Despite recent efforts to bring the number of Air Force servicemembers in line with Congressionally-mandated limits, the service remains above its legal threshold for the number of men and women serving in uniform, Air Force leaders testified Thursday.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the House Armed Services Committee that the past year’s effort to trim the number of uniformed members had not achieved the results initially hoped for, and that the service was still “treading water” as it attempted to trim manpower, particularly in the officer corps.
“Given the state of the economy, airmen are not leaving the Air Force at normal rates of attrition,” Donley said. “We are operating above our authorized end strength. We recognized this problem last year and we took action both voluntary and involuntary to get ahead of this problem, but we did not make enough progress, and the problem has gotten only more difficult this year.”
The Air Force will take additional steps this year to trim its uniformed workforce, but will ask Congress for new legal authorities to accelerate the process, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told the committee.
“We are asking for certain authorities which go back to the case of the ’90s, when we had a similar situation and the Congress gave us, temporarily, certain authorities that enabled us to better manage the reductions that we seek to achieve,” he said. “We would do this with compassion and with precision, but we need to do it.”
Schwartz did not elaborate on what new authority the Air Force would seek. A spokesman in the office of the Air Force secretary told Federal News Radio that the service was not prepared to discuss its request until it had been finalized through discussions with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and prepared for submission to Congress.
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