Attrition: USAF Shedding 12 Percent of Personnel


September 22, 2006: Faced with the escalating cost of new aircraft, the U.S. Air Force is seeking to save $5 billion a year by reducing its personnel strength about 12 percent over the next five years. That's some 40,000 air force jobs that will disappear. Some generals want even larger cuts, of up to 50,000 officers and airmen.
Every few billion dollars helps, as the air force plans to spend over $60 billion on F-22 fighters, and over $277 billion on F-35s. Another $60 billion will be spent on C-17 transports. On an annual basis, these three programs will cost up to $30 billion a year. So the $5 billion a year savings from the personnel cuts will make a difference, even when the air force budget is $100-110 billion a year.
Cutting that many troops can backfire, and the air force is trying to avoid that by getting people at as many levels as possible involved. There will be few outright layoffs, there will be fewer people recruited, and more retiring early. It will be more difficult to get promoted, and many people in crowded fields, will be under pressure to retrain for new jobs (which can mean a major effort if you are switching to a high tech field.) On the downside, the cuts could mean lower readiness levels (the percentage of aircraft available for duty) and less well trained pilots and support personnel. Moving air wings overseas could take longer, and function less efficiently, because of the cuts, or the several years needed to adjust to the cuts.
Time will tell as to what the impact of the cuts will be, but the air force will never be the same. That, however, is something the air force has gone through several times over the last 70 years.


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