KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Air Force plans to cut nearly 3,500 positions at headquarters across the service by deactivating and realigning elements in an effort to save $1.6 billion over the next five years.
The savings from reducing 3,459 higher headquarters’ positions are to be reinvested into combat missions at the wing level, officials said.
Some of the cuts will come from the consolidation of installation support management under a new Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, which will report to Air Force Materiel Command. Its location has not been announced.
Most of the job cuts will likely come sooner rather than later.
“We are aggressively pursuing reductions within the first year, rather than spread them out over five years as allowed by” DOD, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said, according to a news release. “It’s better for airmen, because it provides them predictability and allows us to re-stabilize our workforce sooner. It also allows us to harvest the savings earlier so that we can plow it back into readiness and some of our key modernization programs.”
The staffing reductions are part of a comprehensive management review plan to reduce overhead costs, increase efficiencies, eliminate redundant activities and improve business practices, the Air Force said in Monday’s announcement.
Taking the biggest staffing hits are Joint Base Langley-Eustis, located outside Washington, D.C., and home to Air Combat Command, slated to lose 742 jobs; and Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon, which would lose 734 jobs.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe, with headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, is scheduled to lose 349 positions, while 238 jobs are to be cut from Pacific Air Forces at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
At USAFE, 200 positions will be transferred to the new installation and mission support center, a USAFE spokesman said in an email. In some areas, such as personnel, civil engineering and financial management, “centralized management makes sense and allows us to better focus our support” on executing the operational mission, chief public affairs officer Jerry Renne said. USAFE will also reduce its headquarters staff by more than 100 positions, reductions expected to have minimal effect on the command’s wings, the spokesman said.
The Air Force-wide cuts will be a combination of civilian and military jobs. The Air Force hasn’t specified what types of jobs will be eliminated or how many civilian positions might be slashed.
But the Air Force says it will try to spare civilians from involuntary separation by first offering early retirement and voluntary separation incentive pay programs.
Another streamlining change is the creation of a new numbered Air Force. The Air Force Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency will realign under the new 25th Air Force and be part of Air Combat Command. Its headquarters will be at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
The Air Force will also continue to reduce contract spending, operating budgets and travel expenditures.
The cuts are part of a sweeping effort to save $1.6 billion by fiscal 2019. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced about six months ago that the Defense Department would begin reducing overhead and streamlining organizations. He directed each of the military branches to trim headquarters’ costs and staffing levels by 20 percent, allowing five years to accomplish the savings.
“We must change the way we are doing business if we are to meet the Air Force’s goal to reduce staffing functions by more than 20 percent,” Bill Booth, Air Force acting deputy chief management officer, was quoted as saying in the news release. “Reducing higher headquarters’ staffs means we can save money that can be re-invested in getting ready for combat missions at the wing level.”