Air Force officials announce 2008 force-shaping plans

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Air Force officials recently announced plans to meet the 2008 fiscal year end-strength of 328,600, which calls for a force reduction of about 5,400 officers and enlisted members through normal attrition, retirement or force-shaping measures.

The reductions are in line with Air Force efforts to balance the force and recapitalize and modernize aging weapons systems.

Officials believe a vast majority of the reductions will come from normal attrition, said Col. Chuck Armentrout, the chief of the military force management policy division.

This leaves only about 645 officer losses as a result of force-shaping measures, a number significantly lower than last year's goal. To achieve the required end strength, Air Force officials will offer limited programs for voluntary separations and retirements, as well as a force-shaping board to achieve a limited number of involuntary separations.

"The (2008) force-shaping program will again be targeted by skill and year group, and primarily officer-focused. However, we will require far fewer losses in fiscal 2008," Colonel Armentrout said.

The Air Force will begin the 2008 force-shaping program by offering voluntary separation pay to approximately 200 officers in overage career fields with 12 to 15 years time in service. Officers approved for VSP will receive a lump sum payment equal to three times the standard involuntary separation pay rate, but must separate before June 30, 2008. Eligible officers will be able to submit applications for VSP from Sept. 5 of this year until the force-shaping goals are reached, or March 31, 2008; whichever occurs first.

Additionally, under the 2008 program, officers with a minimum of 20 years active service and at least 8 years of commissioned service may apply for retirement.
Eligible colonels and lieutenant colonels may also apply for a waiver to retire with two years time in grade instead of three. Retirement dates must be no later than Sept. 1, 2008.

The Air Force will also hold a force-shaping board in March 2008 to reduce the force by approximately 130 officers in overage career fields in the 2005 year group. In addition to career fields that are short or balanced, Airmen in the 14N and 32E specialties will be exempt from the board.

Currently, no service commitment waivers are offered to enlisted members under the 2008 force-shaping program.

"For the enlisted force, we will be able to use the tools we have in place to adjust and keep the force balanced," Colonel Armentrout said. "As we go through the year we assess (the process), and if it doesn't look like the goal is going to materialize, we'll look at waiving service commitments for enlisted."

The new force-shaping message supersedes prior messages. Other force-shaping programs such as "Blue to Green," for officers and enlisted, and the enlisted retraining program remain open. The expanded Palace Chase program for fiscal 2008 remains open only for officers in the 2005 commissioned year group. Other officers and enlisted Airmen may apply for Palace transfers to the Guard or Reserve, according to Air Force Instruction 36-3205.