Saturday, March 8, 2014
Is the Air Force Dam About to Burst?
It started off as an announcement of doom and gloom right before the Christmas holidays, so that people and their families could plan their futures and have some certainty. As folks are fond of saying in the service, bad news doesn't get any better with age, and the force shaping news was certainly bad. It was yet another stressor for already stressed airmen, but the service attempted to mitigate it.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened by a long shot.
Those of us who have been around awhile have heard the warnings from leadership for decades now. We are breaking the force. We cannot sustain this ops tempo. Something is going to give. It appears that day has arrived, as service members are apparently flocking to leave the Air Force.
After delayed information, several false starts, divergent information from AFPC and neon question marks illuminated across wings throughout the Air Force, the service has decided to call knock it off on the voluntary separation programs, as the Air Force Times recently reported. It has been dubbed a "strategic delay." Weeks earlier, the Air Force called a halt to the involuntary program and nullified issued guidance.
Rumors now abound across the internet. There are reports that the Chief of Staff of the Air Force was unaware of the problems in the force management program until a few days ago. Many are voicing their opinion that the A1 needs to be fired, and that heads need to roll for an embarrassing debacle that has hurt people and the mission. Others are complaining about job interviews and job offers that will now go by the wayside as they try to plan their family's lives based on the information they were explicitly given for that very reason, which has now become null and void. And there are rumors from people who claim to know someone inside AFPC, that claim the Air Force circuit breaker has simply popped after being overwhelmed with the number of applications from airmen voluntarily seeking to exit the service.
Some of those rumors put the number at 40,000+ voluntary applications, while others put it at 50K, 70K, and even 100,000 applications. With a rumor-producing vacuum of guidance, it's hard to know where the truth lies. I don't imagine a number will ever be confirmed publicly, but all the evidence suggests to me that an overwhelming number of service members want out of our Air Force, and they want out now. Of course, the previous TERA likely provided the same indicators, although only a trickle were approved for early retirement.
This should be good news for a service that stated a goal of removing 25,000 airmen over five years, and that maintained that it would use voluntary programs to the maximum extent possible to lessen the requirement for involuntary measures.
But it is not good news. Rather, it's the ultimate climate assessment. The voluntary exodus of tens of thousands of airmen into a bad economy, realized or not by the flesh peddlers, just goes to show that something is terribly wrong in our service.
It will be very interesting to see how this force shaping program is handled from here on out. Whatever the decisions made with the fate of airmen, one thing is certain. They will leave one way or another, it's just a matter of when and how.
What will the Air Force do then?