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Thanks to staff cuts and the Internet, the days when nine out of 10 personnel issues were handled face to face between airmen and uniformed members of a personnel flight are over, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff, manpower and personnel.
Thanks to staff cuts and the Internet, the days when nine out of 10 personnel issues were handled face to face between airmen and uniformed members of a personnel flight are over, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff, manpower and personnel. (Lisa Burgess / S&S)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Air Force personnel specialists, who have been feeling the brunt of the service’s program to cut 40,000 members from its rolls, have adjusted to new ways of doing business with fewer people, the service’s top personnel chief said Tuesday.

Now the challenge lies in getting the airmen they serve to adjust also, according to Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff, manpower and personnel.

“In the past, probably 90 percent of the work [personnel] did was face-to-face interaction,” Brady said in a final interview with reporters as head of personnel matters before he leaves to become head of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

Now, Brady said, “instead of driving over to the military personnel flight to fill out forms, you can do it right from your desktop,” Brady said. “Which saves you time, but you are [also] doing a little bit of self-help.”

The Air Force is in the third year of a four-year plan to cut about 12 percent of its workforce in order to modernize and recapitalize its aging fleet of aircraft.

But the personnel field was targeted for a 40 percent cut, because “we focused on [retaining] career fields that deployed forward,” Brady said. “We do not need a large personnel footprint deployed forward.”

The cuts in personnel forced the remaining specialists to make some “dramatic” changes, eliminating layers of management and instituting “things like call centers, and going on the Web,” Brady said.

The customers are another matter, he said.

The changes to personnel procedures will be easier for new airmen to adjust to than older members of the force, Brady said.

“It’s a generational issue,” Brady said. “The younger you are, the more likely you would rather do things with call centers or on the ’net. It’s guys like me [who are older] who are having a hard time getting used to it.”

Although many personnel chores have already been computerized, one challenge is still on the horizon, Brady said: the computerized payroll and personnel data system called Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, or DIMHRS.

The Defense Department has required all the services to adopt DIMHRS to streamline record-keeping capabilities, beginning with the Army in October 2008.

The Air Force plans to launch DIMHRS in February 2009, and “we shouldn’t fool ourselves,” Brady said. “There are going to be some ugly days.

“But it is the future, and failure won’t be an option. We are going to make [DIMHRS] work.”

New bonusesThe Air Force plans to ask Congress for money in upcoming budget proposals for re-enlistment bonuses for noncommissioned officers in frequently deployed specialties Brady said.

“We are starting to see some challenges” in keeping midlevel NCOs in two groups: those with 6-10 years of service; and 10 to 14 years.

Brady said the most highly stressed fields include explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), air traffic control, ground transportation, logistics, security and Tactical Air Control Party (TACPs).

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