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Innovative techniques help Air Force meet manning goals

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2005) -- The Air Force deputy chief of staff for personnel told lawmakers July 19 the service would meet its end-strength requirement by the end of the fiscal year.

In March, Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady told lawmakers the service would meet its end-strength goal by end of the fiscal year.

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"End strength" is the limit set by Congress on the number of people the military can have on active duty. For the Air Force, that number is about 360,000.

The general made the announcement before the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on personnel, where he also talked about service end strength, recruiting and force shaping.

"We are now at authorized end strength," General Brady said. "And we will continue to bring balance to the force by rightsizing and shaping specific career specialties and overall officer and enlisted skill sets."

The Air Force reduced its end strength by adjusting the shape and size of the force. Instead of separating Airmen who did not want to leave the service, officials adjusted the overall size of the Air Force by slowing down recruiting -- the number of new accessions into the service -- and shifting active-duty Airmen from skills that had overages to those that had shortages.

"As we returned to our authorized end strength, relief has flowed to our overstressed career fields," General Brady said. "We are doing this prudently, by identifying specialties and specific year groups within those specialties where we have more people than we need. At the same time we are correcting our skill imbalances by realigning manpower and expanding training pipelines."

General Brady also said the Air Force uses programs like Palace Chase and Blue to Green to move Airmen from active duty to the Reserves or to the Army.

The service is also working to regain Airmen from jobs that are "outside" the Air Force, the general told lawmakers. Those jobs might be joint-service billets or jobs with defense agencies that don't necessarily require a uniformed person to do the work.

"We are taking a hard look at where our people serve," he said. "We have Airmen serving outside the Air Force who don't deploy with an air (and space) expeditionary force. With military-to-civilian conversions, we are returning some of these Airmen to Air Force positions."

Through military-to-civilian conversions, as many as 4,700 jobs held by Airmen could be converted to civilian or contractor positions during the next few years, though the conversion rate might not be one-to-one. Many of the jobs targeted for conversion are characterized as "administrative" or "back shop."

Some lawmakers expressed concern about the Air Force meeting its recruiting goals. General Brady assured them the Air Force had no problem meeting its goals for 2005.

"For fiscal … 2005, we will access nearly 19,000 enlisted active-duty members and just over 5,000 active-duty officers," he said. "In fact, we are now complete for fiscal 2005."

While the Air Force met its recruiting goal for 2005, General Brady said the military needs to be aware of issues in the civilian world that may cause recruiting problems in the future.

"Two things combine to hurt us," he said. "A constant barrage of negative press and a reduced ability to have access to young people to tell our stories to in schools."

Negative press about the military and the war in Iraq may leave "influencers" of potential recruits with mixed feelings about military service. Those influencers include parents, advisers and coaches of potential, military-aged Americans. If the influencers do not understand the military, they may advise those who want to join that it is not a good idea.

"We must continue this level of awareness among potential Airmen by keeping public schools and colleges open to our recruiters," General Brady said. "Ours is a recruited force, which means we must be competitive in the national marketplace to both recruit and retain people."

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