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Air Force to cut 22,000 before end of year

OKALOOSA COUNTY - The Air Force will cut more than twenty-two-thousand troops before the end of the year.

The service already announced it would reduce its force by twenty-five thousand airmen, but that was expected to happen over a five-year period. Many airmen now face a choice of leaving on their own, or being told their careers are over.
  
Laura Hussey "The Air Force calls it Force Management....reducing the ranks to help absorb the budget cuts required by sequestration. This year, they're rolling out eighteen diferent voluntary and non-voluntary separation programs"

Reduction In Force boards and other panels that evaluate whether airmen can stay in service will start their work this summer.

CMSgt Kevin Thurman/USAF, retired "They look at your evaluation reports, they look at your longevity in the military and stuff, but they also do it by career fields"

Qualifying airmen are being offered the chance to leave now instead of facing those boards. Some are eligible for early retirement, others for voluntary separation.

Col. Scott Berry/USAF retired "A host of programs, they'll give you incentives. They will waive any commitments you might have such as an enlistment commitment, or other commitment due to promotion or moving or anything"   

Retired Colonel Scott Berry says for airmen who have skills that translate into the civilian marketplace, voluntary separation can be a smart choice. The incentive payment can be one-point-two-five times higher than the standard separation payment.

Col. Berry "Those who choose not to take that are then vulnerable to a mandatory reduction in force"   

Because RIFs are concentrated in career fields the air force considers overmanned,  retired Chief Master Sergeant Kevin Thurman says top performers can be cut.

CMSgt Kevin Thurman/USAF retired "So the quality isn't the number one priority for cuts, it's the job specialty that you're in, so we lose a lot of good people in the Air Force."

Retired Chief Norm Evans says there's more weight on whoever's left behind.

CMSgt Norm Evans/USAF retired "We continue to do the same mission, but it's harder, more deployments, longer hours"

Laura Hussey "Because the window for these programs has just opened, it's too early to know how much impact we'll see at our local bases."