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Air Force Budget Would Cut 2,460 Airmen in 2014 | Families

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Air Force Budget Would Cut 2,460 Airmen in 2014
Families
Air Force Budget Would Cut 2,460 Airmen in 2014

 

By Jeff Schogol
Air Force Times

The Air Force’s proposed budget for fiscal 2014 calls for cutting 2,640 airmen next year, but the budget could take a major hit if Congress allows steep cuts to defense spending to continue next fiscal year.

President Obama’s budget for fiscal 2014, which includes the Air Force’s proposed budget, was unveiled Wednesday morning. Right now, the proposed budget would cut 1,860 active-duty airmen, 480 from the Air National Guard and 300 from the Reserve, budget documents show.

The proposed personnel cuts are far below what the Air Force suggested this fiscal year, but the budget does not reflect the steep cuts to defense spending known as “sequestration” that took effect in March. Since then, the Air Force has slashed flying hours, stood down squadrons and taken other measures to have enough money to get through the next six months. Sequestration will last for 10 years unless lawmakers reach an agreement on taxes and spending.

The Defense Department, however, was told by the Office of Management and Budget not to include sequestration when planning for fiscal 2014, said Air Force spokesman Maj. Matthew Hasson.

Air Force leadership will hold a 4:45 news briefing this afternoon to reveal how sequestration would impact the budget if it continues into next fiscal year. Air Force leaders are expected to testify about the budget at a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday before the House Armed Services Committee.

As it continues to grapple with fiscal challenges within its proposed budget, the Air Force will take a look at the need for more voluntary and involuntary measures to meet its end strength requirements, Hasson said.

“The objective of our FY14 Force Management strategy is to continue to maximize voluntary programs first in order to minimize the need for involuntary measures,” Hasson said in an email.

Up to 4,300 airmen may be forced out of the service by May 31 under date-of-separation rollbacks so the Air Force can make fiscal 2013’s end-strength requirements.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is facing personnel shortages this fiscal year in the airfield operations, intelligence, civil engineering and public affairs career fields, budget documents show.

Right now, about 17 percent of active-duty airmen serve in “stressed” career fields that are undermanned and hard to fill due to operational demands and high deployment rates, according to the budget.

The top stressed career fields for enlisted airmen include airborne cryptology linguists/ISR operators, operations intelligence and fusion analysts. For officers, they include helicopter pilots, special tactics and intelligence.

The proposed budget calls for $14.4 billion in pay and allowances for enlisted airmen and $6.7 billion for officers, according to the budget documents, which did not include special and incentive pays.

Funding for those pays will “remain comparable” to the fiscal 2013 budget, Hasson said. In March, Congress appropriated $40.9 million in incentive pays and $363.8 million in special pays for enlisted airmen and $218.4 million in incentive pays and $303.6 million in special pays for officers.

In fiscal 2014, the Air Force hops to buy several manned and unmanned aircraft, including 12 MQ-9A Reapers, 19 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and six HC-130J Super Hercules, budget documents show.

But the Air Force’s belt-tightening measures may mean more members of Congress will have to fly commercial rather than on the government’s dime.

Under the proposed fiscal 2014 budget, the Air Force would cut its fleet of C-21 jets for VIPs by 11 aircraft for a savings of about $18.5 million per year, Hasson said.

“The exact locations, and associated manpower affected, are still being determined through the fleet management process,” he said.

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