(U.S. Air Force graphic/Corey Parrish)
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH —
The hiring freeze implemented in August will be fully lifted Dec. 15, Air Force Personnel Center officials announced.
The freeze, preceded by hiring controls, was one of several measures implemented in 2011 to bring manning down to mandated 2010 levels. In addition, voluntary separation incentives were recently offered, with employees expected to separate by Dec. 31.
"We have made significant progress in reducing manning levels through various programs," said Michelle LoweSolis, the AFPC civilian force integration director. "But in some areas we are still short of the goal, so the freeze was extended in those targeted areas to help us work toward that end.
"Even with the hiring freeze being lifted Dec. 15, budget and funding issues are still fluid, so major command and wing leaders must be alert to changing conditions as they'll have the responsibility to control hiring to stay below targeted levels," LoweSolis explained.
Since the spring, nearly 9,000 positions have been trimmed from Air Force manning levels, but an additional 4,500 are necessary to reach required levels. Many of the positions identified for elimination are already vacant, and the hiring freeze resulted in more vacant positions, which will help the Air Force reach its goals, the director said.
"Nevertheless, our nation faces significant challenges and we all must remain firmly focused on force management," LoweSolis said. "Toward that end, a second round of voluntary separation measures is anticipated in January (2012)."
Voluntary separation incentives are "effective tools to help reduce our footprint without resorting to involuntary measures," LoweSolis said.
Once current voluntary early retirement authority and voluntary separation incentive pay actions are complete, Air Force leaders will be able to fully assess the manning situation and determine if additional measures will be implemented, she said.
Who will be able to apply for VERA and/or VSIP during the next round has not yet been determined.
"We at AFPC are committed to assisting the personnel strategic advisors in the field, and our benefits and entitlements team has been working round-the-clock to ensure Air Force employees get the best care possible," LoweSolis explained.
"There are many moving parts involved in this effort, and we are all working to ensure employees whose positions have been targeted for elimination are quickly placed in positions vacated by those who accepted VERA and/or VSIP, while keeping in mind the fact that we have a variety of mandatory placements to handle as well," she said.
Mandatory placements include people returning from overseas and outplacing centrally funded interns and employees in professional military education, LoweSolis said.
"In this difficult and challenging time, we are committed to making placement decisions that will benefit both our invaluable civilian employees and our critical Air Force mission," she said. "Nothing less will do."