The Air Force has halted work on most of its force reduction programs while it re-evaluates them, according to a statement released Wednesday.
The “strategic pause to all force management programs” will allow the Air Force to consider possible changes to the timing, makeup and eligibility criteria of the 18 programs, the service said. The re-evaluation is being prompted by budget adjustments and early lessons learned.
“Complex strategies are rarely perfect from their inception, but evolve as new information and feedback allows them to be refined and improved,” Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in the release. “The same is true of the Air Force’s current force management programs.”
Cox said eligible airmen should continue to apply for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority, or 15-year retirement, and voluntary separation pay programs, if they are interested. Airmen have until March 26 to apply for TERA, and until May 1 to apply for voluntary separation pay.
Cox’s statement indicated that while most work has halted on the programs, some processing work continues.
“Today, in some specific categories, the applications are being fully processed and approved,” Cox said. “For other categories, we are very close on final programmatic decisions and delegated decision authorities, which will allow us to finish processing applications and begin notifying airmen of the status of their applications.”
Those categories of applications still being approved include airmen who applied for TERA or normal separation in lieu of meeting a quality force review board, airmen who applied for TERA with between 19 and 20 years total active federal military service, and airmen who applied for normal retirement in lieu of meeting the enhanced selective early retirement board, or E-SERB.
But work on other programs, such as retention boards, E-SERBs, quality force review boards and TERA applications for airmen with between 15 and 19 years of service, is being held up.
“When we first announced our force management programs, we noted the dynamic environment would certainly result in changes as we balance being responsive to Air Force needs with remaining fair, understandable and transparent for our airmen,” Cox said. “Clear and quick communication of any future changes to the field will be a continuing priority.”
The Air Force Personnel Center sent a message to major commands March 4 that said it had delayed processing TERA and voluntary separation pay applications “while sustainment requirements for projected force reductions are further reviewed by the Air Force.”
The Wednesday statement from the Air Force said that all force management programs were paused “late last week.” It is the Air Force’s first official statement on the pause.
The halting of TERA and voluntary separation pay processing drew a great amount of concern from airmen after being reported by Air Force Times March 5.
One airmen, Rick Clark, wrote on the website that he can’t accept any of his three job offers until his early retirement is approved.
“Companies won’t wait while the AF powers-that-be jerk us around, so all they’re doing is costing us jobs,” he said.
Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning acknowledged airmen’s concerns at a breakfast meeting with reporters March 11.
“I think certainly there’s a lot of angst out there about what the future holds for the Air Force and for individual airmen,” Fanning said. “I read a lot of blogs too and the Air Force Times. Their story came out … about us freezing the voluntary programs. I read every single posting underneath that. I know it’s not always the best place to get a real feel for what airmen are thinking, but there are a number of airmen who understand that part of our commitment to them is, if we’re going to send them into harm’s way, we’re going to send them with the best equipment and [readiness] we can. So having a balance between your capacity, your capability and your readiness is an important commitment to airmen.”