Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Forty training sergeants, 10 academic majors among Air Force Academy budget cuts

By Tom Roeder Updated: March 5, 2014 at 5:38 am

The Air Force Academy plans to cut a third of the sergeants who oversee military training and cadet discipline as part of an austerity plan that will carve 3 percent from its workforce and eliminate 10 academic majors at the school.

The academy provided a detailed budget look, while other bases across the region declined to talk in specifics as the Pentagon unveiled its full 2015 budget proposal.

The academy plans, part of a Pentagon move to cut $900 billion in spending over a decade, didn't lead to a reduction in the 4,000-member cadet wing or the elimination of sports teams. The academy discussed the cuts Monday in advance of a planned Pentagon address on military spending.

"We're at a very historic inflection point in funding at the Pentagon after 13 years of operations overseas," academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told reporters in a Monday press briefing.

All sports survive Air Force budget elimination

Reporters were asked to hold the story until the budget was officially announced by The Defense Department on Tuesday.

The 2015 spending plan meets Pentagon targets, but is far from official. Congress must approve a budget before the cuts can take hold, and if lawmakers approve increased Pentagon spending, some austerity measures won't be implemented.

Johnson chose to cut payroll - 99 of 3,000 positions at the school - to meet spending targets. Personnel spending makes up 90 percent of the academy's budget.

"We don't have big squadrons of aircraft to cut or hangars to close down, we have people," Johnson said.

Of those positions, the biggest cut will be borne by sergeants. The school, which has 40, 100-cadet squadrons will cut the number of sergeants in those units from two to one, eliminating 40 jobs.

Academy commandant of cadets, Brig. Gen. Greg Lengyel said the move saves money, but requires cadets to step up as military trainers and disciplinarians.

"We're pushing more authority and responsibility to the cadet chain of command," he said.

The academic side of the academy will see 29 job cuts, 20 military and nine civilian positions, under the plan. Those cuts would require the school to reorganize its academic programs, reducing the number of academic majors from 33 to 23 in the coming years.

Degrees in biochemistry, environmental engineering and meteorology are among the cuts.

Dean of faculty Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost, said some of the programs facing elimination duplicate other offerings and a few of the majors that would go away were considered fall-backs for students in academic distress. Armacost said the areas seeing cuts also traditionally have low enrollment, so the changes will impact about 100 cadets per year.

Johnson said the academic changes, which cut graduation requirements by three credits, will allow for a broad-based education that will prepare cadets for career-specific training in the Air Force after they graduate.

"We're trying to educate people to make a well-rounded officer," she said. "We're not a vocational training center."

While cutting some academic programs, the academy said it will beef up its computer sciences training with an increased emphasis on electronic security.

The job cuts will largely be accomplished through attrition. Of the 99 jobs the academy is cutting, about half are now vacant.

With a hiring freeze in place for civilian workers, and other measures to cut military jobs, the academy expects to accomplish the bulk of the cuts without layoffs.

Some of the steepest cuts at the academy were expected in the athletic department, but leaders stopped short of eliminating sports teams that were on the chopping black.

Instead, the athletic department will shed 30 mostly administrative jobs

"Up until very recently, one of the options was to eliminate some sports," Johnson said.

While 99 jobs at the academy are being cut, more than 1,000 airmen are at risk of losing their federal paycheck.

In a bid to cut the Air Force's roster by 25,000 over three years, the 1,000 academy airmen will face retention boards this summer. Those who don't make the cut will be separated from their service and their academy jobs will go to someone picked to stay in uniform.

The Air Force is also cutting more than 500 aircraft from its fleet by eliminating two venerable planes - the A-10 "warthog" and the U-2 spy plane.

The Air Force cuts are shallow in comparison to planned Army reductions.

The Army, now at 520,000 soldiers, would cut its ranks to as low as 440,000 under Pentagon plans.

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BUDGET DETAILS

ARMY:

Force cuts: The Army plans to cut its active duty roster to 490,000 in 2015 down from 520,000 now. The cuts are expected to bottom out at 440,000 troops in coming years.

Helicopter changes: The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter is headed to the scrap heap under the budget plan. To replace the helicopters on active duty, the Army will pull AH-64 Apaches from the National Guard fleet and use the more heavily armed attack helicopter to fill the Kiowa’s scouting role.

By 2019, the Army expects to eliminate three 2,800-soldier helicopter brigades, leaving 10 of the brigades in service. This could put the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Carson at risk, despite $750 million in spending to house the new unit, which is being established on the post.

AIR FORCE:

Force cuts: The Air Force plans on parting ways with 25,000 airmen under the plan.

Air Force Academy: The academy calls for 99 job cuts and the elimination of 10 academic majors. The academy will remain at 4,000 cadets and athletic programs will continue with a series of administrative budget cuts.

Air Force Space Command: Overall space and missile procurement would increase by $300 million, with much of that money going into classified programs. Maintenance for space and surveillance systems goes up by $32 million, while money for launch and space operations facilities drops by $40 million.

Funding is reduced for a new generation of communication satellites, cutting the number of satellites purchases by two, but is continued for missile warning satellites. Planned purchases of a new generation of Global Positioning System satellites are delayed. There’s seed money for a new generation of weather satellites.

The Quadrennial Defense Review, also released Tuesday, called for long-term changes “We will move toward less complex, more affordable, more resilient systems and system architectures and pursue a multi-layered approach to deter attacks on space systems while retaining the capabilities to respond should deterrence fail.”

302nd Airlift Wing: Flying hours for training are fully-funded in the budget at 1.2 million hours.

MISSILE DEFENSE:

The mid-course missile defense system centered in Colorado Springs would see an addition $100 million in research money, increasing its research budget to $1 billion. The Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center at Schriever Air Force Base would get an additional $6.5 million in funding, raising its budget to $58.5 million.

MILITARY CONSTRUCTION:

Fort Carson would get an $18 million training range and a $52 million battalion facility for the 10th Special Forces Group.

Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora would get a $30 million power house to provide electricity to National Security Agency facilities there. The military’s high-altitude medical research facility on Pikes Peak would see a $3.6 million upgrade.

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