ARLINGTON, Va. – Tight personnel budgets are prompting Air Force officials to reduce the number of chief master sergeants’ billets by 332 positions over the next three fiscal years.

Those positions won’t be eliminated, but earmarked for senior master sergeants instead.

The downgrading will affect only E-9s, which according to Air Force policy can account for just 1 percent of the total enlisted force, according to Chief Master Sgt. Brenda Voegtle, Chief of the Air Force Chief’s Group.

The cuts to the chief master sergeant manning authorizations, which will take place from fiscal years 2009 to 2011, were driven by "fiscal reality," according to Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.

Air Force officials spent eight months working through a review of its chief master sergeant grades, Newton said in an Air Force announcement about the downgrade.

An 11-member board chaired by Lt. Gen. Chris Kelly, vice commander of Air Mobility Command in Illinois, combed through all 2,806 requests for E-9 authorizations submitted by the service’s major commands.

In the end, the board decided to grant 2,483 of those authorizations, and fill the rest with senior master sergeants.

Chiefs who are in those 332 positions currently will be moved to other billets through the normal assignment process, Voegtle said.

"No one will be forced out of the Air Force," she said.

Some of those E-9s will also be among the average of 600 Air Force chiefs who retire in any given year, Voegtle said.

Since the Air Force is downsizing, Voegtle said, the fact that the number of top jobs available doesn’t necessarily mean fewer chances for promotion for those airmen who are aspiring to E-9.

"We’re a smaller force overall, so there will be fewer airmen competing for those opportunities," Voegtle said.

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