Two years ago I called it. I said that the Air Force would throw majors out after they gave nearly two decades of service during a time of continuous warfare, just prior to them cashing in on the Life on Layaway that an Air Force career requires. People told me there was no way that the Air Force would do such a thing, and certainly they would not boot people with over fifteen years without giving them the early retirement. But I knew better. I've seen their moral calculations and I know their recipe. Once the politicians started touting phrases like "break the faith," the writing was on the wall.
We have just learned today that the Air Force is planning to hold Reduction in Force (RIF) boards as part of its Force Management 2014 program, in a paragraph neatly, and tactically, tucked into a paragraph that appears to simply cover "voluntary separation pay:"
A reduction in force, or RIF, board will consider regular officers below the grade of lieutenant colonel who have served at least one year of active duty in their current grade, are not on a promotion list, and have six or more years total active commissioned service and less than 18 years of total active federal military service.
So what this announcement effectively means is that the Air Force is targeting continued majors with more than fifteen but less than eighteen years. Just as I predicted, the service has now made it clear that it is poised, for the first time in history, to toss out continued majors just prior to them becoming retirement eligible.
It's an amazing development, especially given the strangely isolated continuation board that booted 157 majors at the fifteen year plus point because they were twice not promoted to Lt Col-- a blood bath that strangely, for some reason, was not repeated on subsequent boards. But the service, while sparing majors during later continuation boards, has moved on to the very same officers who narrowly escaped the blood bath, and who were offered continuation after twice not getting promoted, and who accepted that continuation offer to retirement. Why the focus on this particular year group? Hasn't it been targeted enough?
What is even more interesting is that the service is touting Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) for "overmanned" career fields, while putting on notice those in the critically manned careers that have been doing more with less for a decade or more--informing those in harder and less desirable and more utilized jobs that they will be booted with no retirement to show for it. While the guys enjoying the banker's hours in overmanned careers walk away with a partial retirement, the warfighter will be on the street with nothing to show for it. But, as I have mentioned previously, TERA is only being used as a public relations magical shield to make it seem like the service is offering early retirement to folks. In reality, they are denying the vast majority of those who apply. The Air Force Times is apparently read into the program, helping spread the illusion that people have the option to retire early instead of facing involuntary separation. Hopefully they'll pick up on the hot tip that a RIF of continued majors is a historic event, and perhaps something worthy of reporting.
Another interesting tidbit is that all the boards equate the separation date with time in service, and do not consider those who would hit eighteen years of service as of the date of separation - folks in that boat are treated as having already hit sanctuary, so they don't face the board. That's the case for all the boards, except for this historic RIF of majors with more than seventeen years, which does not set such a date. It appears when it comes to this particular demographic of majors about to collect on a life time of sacrifice, some more "flexibility" with who can be pink slipped is desired.
So let me dispense with the mystery. Remember those who volunteered for separation and were denied for being too critical, but then were months later kicked out with a much less severance pay? That was foreshadowing, an appetizer if you will. There will be majors with nearly eighteen years of service who will apply for the early retirement, will be denied because they are "too critical" or their career field is not "overmanned," and who will then be kicked out of the service. But here is the real poetry of it. They will be kicked out with a separation date that takes them just over eighteen years of total service.
Fortunately the Air Force appears to be giving early retirement to enlisted folks who get booted with seventeen years of service. That's good leadership, and I am glad the enlisted are being protected with a sensible policy. But that policy, strangely enough, is missing from the officer side of the house. I guess rank really does have its privileges.
As I predicted previously in a blog post entitled, "Keep the Faith!" and as appears to unmistakably be the case now, the Air Force is planning to re-attack the undermanned officer year group that saw 157 majors booted after nearly two decades of service.
Well played Air Force. Well played.