Air Force to cut extra duties for airmen

Active-duty Air Force service members may see a change in their daily routines in the near future.

The Air Force is preparing to cut some of the extra duties active airmen are responsible for, said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James during a July 26 speech in Washington.

The move is an attempt to unburden airmen and make their positions more desirable as the Air Force continues to struggle with staffing problems.

Additional duties refer to responsibilities airmen are given at the unit-level that are not part of their regular job.

Additional duties eat “up a lot of time and [are] frequently a big annoyance to the force. I’ve heard this over and over again as I’ve traveled,” James said at a Defense One event. “We are trying to take that on … We looked at the things we have done to ourselves by Air Force instruction. What are some of these additional duties and can we eliminate some of them?”

Additional duties can range from being a safety manager to managing security in an area to custodial work.

“We are going to announce the elimination of some of these additional duties. It won’t be the be-all and end-all, it’s tranche one, but we then have to look at some things that are required by law that we can go back to Congress and see if we can change or perhaps [the Office of Personnel Management] or [the Office of the Secretary of Defense], so this is going to be step one and there will be more to follow,” James said.

By eliminating some of these duties, James said airmen can have a better quality of life and the Air Force hopes that will keep more airmen in their jobs.

James said the Air Force is facing a retention problem.

The Air Force is expected to be short about 700 pilots by the end of 2016. In addition to getting rid of extra duties, the Air Force is deploying other tactics to keep pilots onboard.

“The civilian airlines are hiring and the pay differential is substantial so we are working with the Congress to try to increase the bonus authority for our pilots in the future. The bonus authority we currently have hasn’t been raised since the year 1999, so it has fallen behind standard and so looking to increase the compensation is one thing, but its only one thing,” James said.

The Air Force is trying make airmen’s home lives more enriching considering the high pace of operational tempo.

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James wants pilots to be able to do professional development and home station flying and training.

Pilots aren’t the only area where the Air Force is coming up short. The service is also facing a  shortfall in maintainers, the airmen that repair and work on aircraft.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said during his nomination hearing in June that the Air Force needs 4,000 more maintainers.

Both James and Goldfein said the Air Force is bringing up its force numbers to 317,000 by the end of the year and a lot of the new positions will be maintainers.

In April, the service created a new policy that would give $2,000 bonuses to new airmen who signed up to be maintainers.

The Air Force is hoping to add more to its force and bring it up to 321,000.

Still, that doesn’t fix the problem of training the maintainers.

“It’s going to take us years to get out from under this because we are bringing in new people that will just swell the ranks of the more juniors and it will take years to season them,” James said.

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