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Air Force to shed 13,500 civilian jobs

Nov. 5, 2011 - 12:48PM   |  
By MARKESHIA RICKS   |   Comments
A civilian employee at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., drills holes for rivets while changing KC-135 spoiler ribs. The Air Force is cutting at least 2,100 civilian positions through restructuring and workforce reshaping at the service's largest command, Air Force Materiel Command, in what may be the first of numerous such moves.
A civilian employee at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., drills holes for rivets while changing KC-135 spoiler ribs. The Air Force is cutting at least 2,100 civilian positions through restructuring and workforce reshaping at the service's largest command, Air Force Materiel Command, in what may be the first of numerous such moves. (Air Force)

The Air Force is cutting at least 2,100 civilian positions through restructuring and workforce reshaping at the service's largest command, Air Force Materiel Command, in what may be the first of numerous such moves.

The service announced the AFMC restructuring plan on Wednesday as part of a broader effort to shrink and reshape its civilian work.

The Air Force plans to eliminate at least 13,500 civilian positions by Oct. 1, but it has not disclosed details on which positions will be affected except to say that some are already vacant.

The Air Force announcement represents a stark turnaround in the service's future outlook from less than a year ago, when the service was planning to hire 21,000 civilians. Those hiring plans were scuttled in May when it became clear the service would face severe budget constraints for the foreseeable future.

Right now, management, staff and support positions are on the chopping block, said Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force's director of manpower, organization and resources.

She said cuts are likely in civil engineering, public affairs, protocol and legal, among others.

And more cuts are likely if the 12 lawmakers on the bipartisan deficit reduction committee fail to agree on a 10-year plan to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion, she said. If the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction can't reach a deal, $1.2 trillion in cuts will automatically go into effect starting January 2013. The Defense Department's estimated share could be as much as $1 trillion over the next decade.

While cost savings is the primary reason for the overhaul, Grosso said, the Air Force also decided it needed to shift civilian positions to fill vacancies in priority areas: acquisition, nuclear operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The service will hire 5,900 civilian employees to work in these and other priority areas, she said.

The Air Force will notify about 1,350 civilians in positions slated for elimination that they are eligible for incentives, Grosso said.

Early-retirement and buyout packages will be offered early next year, she said.

In addition, some military positions will be realigned but not eliminated as part of AFMC's reorganization.

"In these times of tight budgets, our success will depend on a fundamental change in culture across the command," AFMC commander Gen. Donald Hoffman said in a statement. "This is an opportunity to do things better and replace a culture of perceived endless money with one of efficiency, savings and restraint."

AFMC estimates the restructuring will save $109 million a year; more broadly, the Air Force is looking to save $33.3 billion over the next five years through restructuring.

Among the reorganization steps announced by AFMC:

The newly created Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, will be responsible for acquisitions, consolidating missions now conducted by the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson, the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

The new center also will become the new Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate.

A new Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., will lead the command's maintenance and supply mission.

The center will consolidate oversight for most missions now performed at Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The centers at Oklahoma City, Robins and Hill will stand down.

The 635th Supply Chain Operations Wing at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and the 448th Supply Chain Management Wing at Tinker will align with the new sustainment center. The 591st Supply Chain Management Group will stand down and become a logistics operations division.

The command's test mission will be consolidated and moved to the new Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The Arnold Engineering and Development Complex (formerly the Arnold Engineering and Development Center) at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.; the 46th Test Wing at Eglin and the 412th Test Wing at Edwards will report to the new Air Force Test Center.

The mix of hiring controls, early-out incentives and cuts has the Air Force's civilian workforce on edge.

Travis Air Force Base, Calif., had three commander's calls to talk about the impact of the losses, said John Santry of the American Federation of Government Employees Air Force Caucus.

Travis will lose 52 positions, 30 of which are already vacant.

In an interview, Santry said he has seen the service turn to the civilian workforce time and again to find efficiencies. Even before the reorganization announcement, he said, many employees were doing much more with much less.

"The rubber band," he said, "has been stretched as far as it can be stretched."

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