"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Stealth RIF & The Keep America's Promises Act

The Air Force is drawing down as the American financial crisis looms, and as wars appear to be coming to something resembling an end. I've blogged previously about the effects this effort has had on some officers, offered voluntary separation (some who applied and were denied), who were then booted at the fifteen year point. Some of the 157 majors, kicked out five years shy of a hard earned retirement, are challenging that maneuver and have pursued legal action against the Air Force. I was skeptical of their claim initially. After reading more about the language Congress used when drafting the law, ie that officers with less than six years should "normally" be continued until retirement, I changed my mind. I think they have a case and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

In the meantime, Montana Representative Denny Rehberg has championed their cause, and is pushing for legislation to correct the situation. The Keep America's Promises Act appears to be getting some support. Perhaps these 157 officers won't be scrapped to the boneyard after their long service after all.

Recent promotion boards show the service is using other ways to thin the force. A once 96-ish percent promotion rate to Major has now dropped by roughly 30 percent. Men and women who have served nearly ten years, much in or supporting combat operations, are getting the message that their futures in the Air Force are anything but certain. Meanwhile, the Air Force continues to kick out individuals who fail the physical fitness test, and the service is steadily making the test harder by reducing "safety" requirements once associated with testing in too hot, or too cold conditions. The sacking of civilians to administer the test, in my opinion, will result in more PT failures due to the increased number of testers with their own moving target subjective standards.

Despite the GAO office's report that the Air Force has more whistle blower complaints than any other service, I'm guessing policies will be put into place to rid the service of those with "paperwork" (which every whistle blower likely earns for their troubles). As I understand it, that is the crux of the legal argument being made by the 157 majors mothballed at fifteen years, that Congress essentially meant that officers without negative records should normally be continued until retirement. I wouldn't be shocked to see this policy come out in some form or fashion.

The take away is this... Those of us in the air service have no job security. Despite your best efforts, you may be shown the door rightly or wrongly. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Like soldiers who consider themselves already dead, in order to clear the fear when rushing enemy troops, we should do the same with our career mentality. Consider your career already dead, and do the right thing for the nation while you serve. Double your efforts to guard your integrity and be better than your peers by actually focusing on something greater than your career. While others concentrate on the new standards and magic formula for getting promoted in these uncertain times, we have an opportunity to consider doing something great for our troubled nation and its ability to defend America.

And don't listen to the inferiors, who delude themselves by thinking that their ladder assension skills make them good military officers, when they tell you, "Pick your battles, pick your battles, pick your battles." They don't battle, that's why their precious careers are so unscathed with war wounds.

As a fellow officer recently told me, "The military didn't give me a sword to fall on, rather to fight with and I'm about to swing away." The nation hired us to display courage and to fight, not to manicure our careers and avoid the fray. There are many battles that need to be fought, and too few showing the character to fight them. There is no better time than now to do the right thing. After all, what do you really have to lose?

1 comment:

  1. Dude, sadly, the AF doesn't know what it wants to retain anymore, from people to skills to anything. This is grist in the mill.

    Would I fight to stay in if I were in the "157's" shoes? Maybe. It depends. It depends on if I was fighting because I lost my piece of the pie or because I felt like the AF was doing harm to itself. I know some slugs who now have a paycheck for life simply for being smart enough to not get kicked out of the military for 20 years. I have nothing for them except to say that money stole is sweater than money earned, and a fool and his money are soon parted. For folks in the other situation...fuck yes, fight. The deal here is that we decided to comoditize military service in the late 1970s. When the military is desperate for folks to participate in the executive's latest adventure, we offer benefits (explicit or implicit) for those who join up. It is the capitalist system. When someone try's to change the contract later...that's wrong. It undermines our contract. For that reason, I am glad people hold people to task.