Airmen across the globe are feeling the effects of budget cuts. These issues are not only affecting the weapon systems they use to protect our nation, but it is affecting their quality of life as well as their mission and in some cases, whether or not they have a job.
Expect around 5,000 Airmen to be forced out of a job
Among those selected for Reduction in Force measures in 2008, the USAF is expecting to cut around 130 lieutenant slots. The Air Force will rely on volunteers, separation bonuses, forgiven service commitments, and other methods to meet these reductions. This is primarily a result of budgetary issues. On the flip side, the USAF is pressing for higher retention bonuses in certain career fields.
The Air Force cut almost 10,000 permanent change of station moves in FY07 due to budgetary shortfalls. There simply was not enough money to perform all the PCS moves. This makes personnel planning difficult and can hinder an Airman’s career progression.
In 2007, Air Force leaders enacted a new PCS policy that lengthened the standard CONUS tours from 36 to 48 months. This will save the Air Force millions of dollars, but at what cost in terms of career progression and retention?
Longer Deployments and More Combat Roles
The Air Force is extending AEF rotations for many members, and providing more Airmen in combat support roles to augment the Army, which has been stretched thin with constant rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force went to standard 120 day AEF rotations in 2006, but 6 month and year long deployments are becoming more common, especially with senior enlisted and officer positions. These longer deployments provide a more stable transition and are more effective, but they are also a direct result of financial issues; the cost of deploying and redeploying Airmen, weapon systems, and materiel is greatly reduced by extending rotations.
Decrease Services and Morale Welfare and Recreation Activities
Many bases have reduced the number and quality of services they provide Airmen. Among the early casualties include closed libraries, reduced health and fitness center hours, and scaled back services at base Airman and Family Readiness Centers.
More cuts to follow?
The USAF recently requested an additional $20B for the FY09 budget – to be used for weapon system upgrades. While the FY09 is still a long way from being approved, one thing is certain. The war efforts over the previous 6 plus years have taken a toll on the budget and are affecting Airmen, weapon systems, and quality of life issues.