The Air Force is reversing course and introducing several force management programs to increase its active-duty end strength following several years of personnel reductions.
The course correction was prompted by a host of new missions, including the air campaign against the Islamic State and the effort to support NATO allies anxious over Russian aggression in Ukraine.
The size of the Air Force began to shrink in fiscal 2014, when its end strength stood at 330,700 airmen. Now it has 312,980 service members, reported Air Force Times. The service’s FY 2016 budget calls for its end strength to rise 1.3 percent to 317,000.
The new initiatives are designed to retain or bring back airmen in the fields of maintenance, cyber operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and nuclear missiles.
“The places where we’re adding experience are targeted to specific skills and specific grades, and those are all areas that we did not put through the voluntary or involuntary force management programs last year,” Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, director of military force management policy, told the Times. Officials plan to rely on three initiatives to attract or retain personnel in those specialties.
One is designed to bring back separated senior airmen, staff sergeants and technical sergeants in these fields. Another program will offer extensions of up to two years to enlisted airmen with the targeted skills. A third program will permit Air National Guard members and reservists with the in-demand skills, including officers and enlisted personnel, to move to the active-duty component for one to three years.
The Air Force also has raised its goal for recruiting new enlisted airmen in FY 2016 from 24,000 to 28,000.