Air Force looks for ways to ease pain of civilian job cuts

Some bases will win new jobs through restructuring, others face substantial losses

Since the Air Force’s Nov. 2 announcement that it will undergo a major restructuring effort to streamline operations and meet top priorities, more details are emerging about how many and where jobs will be eliminated. Some bases will gain jobs, whereas others will experience substantial losses.

The restructure is in response to a broader Defense Department directive to stop the growth of civilian jobs above the fiscal 2010 levels, and also to support the service’s top priorities. To meet both objectives, the Air Force is eliminating 9,000 positions, mostly in management, staff and support areas, and will add 5,900 positions in acquisition, the nuclear enterprise, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

“These adjustments reflect several initiatives designed to align limited resources based on Air Forces priorities. This process is an ongoing effort to increase efficiencies, reduce overhead and eliminate redundancy,” a Nov. 2 press release from the Air Force stated.

Within the 9,000 jobs slated for elimination, many are currently unfilled positions. As another measure to ease the pain of the job cuts, some organizations are shuffling personnel to other unfilled positions not slated to be cut, and also offering early retirement packages and other incentives.

The overall strategy review was triggered last year by a memo from the Defense Secretary on reducing civilian manpower costs, Air Force officials said. The review revealed imbalances that required growth in some high priority areas needed to grow and streamlining in some management and overhead functions. As a result of the review, the Air Force launched several initiatives aimed at matching scarce manpower resources to the most critical missions.

Some hiring controls and other management initiatives that were launched this past May didn’t produce the desired results, the press release stated. Further steps now are being taken, beginning with the measures outlined in the Nov. 2 announcement.

The Air Force Materiel Command and the organizations under it will be the most affected by the restructuring effort.

“The restructure of Air Force Materiel Command – our largest employer of civilians – will focus on standardizing processes, streamlining decision-making and aligning missions to allow the command to operate more effectively and efficiently,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in the release.

To that end, it’s expected that AFMC will see 1,000 overhead positions eliminated, and its agencies will consolidate around core missions. The restructure efforts will go into effect by Oct. 1, 2012.

Congressional Reaction

Reaction from Capitol Hill is already kicking in, including released comments from Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Sen. John Isakson (R-Ga.) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) discussing the cuts proposed for Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center. The representatives acknowledged that the cuts may be painful but are necessary, and pledged to help ease the transition of the restructure at the base, which is under Air Force Materiel Command.

“I support the need to find and create efficiencies across the Department of Defense and the Air Force,” Chambliss, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a joint release from the three Georgia senators. “The planned reductions at Robins Air Force Base and the other affected installations are modest and we should be thankful they are not worse.”

Not all bases are facing losses. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio is poised to gain 350 jobs when the Air Force Materiel Command consolidates its 12 centers into five, two of which will be based at Wright-Patterson. The base will house a Life-Cycle Management Center and remain as headquarters for the Air Force Research Laboratory, according to the Dayton Business Journal.

Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma will lose an estimated 119 positions, some of which are unfilled, but will gain an increased leadership role. Tinker will receive an “elevated status” at the base’s Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, according to The Oklahoman’s NewsOK website. Tinker’s center will be deemed the “lead” of the Air Force’s three air logistics centers, or repair depots, which under the restructure will becomes air logistics complexes headed up by one-star brigadier generals, rather than the current two-star major generals.

Three bases are being considered as headquarters for a new active-duty drone squadron: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz.; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. A decision could come as early as next month, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

A partial list of specific installations and an estimated number of jobs expected to be eliminated there, compiled from various published reports:

  • 858 at Pacific Air Force bases.
  • 800 at Joint Base San Antonio (Fort Sam Houston-Lakeland-Randolph), Texas.
  • 516 at Warner-Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
  • 351 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
  • 321 at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
  • 300 at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.
  • 261 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
  • 253 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
  • 144 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
  • 100 at Hurlburt Air Force Base, Fla.
  • 99 at Maxwell Air Force Base/Gunter Annex, Ala.

A number of other bases are facing cuts ranging from a handful to dozens. The Air Force is expected to release details on further measures in the future, although no timeline has been specified.

Reader Comments

Wed, Nov 30, 2011 HRist

Two things to ease the pain: Offer a VSIP buyout amount equivalent in today's dollars to what $25,000 was worth when first offered in the 90s, and use unpaid internships, such as recent college grads who can't find work, in a win-win scenario of providing the intern with relevant experience in their degree field while helping to alleviate some of the manning shortfalls.

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