Lorenz on Leadership -- Leading Airmen through force management

  • Published
  • By Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz
  • Commander, Air Education and Training Command
The chief of staff of the Air Force recently announced that our service must reduce its personnel end strength to meet congressionally-mandated limits.

Air Force retention is currently at a 15-year high, which is a testament to the tremendous dedication of our Airmen serving during a time of unprecedented deployments. However, the high retention means our end strength is above the limits set by Congress, and we have to take steps to reduce the number of Airmen on active duty.

Normally we are able to adjust our recruiting and accessions so the number of new Airmen generally equals the number of separating or retiring Airmen. We have already reduced the number of new recruits and officers entering the service this year, but there is a limit to how much we can cut incoming year groups before we start damaging the future Air Force.

We have also implemented voluntary options for Airmen such as enlistment contract waivers, limited active-duty service commitment waivers and voluntary separation pay. So far not enough Airmen have taken advantage of these programs to get us under the Congressionally-approved end strength, and other involuntary programs such as selective early retirements of some officer ranks are being implemented.

The numbers this time around are much smaller than in the past, but for Airmen faced with force management it will be a stressful, possibly life-changing event. I expect the leaders -- officer, enlisted and civilian -- in Air Education and Training Command to help each individual facing this uncertainty with the support they need and deserve.

I urge leaders to be empathetic to the turbulence these decisions cause in the lives of Airmen -- and the lives of family members too. Be engaged in their decision-making processes, be attentive to their concerns, be assertive but fair advocates for their contribution to today's fight. And be ready to help Airmen who leave active duty -- whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Fully participate in their transition, whether they return to civilian life or choose to serve in the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve or another branch of the armed services.

If you have questions about the upcoming force management process, please visit the Air Force Personnel Center website, https://gum.afpc.randolph.af.mil/ or contact your military personnel flight.

The decision to undertake these measures was not made lightly by our leaders. But in the end the Air Force, like all the services -- and indeed, like all of us -- must live within its means. You have my pledge that we will do everything we can to make this process as fair as possible and to help Airmen affected by force management as they start the next phase of their lives.