Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gates Promises Halt to Air Force Personnel Cuts

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he plans to "immediately stop" all further reductions in Air Force personnel. Gates made his promise while addressing Airmen at Langley Air Force Base, Va., To discuss his ouster of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley. Along with the usual Airmen lost through normal attrition, Air Force leaders had planned to cut an additional 6,800 Airmen from the rolls in fiscal 2009, Capt. Michael Andrews, an Air Force spokesman for personnel matters told Stripes. Of those, 4,700 would have been enlisted members, and 1,900 officers, Andrews said. In his address at Langley, Gates said the American public's focus on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is mostly about the Army. However, Gates said, "the reality is that our Airmen and women, and those in the other services are under strain as well," Gates said. "In fact, you have been forward-deployed, and at war for 17 years -- since the first Gulf War." Pentagon leaders know this, Gates told the Airmen, "and are working to ease the burden." And his first step, Gates said, is to stop the Air Force's personnel cuts.Unlike the Marines and Army, which are both expanding, the Air Force has had a "Force Shaping" plan in effect since 2002, when Air Force leaders announced that they would said cut 40,000 personnel over the course of the next five years, and use the money they saved to modernize the Air Force's aging air fleet. Air Force were planning to release their "force shaping" plan later this month, which would have spelled out exactly which groups of Airmen were vulnerable to the cuts and the mix of voluntary incentives and bonuses and involuntary force reduction boards personnel officials planned to use to get them off the payroll, Andrews said. Gates also told the Airmen about his choice of replacements for Wynne and Moseley: Michael Donley, the Pentagon's Director of Administration and Management, to replace Wynne, and Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, to succeed Moseley. Schwartz had previously announced that he would retire in 2009. Gates nominated the Air Force's current Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Duncan McNabb, to take the Transcom spot, citing extensive experience of "three-plus decades" in airlift, refueling and logistics as making him "an ideal candidate to assume the helm." Air Force Lt. Gen. William M. Fraser III, who is assistant to Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was nominated to succeed McNabb as Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Gates said.

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