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Air Force Academy to cut 99 jobs, 10 majors

The Air Force Academy plans to cut a third of the sergeants who oversee military training and cadet discipline as part of an austerity plan that will carve 3 percent from its workforce and eliminate 10 academic majors at the school.

The academy provided a detailed budget look, while other bases across Colorado declined to talk in specifics as the Pentagon unveiled its full 2015 budget proposal.

The academy plans, part of a Pentagon move to cut $900 billion in spending over a decade, didn't lead to a reduction in the 4,000-member cadet wing or the elimination of sports teams. The academy discussed the cuts Monday in advance of a planned Pentagon address on military spending.

"We're at a very historic inflection point in funding at the Pentagon after 13 years of operations overseas," academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told reporters in a Monday press briefing.

All sports survive Air Force budget elimination.

Reporters were asked to hold the story until the budget was officially announced by the Defense Department on Tuesday.

The 2015 spending plan meets Pentagon targets but is far from official. Congress must approve a budget before the cuts can take hold, and if lawmakers approve increased Pentagon spending, some austerity measures won't be implemented.

Johnson chose to cut payroll — 99 of 3,000 positions at the school — to meet spending targets. Personnel spending makes up 90 percent of the academy's budget.

"We don't have big squadrons of aircraft to cut or hangars to close down, we have people," Johnson said.

Of those positions, the biggest cut will be borne by sergeants. The school, which has 40, 100-cadet squadrons will cut the number of sergeants in those units from two to one, eliminating 40 jobs.

Academy commandant of cadets, Brig. Gen. Greg Lengyel said the move saves money, but requires cadets to step up as military trainers and disciplinarians.

"We're pushing more authority and responsibility to the cadet chain of command," he said.

The academic side of the academy will see 29 job cuts, 20 military and nine civilian positions, under the plan. Those cuts would require the school to reorganize its academic programs, reducing the number of academic majors from 33 to 23 in the coming years.

Degrees in biochemistry, environmental engineering and meteorology are among the cuts.

Dean of faculty Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost, said some of the programs facing elimination duplicate other offerings and a few of the majors that would go away were considered fall-backs for students in academic distress. Armacost said the areas seeing cuts also traditionally have low enrollment, so the changes will impact about 100 cadets per year.

Johnson said the academic changes, which cut graduation requirements by three credits, will allow for a broad-based education that will prepare cadets for career-specific training in the Air Force after they graduate.

"We're trying to educate people to make a well-rounded officer," she said. "We're not a vocational training center."

While cutting some academic programs, the academy said it will beef up its computer sciences training with an increased emphasis on electronic security.

The job cuts will largely be accomplished through attrition. Of the 99 jobs the academy is cutting, about half are now vacant.

With a hiring freeze in place for civilian workers, and other measures to cut military jobs, the academy expects to accomplish the bulk of the cuts without layoffs.

Some of the steepest cuts at the academy were expected in the athletic department, but leaders stopped short of eliminating sports teams that were on the chopping black.

Instead, the athletic department will shed 30 mostly administrative jobs.

"Up until very recently, one of the options was to eliminate some sports," Johnson said.

While 99 jobs at the academy are being cut, more than 1,000 airmen are at risk of losing their federal paycheck.

In a bid to cut the Air Force's roster by 25,000 over three years, the 1,000 academy airmen will face retention boards this summer. Those who don't make the cut will be separated from their service and their academy jobs will go to someone picked to stay in uniform.

The Air Force is also cutting more than 500 aircraft from its fleet by eliminating two venerable planes — the A-10 "warthog" and the U-2 spy plane.

The Air Force cuts are shallow in comparison to planned Army reductions.

The Army, now at 520,000 soldiers, would cut its ranks to as low as 440,000 under Pentagon plans.

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