Air Force to Offer Separation Incentives to Thousands of Civilians

If necessary, service will resort to layoffs to reach sequestration budget caps.

The Air Force will soon begin offering incentives to reduce its workforce by nearly 3,500 employees, the service announced Monday.

As part of a Defense Department-wide effort to reduce the number of employees at headquarters offices by 20 percent, the Air Force will offer early retirements and buyouts to civilian employees. The Air Force will resort to involuntary reductions in force if the voluntary programs do not entice a sufficient number of workers to separate. Employees in the Washington, D.C., area would be the first to receive layoffs, according to an Air Force spokeswoman.

Per standard government buyout procedures, eligible employees will receive up to $25,000 to separate. The incentive programs will target headquarters management, though the Air Force will determine the exact number of civilians who will receive an offer in the coming weeks.

The cuts will save the Air Force $1.6 billion over the next five years, a small fraction of the $50 billion the service must slash due to the 2011 Budget Control Act’s sequestration caps. The Air Force’s fiscal 2014 total budget is $138.3 billion. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued the notice requiring the 20 percent staff reduction last year in light of sequestration’s harrowing requirement to reduce the Pentagon’s budget by $500 billion over the next 10 years, and gave services five years to meet the target. The Air Force has opted to frontload the staff reductions, however, in order to shed a greater light on the impact up front.

"It's better for Airmen because it provides them predictability and allows us to re-stabilize our workforce sooner,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “It also allows us to harvest the savings earlier so that we can plow it back into readiness and some of our key modernization programs.”

The cuts will impact both military and civilian positions. Military personnel have been offered “a variety of voluntary incentive programs” over the last year, the service stated. The Air Force plans to cut a total of 20,000 military positions this year, partially by eliminating vacancies that have piled up due to a hiring freeze.

 The new round of cuts will take place at bases worldwide. Use the map below to see where the reductions will take place. 

The Air Force aims to go beyond Hagel’s 20 percent benchmark so greater savings can be re-invested in preparing for missions “at the wing level,” according to Bill Booth, the service’s acting deputy chief management officer. The service will consolidate several offices into the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

“The current and projected fiscal climate make it essential to centralize management and streamline support to the maximum extent possible in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness, as well as deliver more standardized levels of service across the Air Force,” Booth said.

The Air Force has 689,000 personnel, about 500,000 of which are military. 

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