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Strategic Human Resource Management: Usaf

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Human Resource Strategic Planning in the Air Force: Force Reduction

Human Resource Strategic Planning in the Air Force: Force Reduction

The United States Air Force is undergoing a radical transformation. Between 2007 and 2009, the Air Force will reduce its force by more than 40,000 people as well as undergo massive organizational restructuring. There is a high probability the Air Force will initiate a second round of personnel cuts. This Air Force transformation initiates fundamental changes in the technology and current organizational structure rendering current technology and warfare methods obsolete. It also comes on the heels of 16 years of non-stop military operations, the effect on aircraft, accelerated wear and tear. Since 1990, the Air Force has been involved in international policing actions, humanitarian missions and most notably, war against the nation of Iraq. The attack on the World Trade Centers in 2001 brought our nation into war against terrorism. Today's Air Force is operating with the oldest inventory of aircraft in its history (Unattributed). The cost of replacing and/or upgrading its fleet of aircraft runs into billions of dollars. The "force reduction" exercise significantly reduces personnel costs and the Air Force will divert these savings for fleet modernization. Force reduction implies a reduction in the current workforce however; the Air Force's mission (workload) remains unchanged. The Air Force initiated process-streamlining initiatives intended to increase efficiencies and minimize service level disruptions due to personnel losses.

The Air Force's vision is "Global Vigilance, Reach, and Power" and its mission statement "Deliver Sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests--to fly and fight in air, space, and cyberspace." As the Air Force evolves, senior leadership adjusts tactical and strategic initiatives so the Air Force can continue to perform its mission while at the same time move towards its vision. Due to congressional budget restraints, leaders often find themselves making difficult decisions. The war with Iraq costs the United States an estimated 500 billion dollars annually (Critical Times for Air & Space Power). This cost coupled with rising operating costs such as fuel, aircraft repair and modification have forced Pentagon leadership to redefine how the Air Force must operate to continue to meet its mission requirements. For the Air Force, this means a smaller more lethal force. The Air Force needs to reshape itself to stay ahead of its perceived threats as defined by senior leadership. It is necessary to maintain air dominance now and in future wars (Burgess). To maintain air superiority, the Air Force has to recapitalize is fleet of aircraft as well as associated support systems. Congress has allocated some money for modernization but it's not enough.

The Department of the Air Force submitted its operating budget for the next six years and congress appropriated 690 million dollars, 20 billion short of what it needs to recapitalize its fleet (Christie). The average age of the aircraft in its fleet is 23 years old (Weckerlein). For example, the KC-135 air refueling tanker aircraft is a key component in the military's ability to perform global missions due to its strategic importance. It has been in service since the 1950's and is high on the list of aircraft to be replaced. Within the next 13 years, The Air Force plans a "Phase I" purchase of 100 new air refueling tanker aircraft to replace a portion of the current fleet. Congress allocated 100 million dollars for the Phase I purchase (Congressional House Report 108-622). This is a good start, but only begins to resolve the Air Force's modernization crisis.

The Air Force is being forced to drastically alter initiatives put in place under previous strategic plans. Budget constraints have caused the Department of the Air Force to reduce the number of aircraft it intends to purchase such as the transport aircraft C-17 Globemaster III. The Air Force also wants to retire its fleet of U-2 reconnaissance aircraft; however, because of the cost of its unmanned replacement, the Global Hawk, and political pressure, the Air Force intends to retain the U-2 for an undetermined amount of time. The Department of the Air Force plans to replace the F-15 with the F-22 Raptor however, current budget restraints have caused the Air Force to reconsider. Several aircraft have surpassed their intended structural life and need extensive modifications to remain in service or are in need of replacement. Ownership cost to maintain these aircraft continues to climb as they age as well as the amount of time these aircraft spend undergoing extensive maintenance. While aircraft undergo more frequent maintenance and modification, they are unavailable to support war-fighting missions. With our nation at war for the foreseeable future, the Air Force must maintain its war-fighting capability within fiscal restraints. To finance such a huge undertaking, Air Force leadership is looking to reduce personnel costs.

The Air Force is downsizing its force by 40,000 people between 2007 and 2009 through legislation signed by the President called Program Budget Decision 720 (PBD720). Half of those 40,000 will leave the service in 2007. While engaged in war this may seem questionable. However, to maintain force readiness, the Air Force must find the funds needed to upgrade or replace its aging fleet and space assets within congressional budget restraints (Weckerlein).

The war on terrorism highlights the need for a larger ground force. In past wars, the Air Force played a decisive role in shaping the wars outcome. The current war is a ground war and the United States Army is bearing a brunt of the fighting. In an effort to provide some relief for the Army, the Department of Defense is right sizing its services. This "right sizing" means the personnel budgets for the Air Force and Navy will shrink while the Army's increases in an effort to boost its forces to meet its operational needs.

The current Air Force end strength is 347,624. Post PBD720, its end strength will be approximately 307,624 by the end of 2009. Comparatively, the Reagan Presidential era Air Force population was about 600,000. Since then the Air Force has downsized to its current end strength, the absolute minimum needed to perform its in-garrison mission while meeting global deployment requirements. The attacks on the United States in 2001 upset that balance. In the war on terrorism, Air Force personnel


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