What Airmen should know about future manpower cuts

  • Published
  • By Maj. Bruce E. Gooch
  • 82nd Mission Support Squadron
The Air Force has begun a massive effort to reduce the total number of manpower authorizations by more than 40,000 across the active, reserve and guard forces, of which 88 percent will come from the active duty ranks. 

Program Budget Decision 720, the "Air Force Transformation Flight Plan," outlines the service's plan to save more than $21 billion through manpower reductions and organizational and process efficiencies. Since personnel costs account for more than one-third of the service's total budget, the Air Force has identified five manpower reductions beginning with FY07 through FY11. Recapitalization of these savings will allow the Air Force to modernize and rebalance the "total force" into a smaller, more lethal and agile force. 

As Team Sheppard's senior leaders met last week to determine and discuss the impact of our wing's "bogey," or contribution to the proposed Air Force-wide cuts, it became clear that every one of us are crucial in defining more efficient ways to ensure Sheppard continues to prepare our Airmen to meet the expeditionary challenges of today and the future. 

Why cut personnel now? 

Over the past few years, the Air Force exceeded the mandated active duty end strength due to the Global War on Terrorism, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley and Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne have made "balancing the manpower books" one of their top priorities. 

Some of the personnel cuts will come from a smaller number of accessions and through normal attrition: separations and retirements. General Moseley said these reduced accessions will not create "shortages in any particular field," however, they will allow us to take full advantage of technological advancements and reach-back capabilities. 

Many of these technological advancements have come in the form of weapons systems. The savings realized from manpower cuts over the next five years will, in turn, give us the much-needed resources we need to transition our aging fleet of aircraft to more advanced weapons systems. Our next generation weapons systems need "fewer Airmen to do the work" in maintaining and operating new, state-of-the-art aircraft, such as the F-22A Raptor. 

This effort has not been limited to base level organizations. The Air Force's 10 major commands are also facing futures with fewer personnel and developing ways to operate more efficiently. The question General Moseley posed to our MAJCOMS is, "Do we need all of the functional jobs at every major command headquarters?" 

He suggests that we don't. There are many proposals being discussed throughout the service that could possibly lead to combining some of the MAJCOMS in order to reach the Air Force's PBD 720 goals. 

Sound familiar? 

In 1991, the Air Force went through a similar reorganization and reduction in force that brought us Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and Air Education and Training Command. Fifteen years later, the intent is to create "war-fighting focused" headquarters that "eliminate many of the layers of bureaucracy that needlessly slow down decision-making." 

So, how will this affect your organization, your career field and more importantly, how does this affect you? 

During the 82nd Training Wing's senior leader sessions on this issue, Brig. Gen. James Whitmore asked all commanders to put personal feelings aside and concentrate on what's best for the Air Force and the wing. It's imperative that all members at every level of the 82nd TRW do the same. 

In his March 8 Letter to Airmen, Secretary Wynne urged all Airmen to ask ourselves, "What have I improved today?" Take a hard look at your day-to-day operations and become committed to developing processes to ensure we're conducting our duties as efficiently as possible. 

The Air Force used the best parts of several civilian efficiency programs to develop an Air Force-unique process-improvement program called "Smart Operations 21," Secretary Wynne said. Air Force Smart Operations 21, or AFSO21, provides tools for Airmen to develop ways to increase customer satisfaction, save time and money, reduce waste and improve quality. It empowers our Airmen to seek better ways to get the job done.
Become committed to these principles, seek out as much information as you can about AFSO21, and most importantly, don't be afraid to share your ideas on process improvement. 

This latest journey through transformation probably hits as close to home as any of the other initiatives. As we continue through these manpower cuts over the next five years, I ask that you keep faith and support your leadership and be open-minded and not resistant to change...it's inevitable. 

Most important, make improvements to what you do each and every day - make a difference. This ensures our continued dominance as the best Air Force in the world.