned fields and fields that are in high demand in the war on terror, such as intelligence, military police and special operations, Brady said.

Sometimes force shaping has elements of both cutting and moving personnel, such as the involuntary retraining of 1,227 NCOs that will occur in 2007. Those airmen who don’t want to accept the new job the Air Force has chosen for them have only one option: leave the service.

The Air Force also will continue using the Career Job Reservation program (CJR) for enlisted personnel, which is a program for first-term airmen limiting the number of open spots in overmanned specialties.

When CJRs are in effect, airmen who want to re-enlist in such jobs are placed on a waiting list and “rank ordered” according to performance to compete monthly for available CJR quotas.

If an airman has not gotten a CJR in the job he or she wants by the end of the re-enlistment window, he or she must decide whether to retrain into a shortage career field or leave the Air Force.

In the message, Brady also reminds Air Force officers and enlisted personnel to consider voluntary separation options that would allow their military service to continue.

Options mentioned in the message include the Pentagon’s “Blue-to-Green” program, which eases moves between the Navy and Air Force into the Army, and Palace Chase, which allows active-duty Air Force officers to request a transfer to an Air Reserve component.

“We’re making sure they’re aware of the opportunities in the (Air National) Guard and Reserve, and other government agencies,” Brady said.

Private contractors are also eager for airmen with security clearances and Air Force skills and values, Brady said.

“These are the kind of people that employers who have important work to do, want,” Brady said. “We’re pretty confident that they will land on their feet.”

To read the entire Air Force message, go to http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/retsep/forceshaping/shape.htm.


Off we go ...

The Air Force needs to shed 8,000 officers in fiscal 2007, which begins Oct. 1. Four specific groups are targeted:

Class of 2003-2004:
Junior officers from the 2003- and 2004-year groups and who serve in one of the 31 specialties identified as over-strength.
Goal: More than 900
Method: 2007 Force Shaping Board
Time frame: The board will convene March 12-23, 2007; selectees will have to leave the force by Sept. 29, 2007.

Six to 12 years:
Officers with more than six, but no more than 12 years of service and who work in overmanned career fields.
Goal: 3,200
Method: Asking for volunteers to separate. The Air Force would double the standard involuntary separation pay.
Time frame: Volunteers must leave between Oct. 1 and Sept. 29, 2007.

O-5s and O-6s:
Lieutenant colonels and colonels who have been twice deferred for promotion, or colonels with four years’ time in grade who have not been selected as general officers.
Goal: 313
Method: Selective Early Retirement Board
Time frame: Board scheduled to convene Jan. 8-19, 2007; selectees must leave the force by Sept. 29, 2007.

Those due to retire or separate:
Officers who are due to separate through normal attrition, such as those who would retire with or without a force-shaping program in place.
Goal: About 3,580

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