Nearly 900 airmen at MacDill Air Force Base have been notified they may potentially lose their jobs as part of an Air Force move to trim 25,000 jobs over the next five years.
About 880 airmen from the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the base host unit, have been notified that they are part of “non-voluntary force management programs,” said 2nd Lt. Patrick Gargan, a wing spokesman.
With the Pentagon seeking to trim about $1 trillion over the next decade, the services are being forced to reduce troop levels. The Air Force has nearly 330,000 active duty airmen and is seeking to cut about 8 percent,
However, just because an airman received notification that their job qualifies for being considered for a cut does not mean that it will be cut, Air Force officials say.
“The specific number of members who are affected by the quality force review board is difficult to predict as total numbers will continue to fluctuate as they continue to be collected,” said Gargan. “The quality of force board is just one of a wide-variety of voluntary and involuntary programs to size and shape the force and will focus on retaining our highest quality, highest performing airmen.”
The Air Force has a program allowing airmen to retire after 15 years instead of 20 and will seek to thin its ranks that way first. After that program maxes out, the Air Force will tally how many more cuts need to be made and begin making decisions on which airmen are involuntarily separated.
“We will use every available force shaping tool and do everything we can to maximize voluntary programs, to include offering monetary separation incentives,” said Rose Richeson, an Air Force spokeswoman, in an email to the Tribune on Wednesday. “However, it is very likely that we will need to use involuntary programs to meet projected manpower requirements.”
Any involuntary cuts will be made from a complex formula taking into account job descriptions, rank and performance among other categories, according to the Air Force.
During testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in November, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, said the cuts are the result of long-term impacts of sequestration, automatic spending cuts that kicked in last year when Congress and the White House could not agree on how to manage the national deficit.
“The difference from years past is that we announced voluntary programs first, then involuntary,” said Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox, the deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, in an interview on the Air Force website. “This year, due to the limited timeframe, we’re announcing all programs at once to allow airmen time to consider their options and ensure their personnel records are up to date.”
Officer and enlisted Airmen who are involuntarily separated and have more than six years of service are entitled to involuntary separation pay, said Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson. Those opting for early retirement are eligible for retirement under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority and officer and enlisted Airmen who have 20 or more years of service are eligible for normal retirement.
Those who are involuntarily separated are entitled to transition assistance benefits, said Richeson, including 180 days extended medical care for self and family, two years commissary and exchange benefits, and attendance at a transition assistance program workshop.
Airmen who leaving active duty are encouraged to continue serving in the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard, said Richeson.
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