The Personnel Conundrum

The Air Force is trying to sort out just how it will halt its personnel drawdown, given the statement this week by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he would “immediately” stop further reductions in USAF personnel. Air Force leaders said earlier this year that they wanted to cap the drawdown at about 330,000 instead of continuing to 316,600 set for Fiscal 2009, however without adequate funding, they had to put the new end strength request in the unfunded requirements list. Currently, the service end strength stands at about 328,600, so “we’re not talking large numbers here,” said Col. Chuck Armentrout, chief of USAF’s military force policy division. The new situation, he said, would mean staying at that number for 2009 and increasing to 330,000 in 2010, but it will also entail a new plan for force shaping. The Air Force still has an imbalance in certain critical career fields. Armentrout believes that the increase will be targeted to fill new and emerging missions and high-demand fields. He expects to see continued retraining of enlisted airmen into critical fields and possibly for some junior officers, as well. (Includes Air Force report by SSgt. Monique Randolph)