More than 500,000 aerospace production jobs are at risk in the COVID-19 slowdown, wrote the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the principal aerospace workers’ union, in a March 23 letter to members of Congress. The union has asked for government help to preserve the nation's skilled aerospace workforce. At the same time, senior Defense Department leaders emphasized that defense work is "critical" and must continue, and that progress payments will be paid in a timely manner to maintain cashflow for strapped contractors.
Air Force acquisition specialists have handled the COVID-19 crisis well, but will have to get more inventive to keep the system running smoothly, service acquisition chief Will Roper said. He predicted that pushing more authority down to lower levels of decision-making is coming. “Looking ahead, defense acquisition is in uncharted territory,” and the challenges “evolve daily," he said in a message to his organization.
The Air Force has paused Weighted Airman Promotion System testing through May 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an Air Force Personnel Center release. The decision to close a testing center is up to commanders. If a center is still open, Airmen may still take the test, but those who’ve already sat for the exam may not retake it.
The U.S. Air Force recently deployed aid to nations in Europe to help counter the spread of the new coronavirus and brought home Americans stranded abroad. “The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we work with our allies and partners to meet the challenges together,” U.S. Air Forces in Europe boss Gen. Jeffery Harrigian said in a release.
The Pentagon is preparing to deploy field hospitals in addition to the Navy’s two hospital ships to help alleviate pressure on the medical communities fighting the new coronavirus outbreak, but Defense Secretary Mark Esper maintains that the military’s impact will be limited. Esper said he has spoken with multiple state governors, but he emphasized the Pentagon “can’t meet everybody’s needs” in helping with the coronavirus outbreak. On March 24, the military is expected to release new guidance to military health facilities to limit elective surgeries to “free up medical capacity and resources” to focus on COVID-19, Esper said.
President Donald Trump’s March 22 approval of a Title 32 activation of Guard troops to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the states of California, New York, and Washington won’t impede the National Guard Bureau’s ability to support theater-based operations, since troops who take part in the response will be "in dwell," NGB Chief Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said March 22. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security will collectively foot the bill for this activation, its ultimate price tag depends on how many Guard personnel are utilized and how long the tasking lasts, Lengyel said.
The 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., is implementing a tag-teaming system to help halt the spread of the new coronavirus. “Beale AFB has postured in a manner that will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by shifting to a two team system that will alternate duty location every two weeks,” said Capt. Joseph Homan, deputy director of the Commander’s Action group at 9th RW in a March 21 email to Air Force Magazine. “For two weeks, ‘Green’ Team will work on base to maintain our Recce Operations Mission, while ‘Gold’ Team will telework from their place of residence.”
Weather experts at Florida's Space Coast will feel the pinch of an increasingly crowded launch schedule as higher demand requires more forecasting services. Employees of the Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron include civilian launch weather officers who are tasked to work with a particular launch provider like United Launch Alliance or SpaceX, Active-duty personnel who fill in as needed on launch days, and enlisted forecasters who work around the clock. “We could have a rocket that’s on a countdown to launch,” Maj. Jeremy Hromsco, an operations officer with the 45WS, said. “We could have another rocket that’s being stacked when we move that to a pad. Twice in the past year, we actually had a whole crew supporting a launch and another … supporting a particular exercise or event.”