Facing a Critical Retention Year

Air Force leaders believe that despite the weak economy, Fiscal 2010 could present retention challenges. Lt. Gen. Richard Newton, the service’s top personnel officer, told both Senate and House panels that there are several reasons for this expectation: the need to retain specific skill sets in shortage specialties; the previous drawdown mode, with its attendant decreases in accessions; and a growing list of operational demands in new and emerging missions. Newton said the service plans to continue seeking special pay and allowances to target critical war-fighting skills, such as combat search and rescue, combat control, tactical air control party, and explosive ordnance disposal, as well as healthcare. Newton told the House Armed Services military personnel panel on May 21, too, that the recruiting effort that USAF’s plan to reach an active-duty end strength of 331,700 in 2010 “goes beyond finding the right numbers,” because the service must ensure candidates have “the right quality and the right skills.” Newton added that the Air Force also must “continue to reshape the skill-set” of its present workforce, paying particular attention to “stressed career fields and mission areas that need our attention.” In the latter category, he included intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, aircraft maintenance, acquisition, cyber operations, and the nuclear enterprise fields. (Newton written testimony)