Air Force to reduce IT personnel

The smart use of technology allows for a leaner, smaller force

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Major cuts of active-duty and civilian personnel in the Air Force will begin in earnest in 2007, according to top generals. The reductions are part of the Air Force’s transformation to a leaner, modernized force that can better fight wars abroad while budgets shrink.

Information technology commands will be among the first on the chopping block, said Lt. Gen. Michael Peterson, the Air Force’s chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer. Many military experts agree that IT commands have made more progress in technological and business modernization than other parts of the Air Force, making greater efficiencies possible.

“The way we chose those entities to lead [the reductions] was by who was farther along,” Peterson said at the Air Force IT Conference, held at Auburn University’s Montgomery, Ala., campus last week.

By moving all Web hosting to the Air Force Portal, the Air Force will eliminate 1,100 Webmaster positions, Peterson said. Through standardization of Web tools and services, the Air Force can drop as many as 2,000 Web content manager jobs. Automating financial systems will allow the Air Force to eliminate 450 positions.

The Air Force will choose candidates for reduction based on grade, specialty and year they entered the service, Peterson said. The service will also reduce the ability to re-enlist for some specialties while offering bonuses for early retirement and granting some waivers for obligations incurred through college sponsorship, he said.

In December, the Air Force issued Program Budget Decision 720, which specifies long-term cuts in programs and employees. Dubbed the Air Force Transformation Flight Plan, the directive mandates cuts of 37,000 active-duty and civilian personnel by fiscal 2011, with 20,000 cuts called for in 2007.

Peterson said IT modernization is a crucial component for addressing the Air Force’s biggest long-term problem: the need to replace aging planes and infrastructure. Reducing IT employees makes resources available for use elsewhere, he said.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Corley echoed that concern when he spoke at the conference. Since 1969, the average age of an Air Force plane has tripled from eight years to 24 years, Corley said. The average age of Air Force Global Positioning System satellites is about 10 years, and their life expectancy is about 12 years. The Air Force’s 170,000 buildings have an average age of 33 years, he added.

“Whether it’s space, infrastructure or aircraft, we’ve got to fix this recapitalization piece,” Corley said. “We will not win this global war on terror without the right people and if I don’t give them the right tools.”

Even with reductions, the Air Force is asking its employees to perform a wider range of missions, including interrogations, convoy operations and detainee security. Those trends are likely to continue, along with their causes, Corley said. “This long war and these budgetary pressures are going to require that we become better,” he said.

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