Air Force to reduce force by 3,700 airmen

The Air Force announced earlier this week that it plans to cut 3,700 airmen from its ranks by October 2010, the end of this fiscal year.

The cuts will come through “voluntary and involuntary early separation and retirement programs,” according to an Air Force news release.

Airmen now may apply for early separation.

The Air Force did not identify what military skills it will look to trim from its ranks.

The Air Force intends to cut 2,074 officers and 1,633 enlisted airmen, according to the news release, though the Air Force acknowledges that it may not be able to cut that many officers from the ranks.

For airmen who are discharged from the military before their enlistment ends or their planned retirements, the Air Force will offer job training.

There also will be subtle incentives for volunteers to leave the Air Force early.

Some officers will be given a chance to retire “with a minimum of two years time in rank,” said Maj. Richelle Dowdell, an Air Force spokeswoman based at the Pentagon.

Officers typically are expected to serve longer at their ranks before they can retire with their pensions.

The goal of the cuts will be to get the total Air Force ranks down to a force stregth of 331,700, the level mandated by Congress.

The Air Force also is looking to fill a $228 million funding shortfall for personnel.

The cuts in the Air Force uniformed force come as more civilian employees come into the ranks.

More than 9,000 civilians will be added to the Air Force payroll concurrent with cuts in uniformed servicemembers.

To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.