WASHINGTON — Only about 60 airmen have taken advantage of the Operation Blue to Green program in its first seven months, Air Force said Wednesday.

The program, launched to help reduce the 17,000 extra airmen in the service last fall while helping the Army with its manning shortfall, offers bonuses to Air Force troops to transfer into high-demand specialties with the Army.

Gen. John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, said other retirement and relocation programs have been much more successful. The force is still about 7,000 airmen over its end-strength goal, but Jumper said he expects to reach that reduced level by June 1.

Air Force officials have done essentially no recruiting over the last five months and will welcome in about 18,000 new airmen this year — about 15,000 fewer than a typical recruiting class.

Meanwhile, Army recruiters missed their monthly recruiting goal in February, the first time they’ve come up short in almost five years. Officials blamed the problem on public concerns about the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under Blue to Green, most airmen who opt for transfer could retain their grade and rank. Sailors also are being sought under the program.

Jumper’s statements came as members of the House Appropriations Committee reviewed quality of life issues for airmen. Several representatives expressed concern about the costs associated with the higher-than-expected level of personnel.

At one point last year the force had more than 24,000 extra airmen, but Jumper said the demands of Operation Noble Eagle and the global war on terrorism have “kept them all busy.”

About 2,600 airmen are currently assisting Army units in Iraq with convoy services, mostly driving vehicles, Jumper said.

The general said he has dismissed suggestions of simply discharging servicemembers to reduce force numbers because of the potential damage such a move could do to morale.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now