The U.S. Air Force is doing something really unusual, they are
cutting back on the amenities that have long served to attract, and keep, the
kind of skilled people they needed. It is feared that this move will have a
serious negative effect on morale. However, the air force brass see this as the
only alternative to something far worse; not enough new aircraft. Faced with
huge costs for their new F-22 and F-35 warplanes, a Congress reluctant to be
generous, and a war in Iraq and Afghanistan that is being largely fought by the
army, the air force sees itself seriously short of cash in the next decade. The
war in Iraq is taking money from the air force and diverting it to the army.
Already underway is a downsizing that will eliminate 40,000 air force jobs over
the next five years. But that will only save about $5 billion a year.
amenities is not something the air force even likes to talk about, but
something official has to be said to explain the large number of fairly obvious
changes coming. For decades, the air force has been the butt of jokes, for
their more luxurious lifestyle, by sailors, soldiers and marines. Part of it
was jealousy, and admiration for how the air force generals managed to get
money for all those goodies out of Congress. Making fun of all those golf
courses on air force bases was a particular favorite. Going into detail about
the cutbacks would, simultaneously, make it known how extensive the amenities
are, and elicit some bad publicity once people from the other services chimed
in with snarky comments about how much better off the air force people are even
after the cuts.
the air force does have a real problem here, with the morale of their own
troops. The 40,000 jobs being lost is causing some anxiety, as does the
increased number of air force personnel being sent overseas to support
operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. There are actually several
thousand air force support troops, on the ground in Iraq, helping the army move
supplies and maintain equipment. These guys and girls are actually in greater
danger than the pilots flying the bombers overhead, but that's another story.
Meanwhile, a lot of the cutbacks will come from consolidating functions (fewer
gyms and dining halls on some bases), as well as cutting back hours and
services at other facilities (libraries, rec centers and golf courses.) There
might even be a few golf courses closed...