Multiple years of shrinking budgets and an evolving overall mission for DoD means that long term plans to reshape the US military are being put into place. Units are moving, being debanded, and bases restructured. These changes will directly affect your career and the local communities at each installation!
One of the most striking strength changes made in 2014 came in the form of retention boards and personnel cuts through attrition. The Air Force Personnel chief Lt Gen Sam Cox noted in a recent interview that the service would reduce strength by 19,800 service member in under 2 years to produce a leaner force. By heavily focusing on support positions, the Air Force is hoping to protect its flight capability even with the reduced roster of personnel. Security forces, personnel, base communications, base civil engineering function and guards all experienced deep cuts.
On Tuesday, January 20th, officials at the Army’s Fort Campbell, KY had to set up multiple satellite locations to handle the overflow crowd at a “listening session” about expected cuts to that installation. After the loss in 2014 of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade’s 2,400 personnel, there was considerable outcry when long term strength assessments raised the possibility of Ft Campbell losing almost half it’s personnel by 2020. The final decision will be made later this Spring.
Across all branches of the service, currently projected strength changes will mean a loss of just over 50,000 service members achieved largely through natural attrition (retirement and end of contract ETS) and reduced recruiting.
Phasing Out Equipment
The Air Force, in particular, is basing strength changes around the elimination of certain air craft – most notably the A-10 and MC-12. But at the moment, the A-10 is being lobbied for by both service members and ranking Congressmen like Sen. John McCain of Arizona. The current back up plan if those planes remain in service would be to utilize civilian contractors or employees to fill the gaps in support positions created by the personnel cuts.
The 16 C-17 Globemasters assigned to the 10th Airlift Squadron of JBLM, Washington and the 17th Airlift Squadron of Charleston AFB, South Carolina, will be shifted to back up inventory in 2015 as those units are inactivated. The 400 or so personnel at each installation assigned to those Squadrons will PCS’d to other installations according to a JBLM news release.
The Army has also had equipment phase outs, including the OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. The scout helicopters’ training program has been shut down and remaining aircraft moved the “bone yard” at Davis-Monthan AFB as part of the Aviation Restructuring Initiative. In the end, the program could add aircraft and personnel to either the National Guard or Active components depending on the results of a 2016 commission.
Despite proposals for a new round of base closings coming from the Pentagon, that possibility appears to be on hold. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the newly installed chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has publicly stated that he is opposed to authorizing a new BRAC proposal. “We are still having a discussion in this country about what the role of the United States is in the world and about what sort of military capabilities we need to fulfill that role. Once you give up a base or a training range, it’s gone forever,” Thornberry said in an interview with CQ.
In addition to the uncertainty regarding the demands on the military moving forward, Rep. Thornberry pointed to DoD’s inability to foot the upfront costs of BRAC and the negative impact of previous BRAC rounds on local communities as his motivations for putting the current proposal on hold.
We want to know:
Have you been affected by recent strength changes – PCS, MOS change or separation?