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AF personnel chief: 'sequestration sends wrong signal to workforce'

  • Published
  • By Desiree N. Palacios
  • Air Force News Service
The Air Force's top personnel chief testified to Congress on the impact to military end strength in a budget constrained environment on Capitol Hill Feb. 27 during a House Armed Services Subcommittee military personnel hearing.

Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, said the men and women working for the Air Force are dedicated, innovative and hardworking, and sequestration sends the wrong signal to the workforce.

"The sheer threat of sequestration brings uncertainty and angst to the force and, as 1 March fast approaches, their angst is reaching a fevered pitch," he said. "Whether it's furloughing up to 180,000 dedicated civilian Airmen, reducing our flying program within operational and training units or cutting temporary duty funding to attend mission readiness training and professional development, the effects of sequestration will be significant and wide spread."

Jones expressed his concern about fiscal 2014, saying that Air Force officials are not sure whether they will meet their end strength without possibly having to resort to the selective early retirement boards.

He added that it is more of a force shaping program where they look at year groups and specific career fields to reduce the Air Force while maintaining their accessions.

"We are cutting accessions on our enlisted side by 2.6 percent in FY13 and no reduction on the officer's side of the house because we think it is very important to maintain our seed corn as we go forward and we don't create bathtubs that we have to live with for 20 years," he said.

In addition to Jones' testimony, Jessica L. Wright, the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the subcommittee that 80 percent of the civilian workforce works outside the military District of Washington, which is composed of military units in the Washington, D.C. area.

"They provide services across the nation," Wright said. "So this will be felt from this Washington to the state of Washington equally across our area."

Jones told the committee members that, not only is the civilian workforce going to suffer, but so would all service members.

He said that an 18 percent reduction of flying hours for the year really equates to a 30 percent reduction in flying hours, roughly 203,000 flying hours total. Units will very quickly go down to flying only basic qualifications for their aircraft, not combat ready for their aircraft, he added.

"We'll see that effect, and it'll take six months to spin them back up to be combat ready," Jones said. "And on top of that, the dual status technicians will be furloughed, if we go to a furlough, and the impact will be felt for a long time."

When asked about future acquisitions and technology issues, Jones said 72 percent of all Air Force acquisition professionals are civilian employees.

"If we go to furlough and we furlough our civilians for two days per pay period, it becomes basically 20 percent of their productivity," he said. "For the rest of the year that is going to have a huge impact on our ability to acquire and complete our acquisition programs, and it will delay the delivery of different programs because they just won't be there to do the job."

"If you look at the depots, we have 24,000 civilians working in our depots. The number of days they'll take off through furloughs will be significant and it will have an impact. And that impact in the depot processes will take years to overcome. The aircraft are coming in at a max capacity and we'll work them the best we can and get them out quickly."

"So any delay in that process is going to send a bow wave and ripple effect we'll live with for a long time. We understand the importance of acquisition professionals in the Air Force, whether they are in uniform or civilians."

When asked when additional cuts will have to be made, Jones said the Air Force is very close to its end strength as it stands. He said any changes for the Air Force on the people side will be driven by force structure adjustments, which might come from a prolonged sequestration.

Like the Navy, once the Air Force determines how long they will be in this situation, and what adjustments they might have to make to the force structure, they can appropriately react from a personnel standpoint.

Jones stressed to the committee that some families have two jobs and live from paycheck to paycheck. He said that, "There is no publicity that can mitigate the effect of a 20 percent pay cut to a civilian employee. It will be tough."