The Air Force Is Trying To Get Some of Its Civilians To Leave

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James answers questions from local media during a visit to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, March 26, 2015.

U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth

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Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James answers questions from local media during a visit to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, March 26, 2015.

Hoping to avoid layoffs, the service is offering incentives to civilians who retire early.

The Air Force began offering buyouts and early retirement incentives to civilian employees on Monday, the service has announced.

The military branch called the decision necessary to meet the required 20 percent cuts to headquarters offices. The Air Force announced last year it would walk away from scheduled mandatory layoffs in 2015 — Secretary Deborah Lee James said the service had “reduced far enough” — but said it would continue to offer voluntary separation incentives.

Civilian employees will receive both voluntary early retirement and separation incentive pay offers to “realign and rebalance the civilian force” in the third round of the current workforce reduction effort.

“As in past years, we will continue to offer voluntary early retirement authority and voluntary separation incentive pay to the maximum extent possible before we implement a reduction in force,” said Debra Warner, the director of Civilian Force Policy. “The Air Force is committed to sustaining excellence, meeting fiscal requirements and minimizing negative impacts on our current permanent civilian workforce and their families.”

Employees must respond to “interest surveys” by June 26, and those approved must separate no later than Sept. 30.

Despite the previous cancellation of reduction in force efforts, the Air Force left the door open for layoffs later in the year. Prior to resorting to those mandatory measures, headquarters offices and participating bases will attempt to shift employees away from “overage” positions and into permanent jobs.

Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.,wrote a letter to James in March lampooning the Air Force’s reduction efforts, accusing the service of moving employees around rather than removing them from the payrolls entirely.

“The 20-percent headquarters reductions were meant to make Defense Department operations more efficient while saving money for American taxpayers,” McCain wrote. “But the conduct of the Air Force in response to this guidance seems to have produced no actual staff reductions and yielded no actual savings.”

Despite being given five years to meet the staffing cuts require by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Air Force has said it frontloaded its reductions, thereby allowing it to rely on voluntary measures going forward. 

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