The Air Force will offer early retirement and buyouts to civilian personnel, in order to eliminate nearly 3,500 positions, officials announced Monday.
The service estimates the cuts will save the Air Force $1.6 billion over the next five years.
Trimming the workforce will help the Air Force meet a Defense Department directive requiring each service to reduce its costs and staffing levels across headquarters by at least 20 percent by 2019.
But the Air Force wants to go beyond the mandated 20 percent, and it wants the majority of workforce reductions to happen within the first year.
“It’s better for airmen, because it provides them predictability and allows us to re-stabilize our workforce sooner,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said. “It also allows us to harvest the savings earlier, so that we can plow it back into readiness and some of our key modernization programs.”
Voluntary Early Retirement Authority programs (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay (VSIP) will primarily target management at headquarters, both in the U.S. and overseas.
“Reducing higher headquarters’ staffs means we can save money that can be re-invested in getting ready for combat missions at the wing level,” said Bill Booth, the Air Force’s acting deputy chief management officer.
Service members have already been offered voluntary incentive programs.
The Air Force will “foster voluntary reductions before pursuing involuntary measures,” DoD wrote in a release.
An Air Force spokesperson told Federal News Radio that depending on how many employees opt in to VERA or VSIP, the service’s next step would be to exercise reductions in force (RIFs).
The Air Force previously offered buyouts and early retirement to its civilian workforce in 2012.
Reducing staffing levels — through both voluntary and involuntary measures — is part of a broader restructuring initiative, known as Air Force Management Headquarters Review.
As part of the review, the Air Force will centralize management and streamline mission support activities.
The Air Force also will continue to reduce its contract spending, operating budgets and travel expenditures.
“Everyone knows our economy is still not where it should be,” James said. “We have a responsibility to ensure that every dollar adds value to the taxpayers and our national defense.”