ARLINGTON--The Air Force is about to get smaller. At a "State of the Air Force" news conference at the Pentagon Wednesday, the service's chief of staff said thousands of uniformed personnel will shed in the next five years.
General Mark A. Welsh, III said the Air Forces will reduce its active duty airmen from the current level of 330,000 personnel to 307,000 between now and 2019.
"This is a tough time for some of the airmen," he said. "We're asking great men and women who've done everything their nation asked of them in some pretty tough place to involuntarily leave our air force. There is nothing good or easy about this."
There was no word on the impact on Langley Air force Base in Hampton. but, earlier this year the Air Force announced plans to reorganize headquarters commands around the world, and those changes will mean the eliminations of several hundred positions at Air Combat Command.
On that note, six members of the Virginia congressional delegation met Wednesday with air force leaders to discuss those cuts. U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman (R-1st), Scott Rigell (R-2nd) and Bobby Scott (D-3rd) met with U.S. Air Force Assistant Secretary Kathleen Ferguson, Deputy Chief Management Officer and Major General Theresa Carter for a briefing on proposed personnel reductions at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia. Today’s meeting followed a July 15th letter sent to by the Virginia delegation to the Secretary of the Air Force requesting a thorough briefing of the proposed personnel reductions, and the status of efforts to locate a new Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC).
According to a news release from the lawmakers, the meeting resulted in several steps. They include e air force committing to providing the delegation with specific details on personnel reductions within 30 days; the air force pledging to using expansive personnel transfer authority to "go the extra mile" to accommodate civilian and military personnel dislocated by these reductions, including other federal or military agencies; and, the Air Force acknowledging that Joint Base Langley-Eustis would be considered for the new Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, which could create up to 350 new positions.
The senators and congressmen released a joint statement:
"We appreciate Air Force Secretary James and Assistant Secretary Ferguson providing us with today’s briefing on the proposed reductions at Langley. We remain committed to working together as a delegation to ensure that all of Virginia’s military and civilian Air Force employees are provided every opportunity to continue to serve. We also are committed as a delegation to explore all opportunities to highlight the considerable advantages and existing investments, already made at Joint Base Langley Eustis.”