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​CMSAF Kaleth Wright speaks with airmen during a June 29, 2018, visit to JB Langley-Eustis, Va. Air Force photo by A1C Anthony Nin-Leclerec.

The Air Force has a four-point plan to shrink the number of non-deployable airmen in the Total Force from 6.8 percent to less than 5 percent, according to CMSAF Kaleth Wright’s written testimony submitted to the House Appropriations Committee’s military construction, veterans affairs, and related agencies subcommittee on Feb. 7.

To do that, the service plans to:

  • Address “unsatisfactory participation in the Air Reserve Component”
  • Investigate potential personnel-policy updates in areas like “accessions, development opportunities, promotions, and assignments associated with emphasizing deployability"
  • Change the way the service handles assignments and manages “temporary medical profiles"
  • Make the force healthier by putting plans into place aimed at promoting “healthy lifestyles,” preventing injuries, and increasing “personal accountability for readiness"

As of December 2018, roughly 34,200 airmen were non-deployable (6.8 percent), compared to 11.9 percent in January 2018. Eighty-nine percent of that number, or 30,400 airmen, fell into that category due to “temporary medical reasons.”

Only 0.5 percent of the overall force—approximately 2,500 airmen— were non-deployable for more than a year, Wright wrote. Those airmen now face potential removal from the Air Force as a result of the Defense Department’s so-called “deploy or get out” policy, which directs the separation of service members who’ve been non-deployable for 12 months straight.

Most of these vulnerable airmen were non-deployable for medical reasons, and they “have been, or will be, referred to the Disability Evaluation System (DES) for assessment of suitability for continued service,” wrote Wright. In cases where this kind of referral would be inappropriate, he explained, the service “will continue to use retention determination and administrative processes” to determine whether the airmen are fit to keep serving.