Unit members of the North Dakota Air National Guard observe a C-27J Spartan cargo plane upon landing at Hector International Airport in Fargo, N.D. The plane's cancellation is one of a number of cuts being made by the Defense Department and the Air Force. (Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp / Air Force)
The Air Force plans to cut end strength by 10,000 airmen as part of efforts to save money, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said at a news briefing Friday.
The reductions are tied to force structure going away and not budget cuts, said Schwartz. The Air Force plans to announce changes to its force structure in March.
One defense official explained the Air Force is not reducing manpower "in a vacuum," rather than personnel cuts are linked to plans to retire aging aircraft.
"Since we are losing aircraft we are also losing a corresponding number of personnel," the defense official told Air Force Times.
Recent changes to high-year tenure are expected to drive cuts to end strength in fiscal 2013, Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones told Air Forces Times in an interview earlier this month. The Air Force's current end strength is 328,423 as of Jan. 27, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.
"The high-year tenure that we had for the enlisted force did not match two things: One, the overall end strength number that we had; and two, the historically high retention," Jones said. "So, you can't have both of those and meet your end strength."
The http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/12/air-force-2013-force-management-enlisteds-high-year-tenure-122111w/">Air Force previously announced that starting in October 2013, staff sergeants will be separated at 15 years instead of being allowed to retire after 20 years of service. Technical sergeants will be forced to retire at 20 years instead of being allowed to serve 22 years. And senior airmen will need to be promoted by eight years instead of 10 years.
The Air Force expects that 1,676 airmen will be separated under the new high-year tenure rules.
Schwartz' comments on end strength came a day after the http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2012/01/defense-leon-panetta-says-smaller-military-cutting-edge-012612w/">Defense Department announced close to $500 billion in proposed cuts to defense spending over the next decade to help the nation get its financial house in order.
http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2012/01/airforce-dod-proposes-to-cut-7-squadrons-cancel-c27-012612/">Under the proposed cuts, the Air Force would lose six tactical air squadrons and one training squadron. The service would also cancel the C-27 — a joint Army-Air Force cargo aircraft — and the Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aircraft.
"The C-27J was developed and procured to provide a niche capability to directly support Army urgent needs in difficult environments such as Afghanistan where we thought the C-130 might not be able to operate effectively," according to a presentation of the proposed budget cuts on Thursday. "Since we have ample inventory of C-130s and the current cost to own and operate them is lower, we no longer need — nor can we afford — a niche capability like the C-27J aircraft."
The Global Hawk Block 30 was meant to replace the U-2, but it just became too expensive, http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2012/01/defense-air-force-block-30-global-hawks-nix-012612w/">Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters Thursday. The cuts do not affect other variants of the Global Hawk.