Just when we thought we had the Air Force Hunger Games somewhat figured out, the Air Force has called "Knock It Off" and is poised for a reset. According to a recent Air Force announcement:
Changes to the scheduled RIF board date will result in changes to the eligible population. Some officers initially eligible to meet the June board will no longer be eligible as adjustments are made to year groups. Likewise, some officers who were not initially RIF eligible could now be eligible.But that alone does not justify halting all the work that has been done. There were eligibility matrices and the Air Force already said eligibility year groups and AFSCs would change throughout. Such changes do not require scrapping existing guidance. So what is behind this dramatic change, that was touted before Christmas as being released to arm airmen with important information about their futures? Whatever it is, it's sure to be a whopper to justify the latest of several false starts during this debacle.
If the program has to be changed, it would seem that perhaps the offer of TERA to those with fifteen years plus service, who are not retained by a board, will go by the wayside. That's certainly an unwelcome possibility.
Or perhaps the assurance that all who are RIF eligible will be eligible for a voluntary program will be done away with.
Or maybe the Air Force is responding to the many rated pilots beating down the door to flee the service, and instead of simply telling them they are ineligible, is going to release a new PSDM 13-130 that makes it clear that aviators are not eligible so that their commanders don't waste any more time on packages for them. Though this could be much more easily accomplished by changing the color of a box.
All possibilities, but I think there is something more significant in the works.
What I find most interesting in these recent announcements is the justification that the Air Force is seeking legal or statutory authority. What authority did it not already have that it desires? According to the recent af.mil article:
“When we initially announced these force management programs in December, we knew the dynamic nature of the programs would result in some changes,” said Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “While the change is necessary to ensure we operate within the law, it was equally important for us to keep our word and minimize the impact on Airmen.”And according to one email that has been circulating the public sphere, apparently from official channels, "The FY14 RIF Board is being postponed to 1 October 2014 due to limitations in the statutory authority governing the RIF Board and the new accountability date will be 2 May 2014."
So again, what statutory authority is required for the Air Force to legally get rid of people, that it did not already have when it dropped the force shaping bombshell on service members?
If I was a betting man, I would bet they are targeting sanctuary protections for those who have served for more than eighteen years. There is a lot of money to be "saved" by taking a person's retirement right before they actually retire. I cannot imagine what else would be driving this dramatic KIO call midstream, after all the weeping and gnashing of teeth that airmen have endured already. What would require going back to get statutory authority before legally showing folks the door, if not sanctuary restrictions? Perhaps the managers of fate simply desire to remove TERA from those who are shown the door with more than fifteen years. Who knows. Whatever the changes, we can expect them to be significant.
If I'm right that they are targeting sanctuary protections, that would make my earlier predictions correct.
I could, of course, be wrong. Sanctuary is law, and so changing it would require some hefty lifting to make it go away. It would take another “provision of law” that would allow folks to be “sooner retired or discharged” according to 10 U.S. Code section 637. The next section 638, allows a secretary to shorten the continuation time, but still provides protection in sanctuary. That section also limits the number of people who can be separated through the boards it authorizes, so it is possible the delay of the RIF into the next fiscal year is a harbinger of an increased number the service wants to separate.
Whether the service wants to get rid of sanctuary, or increase the number of people it wants to show the door, it appears big things are on the horizon.
Good luck to all airmen and their families.