HAMPTON -- The Air Force plans to eliminate 742 two jobs at Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, as part of a service wide headquarters reduction plan domestically and overseas. The move, directed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, is designed to save taxpayers $1.6 billion over the coming five years.
The office of the Secretary of the Air Force told 13 News Now that the majority of the ACC cuts will take place between now and September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Captain Erika Yepsen said these are not layoffs, but "position eliminations" affecting both active duty personnel and civil servants. "What we're looking to do is reduce some of the redundancies that we have so we can focus all of our efforts on the war-fighter, and making sure we don't have excess in our headquarters, where we're not actively engaged," she said.
Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) was unhappy to hear of the news. "While I appreciate the Air Force's efforts to find savings by consolidating headquarters functions, I am deeply concerned about the impact this potential cut would have on Joint Base Langley-Eustis’s hard-working airmen and civilian work force," he said in a statement. "While it appears that many of these reductions can be accomplished through attrition and eliminating unfilled positions, I have requested a briefing from the Air Force where I can ask tough questions about this proposed plan. I also urge Air Force leadership to consider locating its consolidated headquarters at Langley, where they could enjoy proximity to the Pentagon and other defense organizations.”
Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) also weighed in: "The decision by the Air Force to consolidate headquarters and eliminate positions at Joint Base Langley-Eustis and in the National Capital Region will impact Virginia families, but we understand the impact is lessened because most of the positions are not currently filled," he said in a statement. "Our service members and defense civilians are a critical aspect of our military, and I will advocate for new opportunities for them to continue their service. As the Air Force considers locations for the Air Force Installation Mission Support Center (AFIMSC) and Air Force Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (25th Air Force), I strongly urge consideration of the unmatched infrastructure and dynamic environment offered in Virginia, particularly at Langley.”
"This is another hit that Hampton Roads is taking," said Peter Shaw, a professor of Business management and Administration at TCC. "If you stop and think about it and go back to the Ford Plant closing, the International Paper plant closing, and then move forward to the 22-hundred federal jobs, we lost just last year and you add this to the list, you're getting up to 5,000 to 6,000 thousand jobs in this area that are gone in the last decade or so."
Shaw pointed out that this action exemplifies why it's important that the region's economy diversify. "With the military being 45-percent of our economy, that's the 800-pound gorilla in our economy and as it begins to cutback and we don't fill it with private sector jobs, then you're going to shrink," Shaw said.
The move is part of a larger overhaul that will result in savings of $1.6 billion across the Air Force in the next five years. In all, nearly 3,500 positions will be eliminated at headquarters both in country and at overseas locations.
Military officials say in addition to the cuts, the Air Force will continue to reduce contract spending, operating budgets and travel expenditures.
"We are aggressively pursuing reductions within the first year, rather than spread them out over five years as allowed by DoD," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "It's better for Airmen because it provides them predictability and allows us to re-stabilize our workforce sooner. It also allows us to harvest the savings earlier so that we can plow it back into readiness and some of our key modernization programs.”
The Air Force’s goal is to go beyond the 20 percent reduction mandated by the DoD so any additional savings can be achieved from staff functions above the wing level and set to provide additional combat capability to the combatant commanders.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story)