06 March 2013

USAF EARLY LEAVE REQUESTS & THE IMPACTS OF SEQUESTRATION


By:  Brandon Charters, RallyPoint USAF “Thought Leader”
We are hearing a lot about Sequestration now, leaving many of us to ask– what is that, and what does that mean for me?
Amidst these budget cuts and the Government furlough environment, we are watching the Air Force approach another Force Shaping exercise. The USAF is tasked with reducing its size by around 3,000 service members by the end of the fiscal year. Based on a department of the Air Force’s presentation to the Armed Services Committee in 2012, here the FY13 budget includes a total budget authority request of $34.2 billion for active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve military personnel. This budget includes a 1.7% military base pay increase, a 4.2% increase in the housing allowance and a 3.4% increase in subsistence allowance.
For those who remember past Force Shaping exercises from the mid 2000’s, this scenario appears to be somewhat different, although it is still early in the process. There are currently no voluntary separation incentives being offered like many of us had seen in the past.  Previously, personnel command offered VSP (voluntary separation pay) to encourage airmen to leave the service early.  In 2006, depending on how close you were to retirement age, the bonuses were quite large.  Even CGOs were able to secure $60K or more in VSP funding. This sort of VSP isn’t on the table yet and doesn’t seem likely to materialize in 2013.
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That said there are still some usual first steps of Force Shaping that you can expect to be available. For instance, there will be early retirement options available in certain overmanned career fields. In FY 2012 they included, among others, Tactical Aircraft Maintenance (technical and master sergeants only) and Radio Frequency Transmission Systems (technical and master sergeants only), although this year’s positions may be quite different.
The Palace Chase program will also be offered again.  This program allows active duty members to move into Guard and Reserve positions, ultimately saving the DoD more funds over the long haul. Drop the major service commitments on overmanned career fields and see who wants to leave. Will there be additional cuts? The DoD senior leadership seems to be saying no.  
Lots of things weigh into a decision to leave early.  How close to the 20 mark are you? Is your career field likely to pop up on future Force Shaping exercises? How well are you stratified?  How is the morale amongst your colleagues, leadership and airmen? What’s your deployment tempo like? It’s incredible how often some career fields were deployed over the last few years.  There isn’t a perfectly uniform distribution of deployment cycles in the USAF and you have to be willing to keep up with the current ops tempo inside your AFSC.
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What happens if you do leave? As an effort to reduce veteran unemployment and comply with the White House Veterans Employment Initiative, the Air Force is ensuring the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is making the jump easier for airmen and their families.   From filing disability claims with the VA to getting military skills translated on civilian resumes, TAP has come a long way within the Air Force in just the last 10 years.  On many bases TAP is a week-long instructional event supported by commanding officers and supervisors.  I hear this not the same case for Army troops but it’s getting attention from high levels and should be seeing some significant upgrades. 
I’m interested in hearing thoughts from those on active duty: How are you interpreting the new budget constraints and how it will ultimately impact your job and resources?
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Brandon Charters is a “Thought Leader” in the RallyPoint community, specifically focused on USAF issues.  RallyPoint is the private professional network for US military personnel.  Service members use RallyPoint to influence their own military careers over time, and to connect with military personnel just like them from all branches.
Are you a Thought Leader, too?  Email aaron@rallypoint.com to take part in this blog series!

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