Short Shrift on Chiefs

The Air Force major commands simply will not have the number of top enlisted airmen they had hoped for as the service plans to eliminate about 320 chief master sergeant slots because of “budgetary restraints over the next three years,” according to a May 22 release. An 11-member board headed by Lt. Gen. Chris Kelly, vice commander of Air Mobility Command, spent eight months reviewing 2,806 requests from major commands for chief authorizations and created an order-of-merit ranking. On the board with Kelly were two other general officers and eight chiefs, who represented “diverse command functional perspectives,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Newton, USAF’s top personnel officer. Newton cited “fiscal reality” as the driver in the service’s reexamination of its placement of chiefs. For Fiscal 2009-11, the Air Force can afford to fund only 2,483 chief authorizations. The order-of-merit list will stand until Sept. 30, 2009, but service officials plan to review requests for exemption that are based on emerging missions and organizational changes. The chiefs may be the first group in the target hairs, but, according to the release, other boards will review other grades every four years—or when needed. Air Force leaders have gone on record saying that the use of personnel cuts to fund modernization efforts has not worked, and now they want to stop the drawdown at 330,000, but there may be no money to do that.